Dateline: 31 August 2011
I was driving to my job in the city early one morning and saw a sight that etched itself deeply into my mind. I wished I had a camera with me. The picture would have told a story— a story of so many elderly people in this nation as the economic depression deepens, if not of the economy itself.
What I saw was a thin, aged, white-haired man, tall and stooped, both hands on a walker in front of him, carefully making his way across the street. That in itself was not so unusual, but what the man was carrying shocked me. Slung crosswise over his left shoulder and hanging against his right side was a dirty canvass newspaper bag. The old man was delivering newspapers!
The harsh reality of our failing economy is settling itself into the heart and mind of America. Remember the masses who swarmed to see and support the silver-tongued politician? They hoped in his message of hope, based on political solutions, and now they are profoundly disappointed. The gullibility, the blindness and the abject ignorance of so many people in this nation is utterly astounding.
What these masses do not and can not bring themselves to understand is that the industrial era is drawing to a close. The Industrial party is almost over. Everything will change (is already changing). So-called “conventional wisdom” will no longer apply. It’s time to embrace traditional wisdom....
Agrarian Nation 2050
|Professor John E. Ikerd|
Earlier this year I started a new blog titled Agrarian Nation. Twice a week (every Monday and Friday) I post an excerpt from the pre-1900 agricultural writings (mostly from old farm almanacs). The premise of Agrarian Nation is that the industrial age is drawing to a close and we as a nation will, of necessity, revert back to a more agrarian way of life. That has, in fact, also been an underlying theme of this blog which I started over six years ago.
I considered giving my Agrarian Nation blog the title of Agrarian Nation 2050 because it seemed to me that by then we would be well into the epic cultural transition that lies before us. (I also thought Agrarian Nation 2050 would make a great t-shirt slogan, but I don’t wear t-shirts with slogans).
So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a speech titled, Back to the Future: Small Farms in the Year 2050, that was given in May of this year by John E. Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics at the University of Missouri. Professor Ikerd and I are clearly on the same page in many ways. I will provide a link to the full text of his speech but first I want to share some excerpts...
I believe the changes of the next fifty-years will be at least as big as those of the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s
The economic growth of the industrial era was made possible by an abundance of cheap energy – first the old growth forests, then surface mining of coal, and for the past 100-years, by shallow reservoirs of oil and natural gas. There was plenty of energy to support two centuries of economic growth. However, the old growth forests are gone. We are blowing up bedrock and mountain tops to get the remaining coal and natural gas. We are drilling for oil deep beneath the oceans and in the remote corners of the world. We are not out of fossil energy, at least not yet, but we are quickly running out of cheap energy.
The industrialization of agriculture, and the government policies that supported it, have been an absolute failure. Our current systems of farming and food production are not sustainable. A larger percentage of Americans are more “food insecure” today than during the 1960s. Those who can afford to buy enough food are far less healthy. We are not meeting the needs of the present and certainly not leaving equal or better opportunities for the future. An industrial agriculture is not sustainable. Fundamental change in agriculture is not an option; it is a necessity.
Thomas Jefferson believed strongly that the “yeoman farmer” best exemplified the kind of “independence and virtue” that should be supported by the new democratic republic of the United States. He believed financiers, bankers, and industrialists could not be trusted and should not be encouraged by government. In light of our current financial situation in the U.S., “Jeffersonian Democracy” still makes a lot of sense.
The farms of 2050 will be smaller than most of today’s commercial farms because sustainable farms must rely less on fossil energy and more on management and labor, meaning more smaller farms and more opportunities for farmers.
Professor Ikerd foresees that America will return to a nation of many small, independent, sustainable farms that supply the food needs of local populations, just as was once the case in this nation.
In order to get from here to there Ikerd says that the nation must “create a new vision of a better future.”
That new vision must begin with the realization that we don’t need more economic growth.
The challenge for Americans today is not to try to restore unsustainable economic growth, but instead to learn to live “wisely, agreeably, and well.” We already have enough “stuff.”
No economic growth? No economic growth! Professor Ikerd must be some sort of fringe lunatic. It’s just plain un-American to say (or even to think) that we don’t need economic growth. This man dares to disagree with industrial orthodoxy? Heretic!
The only thing worse than saying that we don’t need economic growth is to say something negative about capitalism, especially if you are a Christian conservative and have been a registered Republican for the past 35 years (that’s me). But modern corporate-capitalism is the spawn of industrialism, and this industrialism has only been possible because of an abundance of easily obtained natural resources, and it won't last.
To put it in more agrarian terms: the taproot of modern industrialism feeds off of abundant, inexpensive natural resources. Starve the root and the plant will get weak and sick, and eventually die.
Thus it is that capitalism as we have known it is not sustainable because infinite growth in a world of finite resources is impossible. So capitalism as we have known it will fail. To cling to capitalism is to grasp at straws.
The days of resource abundance are over. This fact is very clear when you understand Walter Prescott Webb’s boom hypothesis of modern history. It is becoming clearer every day as the reality of resource depletion increasingly makes its way into the news reports. Perpetual growth is a myth. I’ll say it again... modern capitalism will fail. It is inevitable.
Nevertheless, the powers that be will do (are doing) all they can to preserve the current economic system. We are seeing unprecedented cooperation between multinational corporations and governments to advance the profit and control goals of the corporations. This includes the banking sector, of course. Government is now a more effective tool than ever in the hands of the corporate giants. It is government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.
Millions of people are still hoping in the empty promises of blathering politicians, inept economists and a modern news media that is focused less on the truth and more on entertainment.
Many millions of people can’t comprehend what will be because they are so attached to what has been. Yet, those who hope in the industrial institutions and the industrial promises will be continually disillusioned in the years ahead.
The system will eventually collapse.
In light of the emerging reality of, first, economic collapse and then, eventually, systemic collapse, I believe it behooves us all to question every premise of corporate-industrial-capitalism. Where we live. How we live. The kind of work we do. How we raise and educate our children. What we value as important in life. What we spend our money on. What we eat. How we acquire our food. What we expect of government. How we invest our time and resources. And, most importantly, how we relate to God. All of these facets of our life must be seriously reevaluated.
We can ask these questions now, and make voluntary changes now, in our individual lives, so that we are far less likely to be harmed by the collapse. We can do this now, regardless of collapse, because it is the right thing to do. We can eschew materialism, embrace simplicity and place our hope, not in failing institutions, but in God’s grace and his mercy.
We can work with our hands, our hearts, our families, like-minded friends and what resources we have to learn the fundamental skills of agrarian life; to be less dependent on the industrial system. And we can be eternally thankful for the most basic of blessings, as we should be.
John Ikerd speaks of hope and vision for the postindustrial era. Hope and vision are essential to making a successful personal and family transition. They are essential to living a full, rich, happy life, industrial collapse or not.
Please understand that collapse is not synonymous with the end of the world, just the end of the world as we have known it. I believe that 2050 could look much like 1850. There were people in 1850 who lived full, rich, happy lives. There were also people in 1750 who lived full, rich, happy lives. And before that.
Yes, people certainly lived more primitively compared to today, and they worked much harder to provide for their sustenance, but it wasn’t necessarily a terrible existence. Sure, some people had terrible situations, but some people today have terrible situations too.
In 2050 there will still be beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The birds will still sing their songs. There will still be the joys of seed time and harvest. Billowing clouds and sparkling stars and little babies will still delight us. Life, and love, and hope, and friendship will still exist. In other words, the essential blessings —God’s common graces—will still be here for mankind.
If this collapse happens in my lifetime, and it is given to me to survive the difficult political and social transition, and God allows me to live to 2050, I will be 92 years old. It is possible that I will see the fall of industrialism and the establishment of a new agrarian era. What an exciting time to be alive.
(You can read professor Ikerd’s speech at This Link)
Higher Education Scam?
The established conventional wisdom of the industrial paradigm tells us that a college education is necessary; that it is is an essential key to success and prosperity and happiness. But in the topsy-turvy era of postindustrial transition that we find ourselves in, the old rules no longer apply. This is certainly the case with higher education. If you are considering college, or know someone who is, check out the YouTube movie above. It provides a countercultural perspective on college education. The movie has been on the internet for less than three months and has nearly two million views already. It is one hour long. I’ve watched it twice
To The Younger Generation
To The Younger Generation
I have told my sons that one of the best careers they can get into is growing food. I’m not talking about large-scale, industrialized, debt-bondage farming with its many dependencies. I mean small-scale, diversified, sustainable farming with a horse or two, selling food to a local market (like Grant Gibbs and so many other “New American Farmers”).
My boys aren’t interested. Few young people are. It is, after all, hard work for little pay, and it isn’t a very popular vocation. But if you are inured to hard work, love the land, have an independent, countercultural, bootstrapping spirit, are stubborn in you convictions, and focused on learning and succeeding, long term, you will succeed, especially if you start when you are young. Joel Salatin’s book, You Can Farm, is the first textbook I recommend.
Of course, you must also eschew materialism and embrace voluntary simplicity. Unless you are fortunate enough to be tapped into a trust fund or some other inheritance, you will not be able to afford a large modern home with so many modern conveniences and entertainment devices. You will not be able to afford new vehicles and clothes and vacations. You will not be able to afford shopping carts full of convenience foods and frequent visits to restaurants. You will not, in other words, appear successful like all those people who pursue the modern American vision of success.
But I’m talking here about a different kind of success.
Young people who embrace the postindustrial paradigm of success and personal independence now, who learn how to grow food for themselves and their communities, who learn the skills of subsistence and how to live in a sustainable manner, will be ahead of the curve— they will be valued for their skills and contributions in the years ahead. They will be vibrant, integral components in the reemerging Agrarian Nation.
The Toxic Gasses
I am a supporter of Ligonier Ministries and receive their monthly magazine, Tabletalk. The current edition has some particularly good articles. One is an interview with Paul David Tripp. The magazine asks Mr.Tripp...
What do you believe to be the most serious issues plaguing the modern Christian family?
One of the greatest challenges to the Christian family is rampant, culturally-institutionalized, media-promoted, hero-driven materialism. Maybe more than ever before, our culture has embraced the delusion that life can be found in the physical, material creation. The created world has no ability whatsoever to satisfy the cravings of our hearts. The creation is meant to be a finger that points me to the one place where real life and rest can be found—God. Because this materialism plays on the deepest idolatries of our hearts (Romans 1:25), it leaves us fat, addicted, and in debt. As a culture, we spend too much, we eat too much, we try to experience too much, and we are way too busy, all in the vain hope that we will find life where it cannot be found. It is hard to be a family living in Western culture and not breathe in the toxic gasses of its materialism..
Facing Christian Youth
Facing Christian Youth
In the same Paul D. Tripp interview mentioned above, Mr. Tripp is asked...
What are the biggest challenges facing Christian adolescents today, and how should the church be involved?
His remarkably insightful answer (in part)...
You could argue that the struggles of teenagers today are exactly what they’ve always been. Teens don’t tend to hunger for wisdom and correction. They tend to be legalistic (arguing about where the boundaries are); they tend to be unwise in their choices of companions; they tend to be susceptible to sexual temptation; they don’t tend to live with the future in view; and they tend to be blind to the true condition of their hearts
For us, these struggles are reinforced by three things in our culture. First, our teens live in a culture where biblical faith and values have a very small place in the cultural discussion. Second, they are told again and again every day that life really can be found in material things. And finally, they live in a culture where intensely intrusive and constantly available media puts the philosophy of the culture in their face. All around me I see teens in Christian families assenting to biblical belief buy buying the idols of the surrounding culture.
The emphasis on that last sentence is mine. I think Paul Tripp really nails it in this summation of the current state of Christian adolescence. Sadly, I see it to some degree in my own family. I’m sure many of you parents can relate. I find it interesting that Mr. Tripp answered only the first part of the question. “How should the church be involved” was not addressed. Perhaps it was edited out to save space.
|Phillip Telfer of MediaTalk 101|
It’s funny how one thing leads to another on the internet, and before long you discover something that is especially good. That was the case with MediaTalk 101. It started with SermonAudio.com when I decided to search for sermons containing the word, “farm.”
That took me to a list of sermons, one of which was Is The Family Farm Viable in the 21st Century? by Kevin Swanson. But that wasn’t actually a sermon. It was a “radio program” from Generations Radio. I listened to some of the programs there and found them far more thought-provoking and interesting than anything on my Sirius satellite radio.
One of Kevin Swanson's interviews was with Phillip Telfer of MediaTalk 101. So I went to the MediaTalk web site and ended up buying a copy of the DVD, Media Choices: Convictions or Compromise?
Did you know that every time you watch a movie, you are hearing a sermon? The same holds true for watching a television program, or playing a video game, or listening to a song, or reading a book, or a magazine article, or, even... reading a blog. It’s all media and no media is neutral—all of it communicates a message. All media speaks to us when we submit ourselves to it. And all media does not, as I’m sure you are aware, preach a good sermon.
That’s the premise of the Media Choices DVD I bought, and Phillip Telfer does an excellent job of speaking to teens about this subject. Like Paul D. Tripp’s comments above, Phillip Telfer sees clearly that media entertainment has become one of the biggest roadblocks to the spiritual growth of young people.
However, unlike Mr. Tripp’s short reply in Tabletalk magazine, Philip Telfer provides solutions to the problem of worldly media. Telfer is a gentle, wise warrior for the truth, and he effectively communicates to teens how and why they should be careful and discerning about their media choices. His message is clearly biblical. I recommend this DVD to any parent with a preteen. Better yet, get Mr. Telfer to come to your church or homeschool group to present his message personally.
By the way, this message of Christian compromise with media is not just for adolescents. Did you know that the average age of video game players is 35 years old? That is an incredibly sad statistic.
And did you know that the average American watches 4.7 hours of television each day? And after living the average life span of 77.9 years of age, the average American will have spent 15 years of his life sitting in front of the television?
That’s so incredible that I did the math myself. It actually comes out to 15 years and a few months, and it must assume that television watching starts on the first day of a person’s life. Close enough.
I’m pleased to be able to report that I am well below average in this television-watching statistic because I almost never watch television and haven't in years (and I despise video games). Even still, there are ungodly mainstream media “sermons” of various kinds that I have submitted myself to and Mr. Telfer’s excellent message has led me to renewed conviction in this area of my life.
R.C. on 9/11
The aforementioned Ligonier Ministries is headed by Reformed Theologian, R. C Sproul. In the current issue of Tabletalk magazine (also aforementioned here), R.C. provides a perspective on the 9/11 tragedy that you certainly will not hear or see from any mainstream media. That’s because the mainstream media does not have a biblical worldview, as does Mr. Sproul. Here, in part, is what R.C Sproul wrote...
When two evangelical leaders, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, suggested that 9/11 may have been a divine judgment upon our sinful culture, they were hissed, booed, and shouted down to the point that they issued public recantations. The American psyche has no place for a God who judges people or nations. God can bless us, but God forbid He ever judges us.
We are like Habakkuk, who, in his consternation over the fact that God used a foreign power to chasten His own people, stationed himself in a watchtower, demanding an answer from God as to how He could allow such wickedness to prevail. Unlike Habakkuk’s reaction when God answered that question in His Holy Word, our lips do not quiver, our legs do not shake, our bellies do not tremble, nor does rottenness enter our bones (Hab. 3:16). Rather than repent in dust and ashes before a holy God, we continue to shake our fists in His face, demanding a more benevolent providence from His hand.
But God does not say to us as Americans: “My country right or wrong.” God requires nations as well as individuals to repent of their attempts to be autonomous, sovereign rulers, trying to displace Him. Any nation that seeks to supplant God’s sovereignty with its own is doomed. It is doomed to failure, it is doomed to destruction, and it is doomed to insignificance.
My fear is that we haven’t learned very much from 9/11. On 9/11, ten years ago, more babies were destroyed in the wombs of their mothers than people were killed in the terrorist attack in New York. That destruction continues to this day. The greatest attacks on the sanctity of life come not from al-Qaeda but from those who destroy their young. God will not continue to tolerate any nation that practices that culture of death and barbarism.
You can read the entire editorial at This Link.
What is most tragic is that when we were given a wake-up call ten years ago on 9/11, we pushed the snooze button and went back to sleep.
A Great Agrarian Read
If you missed my posting here a couple days ago about John Stewart Collis and his delightful book, The Worm Forgives The Plough, please check it out at this link: In Praise of John Stewart Collis
Patrice Lewis, over at the blog, Rural Revolution, asked me a few months ago if I would be interested in reviewing her new book, Simplicity Primer. Well, I'm interested in reviewing any book, but finding the time to actually read the book is often difficult. So I perused Patrice's book and read a few of the essays and came to the conclusion that it is less a book about simplicity and more a book of opinionated good advice for making wise decisions and living a wholesome, happy life. It occurred to me that Patrice would make a fine advice columnist, and probably be better than any other advice columnist out there.
Since Simplicity Primer is a book of short, readable essays, I thought it would make a fine "bathroom reader," and that's where I put it. My hope was that maybe my sons would pick it up and some of Patrice's wisdom would impact them (the book is especially good for young people to read, or so it seems to me). Since then, My wife, Marlene, has said to me on two different occasions, "I really like that Simplicity book."
And now, as I am writing this, I just went upstairs to fetch the book, but it wasn't in the bathroom.... it was on Marlene's bedside table.
Get yourself a copy HERE.
Michael Bunker is now writing a futuristic novel titled, The Last Pilgrims. You can read much of the book online. If nothing else, check out the 4-minute movie trailer for the book (at the web site). It's impressive.
And speaking of movies, the amazing Bartlett brothers up there in North Dakota are now making a movie of their own. You can check out their trailer and learn all about the production at the official Excelsior movie web site.
|Henry Wadsworth Longfellow|
I discovered the following Longfellow poem (written in 1841) when I was in 11th grade (1975). Excelsior spoke to me at that time because it was about a young man of strong convictions on a journey. He faced difficulties and temptations along the way but stayed the course. I memorized the poem back then and have thought of it often over the years.
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
"Try not the Pass!" the old man said;
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"
And loud that clarion voice replied,
"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast! "
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell like a falling star,