Tag Archives: balance

The Problem is the Solution: Carbon, and the case of Life and Death

The problem is the solution.

Permaculture Principle

Hearing about carbon and the environment, many people think of atmospheric carbon as a green house gas. Right alongside that are all the long-term massive changes in the carbon cycle from fossil fuel extraction, processing, and use as fuels and plastics. Carbon is problematic, but it’s so much more. In fact it’s a lot of things, and it’s ubiquitous in life.

On Earth, all known living things have a carbon-based structure and system.


Even fossil fuels contain this fact, that carbon is the building block of life. Fossil fuels are not inherently bad, they are just part of life systems, dead for millions of years only to be brought to life briefly for a fast flash then a slow decay. A decay of life systems themselves, a stumbling toward high entropy and climate chaos. How do we reign in the chaos, how do we lower entropy on Earth as Life overall seems inclined to do?

The complexities around fossil fuels, from geology to economics and ecology to justice, exist in full form only at scales (i.e. a hyperobject) that are hard for us to grapple with. It is how we interact with the the systems fossil fuels are a part of, to either degrade or regenerate those very living systems and life itself. Carbon can be the quickly-lost exhaust of burned billion-year-old oil, or it can be rich black organic matter that gets better with time, revitalizing soil that sustains us and all life on Earth.

We live at a time where there is widespread disturbance all around us. The ground is open and waiting for seeds. We can bemoan the tragedies that nature has endured or we can cast seeds and plant a future.
We can and do influence the ecosystems around us more than any other species. That influence can come through reckless destruction, blind abandonment, or conscious intent.

Trees of Power by Akiva Silver of Twisted Tree Nursery near Ithaca, NY

Carbon’s role in life systems can give momentum to feedback loops of degradation or of restoration and regeneration. Carbon can serve a core role in feedback loops that produce goods in the present and get better over time: trees, soil, animals enjoying carbon while sequestering and storing it, all in mutual benefit enhancing the systems one and all exists in.

Enjoying carbon? Enjoying it as in making fulfilling, mutually beneficial use of it. And enjoying it while we still can, that is, considering how dire some environmental situations are becoming in large part due to imbalances in the carbon and other cycles. We need the tools to shift the carbon cycle into a more wholly beneficial setting. We know the tools: trees; carbon farming; regenerative, ecological lifestyles and landscapes. And we have the main building block of those tools, waiting to take f(x) one way or another: Carbon. For life systems, ecosystems; or for the degradation, destruction, and death of those systems?

For life systems, or for the death of those systems?

Where’s the carbon?

Is it regenerative or degenerative?

Is it diverse or a monoculture/monopoly?


To Mediate

Deliberating debates I often find myself navigating toward a middle way.

Solve et coagula, meeting in the middle. Lest 1 forget the value of VITRIOL.

The middle often feels oddly dissatisfying, even when reached with an impressive reconciliation of differences. It can feel as if the debate is cut short, or as if a rightful winner is stuck with tie by technicality. What if it were best to keep debating, even if doing so fiercely and even if missing each other’s points?

I suppose to moderate is not to identify and insist on a fixed middle ground, but rather to remind toward and protect access to a homey middle ground. All things in moderation…including moderation.

Just as debating shouldn’t be a spending of time that could be better spent acting, moderating shouldn’t be a spending of time that could be better spent acting (?)

What is it to act of balance? To do nether? To do both?

Is a waveform up or down? Mu!

This post is inspired in part by my effort this evening to offer a middle ground in an increasingly fierce debate on a permaculture listserv’s email thread about Extinction Rebellion / “collective action” vs. Individual efforts. Both initiatives pointed toward radical mitigation and adaptation for ecological crises. To identify and push for a middle ground felt necessary in the act, but afterward I wondered if it were better to not intervene and let both sides further duke it out. Surely they will still duke it out and hopefully my intervention helps that go productively. Additionally, as I wondered second-guessingly, I also felt the burn of time ‘wasted’ as I recognized and acted on various tasks I could’ve/ would’ve/ should’ve tended to instead of email.

Alas, there are layers of life to moderate, and as usual priorities are of prime importance!

To Witness

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” ― Andrew Boyd

‘Be in this world but not of this world.’ ~

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.” – Marcus Aurelius

(And in a paraphrased version of Aurelius’ statement, other people’s wrongdoings are driven not only by others’ lack of good judgement of good from evil, but also by others’ own suffering and personal history and inner environment which cannot be known but can be reached with compassion.)

Fixing agriculture with agroforestry and diverse agroecologies


“regenerative agriculture practices. Combined with reforestation, they could take most of the CO2 emissions which have been released in the last century out of the air again. We also believe that regenerative agriculture will play a key part in providing nutritious food to our ever growing human family.”

“Instead of vast monocultures, we should combine various species on one and the same field. When done right, the different plants support each other’s growth and dramatically reduce damage from pests. Intercropped fields have higher yields than monocultures without depending on chemical fertilizer or pesticides.” Diversity vertically and across the landscape provides resilience, hedging bets against things that can go wrong and for things that can go right with different species and processes.

success ion: be the change

In the USA and now in Brazil, we see powerful nations viscerally divided between elected officials. Objectively, neither is perfect. Subjectively, the opposing side is so bad it *must* be avoided. Sadly, the side which is the most outspokenly hateful and disregarding of universal human rights is in the lead. Continue reading →

Peace via Mutually Assured Destruction

Reminiscent of Dark Forest Theory, Yuval Noah Harari spoke with Sam Harris about mutually assured destruction. Humanity faces various existential threats now (nuclear war) and in the future (AI), with some threats coming from human enemies (cyber warfare) and some from a common enemy/ourselves/no enemy (climate change). Yuval pointed out how the common enemy of mutually assured destruction itself may be our salvation. When two parties recognize that it is in their best interest to avoid any potential catastrophies with nuclear war, because of the mutually assured destruction that can come with such a path, they step back from that precipice. The same applies for future potential catastrophies both parties might pursue or affect, like AI or even climate change. ‘The only way to assure I am not destroyed is to work together with them to ensure none of us get destroyed.’  By recognizing the potential for mutually assured destruction, we can work together to overcome existential risks.

Dark Forest theory is from Chinese Sci-Fi series In Remembrance of Earth’s Past, also known as Three Body Problem. It focuses on various existential threats at a bewildering set of scales, from neighboring alien civilizations’ mutually assured destruction, to the mutually assured destruction of All in the Universe.

What is the way? (Thanks to water; aquatic revelations)

Somewhere in between hating privatization & profit based bottled water,

and mistrusting bureaucratic and antiquated public water works,

it is too easy to forget that

If there is anything sacred in this world, it is water.

We are incredibly fortunate, privileged per se, to be in a place where water is readily available for drinking which will not cause you any immediate or even probable-future dis-ease.


News alerts got 1 riled, isolation distracted

Co-existing with the facts [shift] tactics like magic

Try the middle way

Humility – Thoughts from fasting – Summer Solstice 2018


Let it be or intervene. Even in the simple act of eating, is one creating or destroying potential? Someone else could have had that grain. That grain could have become a whole ‘nother mother.

Such suffering. The one lashing out suffers themselves; whether they recognize it or not, they harbor suffering. Rather than pray for their decay, pray for their transmutation; when all is whittled away at the end of the day, some toxins persist. This is why “two wrongs do not make a right”: to respond to the propagation of suffering with further propagation of suffering does not decrease suffering.

Put yourself in another’s shoes. We all suffer at times. Why would you behave in such a way as to cause the suffering of another? If you are at peace, would you cause such suffering?

May peace be upon oneself.