Thursday, 31 May 2012

Winter garden, hunting mammoths and techno-optimists

There has been a break in blogging recently.  This is for no other reason than that the garden work continues and follows the same pattern that it has for the past several years.  The season is quite "fragile" due to a serious lack of rain and the beginnings of the cold weather and shorter days. Also, I have been busy with "life" that can sometimes get in the way.
I've had no real damage from frost yet, and even the potato plants are growing really well... as long as I water them regularly.  Potatoes are such beautiful plants....
The broad beans are growing, the artichokes are re-sprouting,



 the few sprouting garlic bulbs that I've planted out are showing through the ground...
.... those tiny green spikes are the beginnings of mnext summer's garlic crop.

I have left a few "volunteers" such as this borage plant that has germinated among the baby leek plants....
 ....  I can't wait for it to flower.  In fact, I think that this seed may well have been one of those that I photographed in 2010 and "threw away" a few months ago.  It shows how hardy seeds can be.... it's how plants manage over difficult seasons!

Rows of winter vegetables are looking healthy....
 .... carrots and beetroot....
 .... swedes (rutabaga) and various beets including sugar beet and mangel worzel.
A few more broccoli and a healthy potato behind the watering can.....


All of the usual winter vegetables are doing well.  It seems rather repetitive to describe the usual winter growing season, and, while timing this year is a little different, May and June are planting seasons here while we hope for enough rain to avoid watering any of it.

On one rainy day recently I watched another TED talk.  I enjoy these and, while I pick and choose the subject matter, I justify my leaning towards those concerning climate and its effect on sustainability is justified by the sheer number of talks and the amount of time it would take to see or hear them all.
I have found another favourite by Paul Gilding entitled "The Earth is Full."  Paul Gilding has also written a blog post about the talk.  He comments, in his discussion about optimism and technology, that....

 " This explained how we tend strongly towards a view that things will always work out – that the future will always be better than the past. This trait has brought many benefits to humanity over our species history – after all we wouldn’t have gone hunting mammoths if we didn’t occasionally suffer delusions of optimism in the face of quite serious challenges!
But this time we face different types of challenges, ones which might make that optimism bias a threat to our species success rather a source of positive evolution.  Unlike hunting mammoths, where failure leaves you hungry, we face systemic threats with the potential to over-run all attempts to contain them."
This made me remember something that I had written some time ago, in 2009.  The people who are making the decisions and benfitting from the current optimism are those who have been lucky in the past.  Decisions are being made for all of us by risk takers who have "won" i.e. the mammoth hunters who actually killed and ate the mammoth.  
Yes, those mammoth hunters must have been optimistic and surely took serious risks.  The hunters who weren't successful probably starved or were themselves killed in the hunt.  We, inhabitants of the earth are the beneficiaries of those successful risk takers and it may well have left us a little too confident in our abilities to solve any and all problems.  As Paul Gilding says "this time we face different types of challenges, ones which might make that optimism bias a threat to our species" and this is even more of an issue when we see which individuals (politicians and business people) are actually making decisions on behalf of all of us.
  
Technology does have some tricks to offer us... different means of producing energy, fertilisers to increase food production and carbon catching filters....  however the confidence in these technologies (driven by our natural optimism, as descendants of those successful mammoth hunters) is, for many,  a means of avoiding the problem that is too many people with too much stuff.   In the words of Paul Gilding...
"The danger in techno-optimism is that it becomes a form of denial. That things aren’t that serious and therefore politically difficult change that will confront powerful vested economic interests can be avoided.  Such a view is reassuring, it feels good and it fits nicely with our genetic tendency to optimism.  Unfortunately it’s also wrong."


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