The Once and Future Peasant

When we think of history, it is largely based on the activities of a ruling, wealthy or literate elite. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, a very partial view of what happened in the past. They are the protagonists of history only because they’ve been written about, and a large portion of humanity has not been.

For the most part, the history of “civilisation” has been mostly peasantry, people living in a subsistence economy, close to the land with simple technology, and being exploited by a politically active elite – a sustainable arrangement for centuries. This puts a lot of history in a different perspective: ruling elites from pre-industrial times look rather parasitic instead of being the protagonists (sorry to fans of the Once and Future King).

This arrangement has been a constant; no matter how many times the rulers or their political systems changed, the peasant remained, unchanging. But no longer, industrial society has changed that: the proportion of urban dwellers to rural dwellers has changed dramatically, as well as living standards, education and politics.

But this arrangement isn’t sustainable; we have an economy that relies on perpetual growth inflated by finite resources of fossil fuels. If the Earth were infinite with inexhaustible resources, or if we could colonise space, perpetual economic growth wouldn’t be such a problem; we could just carry on expanding our economy indefinitely. The Earth isn’t infinite, and I honestly don’t see anyone colonising Mars or the moon anytime soon.

The future will be sustainable, by accident or by design, and I have a feeling that the “peasant” will be an important factor in this, that countrydwellers and their activities will once again become an important part of how the economy works as it has across history. Hence the title, “The Once and Future Peasant.”

If the economy collapses, we could end up in a neo-feudal world where underpriveleged peasants are exploited by an elite. Or alternatively, communities of “peasants” could self-organise, defending against exploitation and also maintaining today’s useful technology so that we don’t need to return to the hardships that peasants have suffered in the past.

Whatever happens, it will be a matter of choice.

Translating from Catalan

(wow, I’ve just noticed a boost of traffic to this blog. Thanks for the views.)

So, what have I been doing lately? A lot, aikido, walks, gardening, hunting exotic crayfish,  but I’ll leave them for other blogs.

One thing I’ve been busy on is translating the CEN Association website from Catalan to English. CEN is an association that “works for the improvement and conservation of habitats and biodiversity”.  I’ve been involved in several volunteer actions (including “hunting cranks“) as well as being a board member. We  (Biodiversidad2030) signed an agreement with CEN under the Custódia del Territorio (Land Stewardship Scheme in English) to protect the land and its ecosystems and develop projects in a sustainable way for us and the environment.

So, I’m translating the website so it’s accessible to the anglosphere. Moreover, it helps in an application to EOCA to do work for the Glorieta river, such as litter picking, control and eradication of invasive exotic species, regulation of canyoning, restriction of access to vulnerable areas and raising awareness of environmental issues, both local and in general. It’s tough work (I am not a professional translator) but I enjoy it.

I can read Spanish fairly well, and because of that other Romance languages are more accesible, like Portuguese, Italian and Catalan. I can read them a bit and make “educated guesses” at what they’re saying. But to hear them… no entenc res! (I don’t understand a thing!).  I understand enough Catalan to translate it, and there’s plenty of resources online to help me,  but the mental gymnastics I have to do translate from one grammar to the other is mindbending. A long list of de… de… de… de… might sound okay in Catalan, French or Spanish, but in English of… of… of… of… doesn’t flow. Then there are the technical terms that I have to accurately translate to make them meaningful. But I think this sort of saturation is good for learning a new language.

Well, I think I should get on with the translation now. Time’s a wasting!

The Wild Patch

Rocket (and if you look carefully you might see spinach poking through too)

Rocket (and if you look carefully you might see spinach poking through too)

Looking carefully amongst the straw and grass I’ve found some radish, rocket and spinach growing! I’m curious (and not a little impatient) to see how they develop.

This afternoon I went into the garden and put some ashes down on top of the garlic (ashes are supposed to be good for garlic, but not for other plants, so I’ll see how that does).  I also put a line of wheat down, with hops that, in the summer, they’ll form a sort of wall to protect the rest of the plants from the excesses of the heat. I put mulch of top of it to protect it from the birds (mmm, big juicy grain!).



Energy Consciousness

I remember the good old days, you know, when energy was cheap and was available all the time. No need for budgets, meters or restrictions on use. Yep, those were the days. That was when energy was leaking black from the ground all over the place and when even the sky wasn’t the limit. I think the limit was somewhere just beyond the moon…

But that was when we took things for granted and frankly just didn’t appreciate what we had; we didn’t notice it until it stopped being so cheap. We’re better off now in a way: we actually have to think about what we do with energy and use it intelligently. It’s cold in winter, but when you’re sitting right next to a warm fireplace you know what it means to have energy to keep you warm, and that to have it takes a bit of brainpower and a real valuing of it. And the earth’s better off; it deserves an intelligent, thinking, appreciative humanity, and it has that now for the most part.

Well, now I come to think of it, really, I suppose, that’s part of the good new days!