Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous
°You

"Municipal liberty is the first and most important [principle] of democratic institutions, since nothing is more natural or worthy of respect then the right which citizens of any settlement have of arranging themselves the affairs of their common life and of resolving as best suits them in the interests and the needs of the locality." - Emilio Zapata

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Transhumance

This is one of my favorite tales in the grimoire of human ecology. The word "transhumance", which doesn't change much morphologically among the romance languages, literally means the crossing of the ground. As some of you plant nerds may know, we retain the Latin word "humus" in English to refer more specifically to soil organic matter.

Transhumance refers to the seasonal movement of herds of cows, goats, or flocks of sheep between highlands and lowlands in various alpine regions across Europe. This epiphenomenon of alpine pastoral agriculture occurs elsewhere in the world - like in the Himalayas - but goes locally by other names. Essentially, transhumance is a type of semi-nomadism that still exists today. It's also a helluva good idea, says Mother Earth.

Transhumance distinguishes various dairying cultures across Europe - exemplary in the Swiss and French Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Pindos in Greece, which have all produced world-famous cheeses. Villages that developed and relied on traditions of transhumance were often isolated in narrow valleys surrounded by high mountains, where there was limited arable land, short growing seasons and long, harsh winters. Increasing privatization of common lands (= less access to common pasture) pressured peasants to seek non-local areas to graze their herds during the critical summer months; moving animals to higher grasslands during this short seasonal window proved to be a practical resource management system.

Typically, many families would combine their cow, sheep or goat herds and several villagers were chosen each spring to shepherd the animals up into the mountains for the summer. Hut systems were established that enabled herdsmen to basically practice a large-scale version of rotational grazing, trekking from one hut to another every few weeks or so.


I'm in ur hutz, makin' ur cheezes.

The critical part was this: Summer is traditionally lactation time for ruminants in all places Northernly (Nature likes it that way; that's when the grass makes the best eatin') so naturally these animals had to be milked every day. This milk they were producing from lush, perennial grasses was VERY valuable to people who were faced with killing frosts and feet upon feet of snow for the greater part of the year. So how do you distill milk to its calorie-dense essence? You make cheese, of course! And boy, were they faced with a challenge in that respect; the cheese had to be long-lived, to endure the summer and be edible the following winter for the villagers, and had to be physically durable to endure the nomadic travel patterns of the herdsmen. Also, these guys didn't have ready or easy access to salt -- that stuff was expensive when you were far away from the ocean and up in the high country. So these cheeses really had to be endowed with superpowers, because they had to be designed in lieu of the salt that so many of the world's hard cheeses relied on for their development.

Transhumance is still part of rural culture in parts of Europe, and constitutes bi-annual community celebrations where it survives. Sending the animals up into the mountains is sowing the seeds, and welcoming their return - along with cartloads of yummy cheese - is reaping the harvest. See, it's kind of like bee-keeping, only with huge, cloven-hoofed beasts. You send them away, along with a chaperone or two, to graze distant lands and turn faraway green things into milk - which is ecologically analogous to honey, dontcha know...

Many cheeses you know and love were brought to you by the transhumantes. Gruyere, Emmental, Comte... omg, I just drooled a little bit.

The part of my brain that's been assimilated is tugging on my sleeve currently, urging me to note that "transhumance" is phonetically similar to "transhuman". Of course, Transhumanism is not actually etymologically related to "transhumance", but being a student of all things cybernetíque, I cannot completely ignore the crypto-synchronism of these words. Transhumanism is a school of thought that promotes the human body as an open-ended organic machine that can be potentially modified and enhanced by various biotechnologies, and posits that in fact this project is exactly what we should invest our intellectual capital on. Transhumanism theoretically enlists the services of nanotechnology, brain-machine interfacing, robotics, and in the case of the Extropian movement, research on indefinite human life extension. If my vote matters, I'd rather be more like the Predator than the Borg. Just sayin'!

So what does Transhumanism have to do with transhumance? Probably nothing other than this blog entry. What do cyborgs have to do with agrarianism? If I could answer that, then there'd be nothing to blog about.

So if you think of anything, let me know. :P

Here's a clip of a news story about transhumance in France. Yes, it's in French, but you're pretty much seeing what they are talking about - the living tradition.

Here's a cool clip of cows making the journey to greener pastures in the French Alps.

Just so we don't get too carried away - some people just truck their animals up to the highlands in 18 wheelers. lol. But let's take heart in the fact that these animals will continue to have legs, and will continue to be able to eat green things and make milk, meat and fiber from them. The future does not look quite as bright for 18 wheelers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Farmpunk Declaration of Interdependence

In some words of mine:

A farmpunk* could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with a hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society. The art and science of modern ecological design - whether it be earthworks, shelter building, farm design, or urban reprogramming - is best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy. These hermeneutic discliplines are not categorical or reductionist, but open-ended. Natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.


I blame my penchant for word synthesis on dead languages, Bucky Fuller, and all the elves in the fifth dimension.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ecology in Hindu Scripture; 001

Oh, hmm, introductions. Okay, think of the Upanishads as the expansion pack to the Vedas.
(That was horrible, but I loved saying it)

The Upanishads are full of wonderful kernels that we can carry with us in our medicine-bags. These notions can remind us earth-worshippers that we are empowered, whether we know it or not, by an arcane cosmography that concerned itself with rubrics for spiritual nutrition, and assumed that this was the point of origin for all other forms of nutrition (physical and environmental). Some of my favorite wordcrystals are "the earth is honey for all beings, and all beings are the honey for this earth" (Brihadaranyaka, 2:5:1), or "This whole universe is fivefold" (1:4:17) [[DaVinci, Sacred Geometry, & Permaculture design all agree with this]], or finally "the whole extent of this universe is nothing but food and what eats food." (1:4:6) [[Vandana Shiva, who is a level 70 shaman, summons the power of that one frequently]] -- this text also dabbles in MAGIC, as in "What introduces differentiation is name and form..." (1:4:7) Y'know, that whole 'nomina sunt realia' chaosmagick game... Oh, I could go on! But let me get to the passage that inspired this diatribe in the first place...(By the way, the noun "diatribi" in Greek means variably "a waste of time" or "a serious employment/study", depending on the intention of the language user. Don't ya know I just love words that have dual potentiality, much like subatomic particles... But as usual I DIGRESS...we'll get to that later!

The following are the very last few verses that conclude the Taittiriya Upanishad. Very giggle-worthy. Such is the effect of hindu scripture on me... and maybe others who grew up in a religious culture that "didn't do" ecology. lol
(psst...ecology isn't patriotic, dontcha know! Plants? Yeah, *total* socialists.) ;)


"This one that is here in a man (purusa) and that one [up] there in the sun, - HE IS ONE.

[5] The man who knows this, on departing from this world, draws near to the self that consists of food, draws near to the self that consists of breath, draws near to the self that consists of mind, draws near to the self that consists of understanding, draws near to the self that consists of bliss; then he roams [at will] throughout these worlds, eating what he will, changing his form at will: and sitting down, he sings this song:

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
I am food! I am food! I am food!
I am an eater of food! I am an eater of food! I am an eater of food!
I am a maker of verses! I am a maker of verses! I am a maker of verses!
I am the first born of the universal order (rta),
Earlier than the gods, in the navel of immortality!
Whoso gives me away, he, verily, has succoured me!
I who am the eater of food!
I have overcome the whole world!


He who knows this shines with a golden light."†

(emphasis my own)



Vedanta extolls the principle, mentioned ceaselessly in the Upanishads, that the Atman (self, ground of being) and the Brahman (reality substrate) are the same thing, as in Tat Tvam Asi. As my Hinduism professor said a few years ago, when asked if the "atman" was like a cupcake and the "brahman" was like a cake made from the same batter, he replied "No... it's like a cake and... A CAKE".

Therein is the idea that the cosmos is fractal in nature, or is A singular fractal that contains many different levels of manifest being that all operate from the very same "mathemagical" principles.

We did have thinking like this in the west, y'know. Abrahamic religion relegated it to "the occult". Meet Hermeticism. You might have heard the maxim that the Corpus Hermeticum is really famous for (similar to the fame of "Tav Tvam Asi" vis a vis the Upanishads)... and this maxim is, in the popular form: "As above, so below". This proceeds from the literal text which says something more like "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing"††.

Mmmm.. sounds like fundamental complementarity to me. This is a principle that is consanguineous and supplemental to the fractal-universe model. It can be evidenced in the study of particle physics, where matter is held together by the co-attraction of "opposites", and in an even more capricious guise, quantum functioning, where subatomic entities have at least dual potentiality when left to their own sneaky devices.

The Hermetic maxim is a riddle, because as "You-know-who" (Bucky-ballz) points out elsewhen, the only directions worth talking about in Universe are "in", "out" and "around". This is due to the effect of gravity on the space-time fabric - think of the S-T Continuum as a big bedsheet stretched out taught in all directions. If you were to roll a baseball onto that sheet, it would make a little depression, right? And then say once the baseball had settled in the middle somewhere you were to toss a couple of marbles onto the sheet. Where do they roll? Into the "gravity field" of the baseball, obvs. This is a bad model, since it itself is privy and dependent on REAL gravity to simulate fictional gravity, so we're still inclined to think that the marbles are rolling "down" into the baseball's gravity field. But imagine this happening on a celestial scale, so instead of a bedsheet, it's a void. A bit less comfy sounding. But in that case, there is no "up" or "down" in a cosmic sense, since those notions proceed from our orientation as earthlings to our mother earth (and that concept is important to hold, too - I don't mean to discount it).

So the translation of the hermetic maxim can be a bit misleading at first, because it appears, in English, as well as many other earthling tongues, very married to the dimensions of "up" and "down", which can sound a bit Heaven-n'-Hell-esque. Do not be fooled! The Great Above and the Great Below are but metaphoric prepositions. This antithetical word-string IS a template with infinite applications; the microcosmic and the macrocosmic, the organ and the organism, the breathing of your body and the breathing of the world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, matter cannot be created or destroyed... etc. etc. etc.

Which reminds me, Hermeticism was onto the laws of thermodynamics WAY before the fact. Chapter VIII of the Corpus is titled "That No One of Existing Things doth Perish, but Men in Error Speak of Their Changes as Destructions and as Deaths." This veritably lays out the first law of thermodynamics which states in common terms that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, they can only shapeshift (and thus the net energy within the 'mainframe' always stays the same)
Jeez. You hardly even need to watch the movie now, eh?

Winks and love,

Omnivorous Faun

p.s. Hakim Bey, ever ahead of the pack, has written a manifesto heralding the return of such ideas in the west... and this time, the Hermes T's incarnation is clothed in GREEN. Haven't read it yet, BTW...Can us well-informed tricksters not spot viral meme potential a mile away? Good old Mercury is strong in me. ;)

Hindu Scriptures. Trans. R.C. Zaehner. Everyman's Library, 1966.

†† Download the Corpus Hermeticum as a PDF