On the up…

Big day last Friday as the main growing section of the polytunnel got fitted out!

racking-5

Thanks to the kind loaning of a 7.5 tonne truck the racking was picked up from storage and delivered on site.

racking-1 racking-3

After carefully measuring and levelling the foot pads the upright frame went up with literally an inch to spare!!

racking-2 racking-4

The idea is to build a platform on the beams at the base, on that we will put grow bags to start us off whilst the last section will be the hydroponic test area. This gives us the opportunity to learn about running such a system and then roll it out over the whole polytunnel as we gain confidence.

racking-6

The tomato’s, cucumber and other vining plants will be trained up guide wires so eventually all you will see is a wall of green.

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Graham Burnett teaches permaculture in Doncaster – #DoncasterIsGreat

The very wonderful Graham Burnett will be visiting Doncaster this April to host an Introduction to Permaculture workshop at Glass Park in Kirk Sandall. Leave a comment or email us at permafuture.project[at]gmail.com if you’d like to get involved. Details as follows…

yorkshireDates; Saturday 6th – Sunday 7th April, 2013 (Meeting-up 5pm on Friday 5th for welcomes and orientation)

Venue; The Glass Park, Kirk Sandall, Doncaster. Nr St Oswald’s Church, Kirk Sandall Old Village, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN3 1RA

Led by; Graham Burnett (Dip Perm Des)

An excellent way to find out more about permaculture is to attend a two-day introductory course. This ‘taster’ will provide an opportunity to actively learn about the ethics, principles and applications of permaculture design.As well as introducing you to the key principles & practices of permaculture this course will mark the first stage in turning an underused recreational park into a self-reliant, permaculture-based, managed woodland.

Glass Park was a former dumping ground for a Pilkington’s Glass factory and was turned into a large recreational area by a local charitable trust over a decade ago. Since then the economic downturn has made it difficult for the trust to continue developing the site in the way that it had originally intended. PermaFuture is a local non-profit company which uses permaculture principles to help set-up low-cost, low-impact resilient community infrastructure. Working closely with the Glass Park Trust we intend to integrate woodland management, local food production/distribution and traditional skills, such as green-woodworking and bee-keeping, to build a financially self-sustaining educational facility for the people of Kirk Sandall and Doncaster.

Under the capable guidance of the very wonderful Graham Burnett (author and illustrator of ‘Permaculture- a Beginners Guide’ and holder of the Diploma in Permaculture Design) you will be introduced to the basics of permaculture design in a unique community space. Not only will you take away a grounding in the practice and philosophy of permaculture, you will be helping to lay the foundations for an important community project.

Full cost £55, concessions £35. £10 deposit secures a place.

Fees include tuition, light refreshments and handouts.

This course is limited to 15 places, so book now in order to ensure your place!

Please note that bookings/enquiries for this course are NOT via Spiralseed, please directly contact John Briggs permafuture.project@gmail.com

Why pay for sickly @redbull when you can get delicious #SilverBirch for #FREE

It’ll soon be that time of year when the sap begins to rise… both metaphorically and actually. Spring is when we begin to feel rejuvenated after the grey days of winter. Luckily for us there’s a natural energy drink which becomes freely available just when we need it the most (and which doesn’t rely on a bombardment of crappy advertising). Filled with sugars, amino acids, proteins and enzymes, Birch Sap is guaranteed to deliver a Usain-Bolt-paced-energy-jolt to tiring bodies. 😉

Birch Sap is also so delicious that it is sold commercially in some countries, and because it can only be collected during an average period of 1 month in every year and is highly perishable, it can demand a very high price indeed (even higher than that overpriced Red Bull stuff) – in Japan it has sold for as much as €50 per litre!

Any prepper, bush-craft enthusiast or forager worth their salt will find the idea of paying such a high price for Birch Sap a little crazy, because we know how easy it is to obtain…

A cut branch will provide a good drink, but we wouldn’t recommend this technique. It’s much better for the tree, and more ethical for the forager, to learn how to properly drill a tree to leave it in good repair. With this in mind the ever wonderful A-Z Bushcraft & Srvival Skills  have produced this informative, Creative Commons licensed video…

The video recently featured on Permculture Magazine‘s website, where they also included the following recipe taken from Ben Law’s book The Woodland Year:

Ben Law’s Birch Sap Wine

Ingredients

1 gallon of birch sap

2 lemons

1/2 lb (454g) raisins

2 lbs sugar or 2 pints of honey

yeast

Method

Squeeze lemons. Add a little grated zest to the birch sap and boil for 20 minutes. Pour sap on to sugar or honey and raisins. Stir until the sugar or honey is dissolved. When lukewarm add yeast, cover with a cloth and leave in the fermenting bin until fermentation has slowed down. Then strain into a demijohn. Top up with water as necessary and fit an air lock. Should be ready to drink by late summer.

Special Offer direct from the publishers: save 25% on The Woodland Year and get it p&p free (in the UK). RRP £19.95. Discounted price £14.96. Offer lasts until March 31st 2012.

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 4

And now for the final part of our series on security options for a post peak community…..

 

Establish Economic Security

“Economic Security” in a Peak Oil context likely has a far different meaning than we currently understand it. Economics is the study of the intersection between psychology and resources, and we currently focus far too much attention on this description than on studying the resources themselves. Hence, our fall into a world of Peak Oil and global warming without having understood how our extraction (and abuse) of resources undermined the resource base itself.  In a post-Peak Oil context, economic security has a more obvious connection to resource security. This would include developing farming capabilities (food security), ensuring a clean water supply (water security), assisting families with developing sustainable post-PO homes (shelter security), as well as setting up specialized operations like blacksmithing, carpentry, medical care, and so forth.

 

Conduct Regional Community Outreach

A wealthy community with poor neighbours is not a strong community. The interdependence of neighbouring communities has largely been ignored in modern times and will sharply regain prominence in the years ahead. Becoming insular will not serve to improve a community’s security, but rather put it at risk of retaliation due to the envy or ire of its neighbours. Remember that the wisest military leader is the one who engineers conditions such that a war need never be fought.

Diplomacy with your neighbours increases security by establishing a network of mutual aid in the event of attack, natural disaster, crop failure, or any other calamity that can befall a human. The benefits of reaching out and sharing with your neighbours most often result in exponential returns back to you.

Specific strategies could include:

1) Organize a regional council of community leaders to identify projects that would provide benefit to the entire region. Politics will always intrude on human affairs, so it is important to ensure your representative exhibits strong skill at navigating political minefields.

2) Establish a Community Reserve Corps to deploy to other communities for building up sustainable infrastructure. This may sound ludicrous for a community that is itself caught in the throes of a post-Peak Oil world, but it is not as ridiculous as you might think. The concept is to send rotating teams of sustainable designers, builders, farmers, doctors, and security professionals to spread what your community has learned to others that might have no such capability. The investment would very rapidly reap rewards by putting more heads on the problems involved with establishing sustainability, and — most importantly — improve the stability of the region surrounding your community. This concept will be discussed in more detail in the future on this site.

 

Establish Robust Information Systems

Communication can have a massive impact on human psychology and in turn lead to economic, diplomatic, and military capability developments, all of which add up to drum roll — community security.

Information is the grease for the engine of a well-functioning society. Information – and control of information – is the key to leveraging advantages for your communities against potential adversaries. This includes not only communication (internal and external) but gathering of intelligence. A community must have a clear understanding of what is going on inside and outside its borders and use that information to develop intelligent plans. I would hazard a guess that most of us know fewer than ten of our immediate neighbours, and few details even of those ten. This will largely contribute to the death of some communities in the near future, but you can easily take steps to encourage communication in your own immediate area. Laying that tentative groundwork now will improve your community’s ability to weather ever increasing risks.

 

Raise and Maintain an Appropriate Physical Security Presence

 

Addressing economic, informational, and diplomatic issues will provide a solid foundation for a secure community, but in order to execute a security strategy there must be a physical security presence. We currently see such a presence in our communities every day in the form of police. Consider that even currently we live in an extremely stable society, which requires only a minimal security presence (police) to maintain civil order and prevent the friction of crime from significantly impacting the workings of the community. Unfortunately, a post-Peak Oil situation inevitably leads to a weakening in the three foundation areas of economics, information, and diplomacy, for which we must compensate by increased physical security.

The first item that we must recognize for any community security strategy to succeed is that the current model of municipal police will not be enough to secure a community in an unstable post-Peak Oil environment. However, please note that it is extremely important to separate military function from police functions — blurring this line inevitably leads to authoritarianism, which is the last thing a struggling community needs. The training for municipal police versus military is starkly different in philosophy, and it would be best to establish and maintain two distinct corps of security personnel.

So how best to augment the police force? For a community, this can take many forms. As alluded to above, the security situation consists of both internal and external threats. Internal threats would include the typical array of crime with which we’re familiar: theft, domestic issues, fights, and other more violent crime. This should be dealt with by a corps of people whose training is focused on resolving disputes peacefully (the function of municipal police — “peace officers”).

 

External threats in a post-Peak Oil environment require a different approach, as preserving the community peace often means keeping interlopers out. This is likely the best function for employing the former military in your community, and training should focus on more military-style tactics. I don’t mean to pretend that developing this capability will be easy, particularly due to potential conflicts with police authority, difficulties winning approval from the community, and the substantial risk of a Para-military team being viewed as something far more sinister than a community protection force. Every community situation is different and will evolve differently. Some areas are perhaps already perfect (in a sense) for establishing a robust external security force, and yet other communities might view their position as so stable that the mere whispers of armed men augmenting the police might bring horror. That is why a clear and flexible strategy is necessary and must be very carefully tailored to the individual situation.

 

We hope this has given you all food for thought, and that you find it useful in developing your local security plan..

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 3

Following on from part 2 as it does, here is part 3 of our ongoing series…….

4. Internal Threats

So if biker gangs, martial law, and foreign occupiers aren’t our greatest security threats, what is our greatest risk? In short, crime. This is not a trivial threat. Consider the number of neighbours or relatives you know who have made preparations or even listened to concerns about Peak Oil and the host of other crises on the horizon. Chances are they can be counted on one hand, at best. This presents a huge security risk literally in our own backyards as our hungry friends and neighbours grow desperate in their needs for food, warmth, and water. Crime will present itself more and more frequently as time goes by and is by orders of magnitude the security risk about which we should be most concerned.

The catch, however, is that we need friends and neighbours in order to assure our long-term survival. Despite many survivalist claims to the contrary, it is a much greater risk for an individual or family to attempt to survive the wilderness alone than the threat of attack by those closest to you. The strategy for security preparations against local crime is by no means a purely military one. Remember the adage “war is continuation of politics by other means”. The wisest strategy for security is one that focuses on developing a strong political situation which dictates the smallest possible military backup.

So now that we have identified threats and risks how do we deal with them?

What follows is the core of that strategy.

Now that we have identified the primary security threats to our community, where do we begin defending against them? The answer, as most any military professional will tell you, is to define clear goals in an overarching security strategy.

When talking of security, you must first understand that security does not necessarily equate to military solutions. Community (or National) security includes many different aspects, the most significant of which are economics, diplomacy, information, and military power. Security is based on social stability. Stability is the aggregate measure of all aspects of security. You cannot hope to establish stability to a post-PO community by a military solution alone. This is the source of the failure of authoritarian regimes throughout history and it is the source of current failures in the Middle East. Stability cannot be dictated. A wise and sustainable Community Security Strategy (CSS) must encompass all aspects of a stable community. This means dividing appropriate attention and resources to not only martial solutions, but economic, informational, and yes, diplomatic aspects.

It is absolutely critical to understand the context of military decisions before making them. To do otherwise would unquestionably doom your community to failure from unseen directions. I propose the following key elements for a comprehensive CSS: Establish economic security, raise and maintain an appropriate security presence, conduct regional community outreach, and establish robust information systems.

Tune in later for part 4 of this series, coming soon ………

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 2

Here is the second instalment in our ongoing series of articles dealing with possible security issue’s in a post energy world…

2. Foreign Invaders

Although the United Kingdom is currently bogged down in foreign wars, many within and without the U.K. military predict that the U.K. will soon face the threat of another peer competitor along the lines of the U.S.S.R. Such a peer competitor would likely not be a single country, but a global alliance centred on a major power like Russia, China, or both. Some in the Peak Oil community fear that such a strong energy secure player could easily overrun a now weakened western society and play havoc with its people. Admittedly, a new alliance is a real and credible threat in the very near future. However, to leap from the current situation, with the western economic and social model spreading to all corners of the world, to a time when Chinese troops march down oxford Street, is a monumental shift in realities. Even though the west is significantly weakened politically, economically, and diplomatically, it still holds significant physical and figurative ground world-wide. The approaching depression alone will not completely unravel this power; it will take sustained pressure in a world of declining energy availability to erode globalisation. A third world war would likely only result in the western powers losing its overseas footholds and retreating back within its borders – and that would be after several years of conflict. Adversaries of the West will likely continue to use asymmetric means to weaken the powers that be, by further undermining our economic, energy, cyber, and political interests long before the advent of open warfare. Our adversaries understand that it is foolish (and will remain so for at least several years) to attempt to compete with the west in the one domain we have trained and prepared for exceptionally well — large-scale open combat. This is not to imply that we shouldn’t be concerned about the very real possibility of major war, just that it is not a near-term (i.e. within the next one or two decades) security problem at the local community level. Even if, decades hence, we face the prospect of foreign powers on western soil, all the difficulties outlined in scenario 1 apply to a foreign occupier — only much more magnified given their foreign status.

 

3. Mutant Zombie Bikers

Many in Peak Oil circles and other groups speak frequently of “Mutant Zombie Bikers” (MZBs), or the golden horde, which are composed of highly mobile independent groups of heavily-armed bandits scouring the countryside for riches or destruction. In this “Mad Max” scenario, individuals or even isolated communities do stand a reasonable chance of mounting adequate defences against MZBs. But are scores of roving MZB groups attacking peaceful communities a likely scenario following societal collapse? To state the obvious, with the advent of Peak Oil, or even during any societal collapse, fuel will become a very valuable commodity. As recently witnessed during the gas shortage in the U.S. Southeast, gasoline supplies dwindle to near zero within a matter days. In such a scenario it is unlikely that any sizeable group have the ability or the foresight to meet their logistical requirements over any significant length of time. While some isolated cases of MZBs may exist (e.g. gangs commandeering tanker trucks or well-fuelled military units going rogue), MZBs are unlikely to pose a significant threat to the average community. While it may be prudent to consider the possibility of an MZB encounter, it could prove a disastrous (or even fatal) waste of resources to focus on MZBs as the primary security threat while ignoring the key risk to post-Peak Oil communities.

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world

The transition town model has a big weakness. Whilst it covers most aspects of providing resources for its members in a post peak/low energy future it hasn’t sufficiently dealt with the aspect of keeping what you have when faced with people who are willing to take it from you.

This article is an attempt to close that gap. It will not tell you how to organise your selves. Each group is different with different dynamics and Terrains. This article and the others that follow are intended to provide a thorough and objective look at the future of personal and community defence so as to guide us on the most effective ways to Prepare strategies.

It will tell you about the risks we face and give suggestions about how to plan for various scenarios.

First, an assumption for this discussion is that the reader lives outside of densely populated urban areas. Under no reasonable scenario will an urban area have adequate resource security in the face of Peak Oil, so to speak of military defence of such an area is moot. However these areas can be prepared in such a way that there are “hidden” resources that can be returned for if a group has decided to leave once the area has been abandoned. This general analysis should be applicable, however, to persons living in small towns, some suburban areas, or rural areas.

The risks and threats.

A lot of scuttlebutt has been posted on the internet and various blogs and forums about the threats that could occur during a break down of society regardless of the cause of that break down. In this section we will break down and explore these various threats and the likely hood of them occurring.

1. Oppressive Regimes

The single greatest security threat in many survivalists’ minds is the spectre of the government smashing down your front door and raiding your stockpiles. Recent government leadership and actions have certainly provided some legitimacy to these fears. The recent riots in London and the Arab uprisings, have raised questions about appropriate police response including the use of water cannon and rubber bullets as well as the implementation of martial law during any given crisis, certainly don’t bode well for the future of freedom in this country.

If government forces do choose to exert their will on the populace, there is no feasible military response for a local community. Local Para-military and militia forces cannot compete with a fully trained and equipped army to achieve meaningful military victory.

Period.

To focus your community defence efforts solely to counter the threat of government attack is a waste of resources and may in fact result in attracting enough attention to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The best defence in this scenario is to be as innocuous as possible. By not making yourself an obvious target the government will most likely pass you by for a more “promising” target. Remember; in a scenario where resources are tight large organisations tend to look at things as a return on investment scenario. They may not take your stored food if there is a supermarket or warehouse  nearby.

If in fact the government did declare martial law, consider this: there are 60 million people in the United kingdom supported by a standing (plus Territorial army reserves) of 227.160 personnel. There are more of us than there are of them. It would take a lot of resources to police us all. Consider also that the U.K. government is a hair’s breadth away from Insolvency, and funding a sustained conflict against even a portion of its tax base would be national suicide.

To sum up these points, martial law outside of urban centres is not feasible in the United Kingdom and any military action outside of cities would be so minimal that any single community would have an extremely low probability of attack. However it would be much easier to do things like limit travel, place check points on the roads and issue travel permits.

Alcohol as a fuel, the pros and cons.

Much has been made about the benefits of using ethanol as a bio-fuel so today were going to talk about Alcohol being used as a replacement fuel in internal combustion engines. For simplicity we’ll leave the politics of putting food in our cars for another day.

Alcohol, or more accurately Ethanol was used widely used during the Second World War to help ease the restrictions on daily life caused by petrol rationing. Its use met with mixed results depending on the individual engine it was run on, however modern engines are made to be more durable and flexible in the fuel they use.

So, on with the comparison of ethanol and petrol.

Ethanol’s vapour pressure is lower than that of petrol and so engines using it as fuel are more difficult to start.

Ethanol takes longer to burn to explosion than petrol and so it needs a higher compression and stroke than a petrol engine.

Mixtures of Ethanol and air have a wider explosive range which allows for greater variation in the air supply.

Ethanol requires less air to burn than petrol and so we get a more complete burn due to the improved air/fuel mix.

Ethanol burns at a lower temperature than petrol. However this is largely offset by its more complete combustion.

And so we have a mixed bag really. Ethanol burns better but at a lower temperature with fewer exhaust gases. However it can be difficult to start an Ethanol engine on a cold day. And your engine may need to be adjusted to use Ethanol. Usually this just means the injectors need to be open for a few micro-seconds longer. But it still adds to the cost of the project over all.

However as this is a blog about self reliance we think ethanol has the edge for certain applications. Due to the relative ease of manufacture it lends itself to home production. The relatively small amounts of fuel produced makes running a car day to day impractical but it can be used to supplement the existing fuel supply and therefore cutting the fuel bill.

Ethanol really come into its own when used as a the fuel for backup generators, especially for those long duration but lower draw situations I.e. night time when the TVs are off and all that’s running are the fridge/freezer’s and central heating.

Also there are other applications such as chainsaws, shredder’s, mopeds and quad bikes. Basically any small scale but regular power need.

So keep an eye out for the OTF article where we will go in-depth into the fermentation process, distillation techniques and a few hints and tricks to keep your costs down to well….. Practically nothing!!

 

Towards a brave new land (and the Making Thereof) by Professor Offlogic

The following article first appeared in Issue 7 of Steampunk Magazine and is published under a non-commercial Creative Commons License. We feel that it’s the kind of Utopian thinking which inventive, independently minded permaculturalists and preppers should be celebrating. It is – quite literally – ground breaking! 😉  

illustration by the very wonderful Sarah Dungan

“A courageous Future lies ahead of us. We wave goodbye, on no
uncertain Terms, to the invisible Workings of the cyberian World.
Our Future lies in an honest Technology, a Technology that is within
our Reach, a Technology that will not abandon us, a Technology that
requires not the dark Oils of subterranean Caverns.”
A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse

Past attempts at colonizing the high seas have usually remained at the conceptual level, with plans running aground due to “inside-the-corporate-box” thinking, high up-front costs of marine super-structures or outright chicanery.
Capital has been very leery of investments in a field of uncertain precedent such as creating Free Enclaves in international waters. While there is at least one “residency” cruise liner (The World of ResidenSea was launched in 2002), no claims of sovereignty are made for it, and the sticker-price limits it to multi-millionaire residents. Might a more ad hoc, low-cost and Low Tech approach to creating a new nation on the High Seas fare any better?

Terminology & Pejorative

The term “microstate” isn’t branded with the same giggle-factor as the term “micronation”, which has come to be used in a pejorative sense to refer to abortive and/or crackpot schemes to usurp the “rights” of “legitimate statehood” from presently recognized “nations” of the status quo (AKA ‘The Old Boys’ Network’). The term “neostate” might be applied to a newly declared independent nation and the human population proclaiming allegiance to it, but since the “state” part of neostate still carries the usual baggage of intrusive regulation of personal behaviors, public morality, excessive taxation etc, the term “Free Enclave” will be used in this writing, as it is the author’s hope that anyone going to the trouble of creating a New Land will not be taking with them the outmoded ways of the Old Lands (including racial, ethnic, economic, spiritual/religious or gender disparities). Any entity achieving this is a truly Free Enclave.

Microstates: Where Size Doesn’t Matter

Let’s look at present-day examples of internationally recognized microstates, with an eye for commontraits. Most are remnants of the consolidation of European states, or former island colonies.

State of the Vatican City


A landlocked, walled sovereign city-state within Rome, the Vatican holds the current record for smallest cost of carpeting. Contrary to the popular, it didn’t officially exist as a sovereign state until the Lateran Treaty of 1929 (a good year if your
name begins with “His Holiness”). As the smallest sovereign squat on the map, at just over 0.17 square miles, it has a unique economy based on a “spiritual protection racket”.

The crime rate within the territory measured against the resident population of some 824 persons would seem enormous: Civil offences committed each year corresponding to 87.2% of the population, with penal offences running at a staggering 133.6%. The most common crime is petty theft—purse-snatching, pick-pocketing and shoplifting. “The Vatican—soft on crime? You be the judge!”

Reason for statehood: Fear of being sent to Hell.

The Republic of Nauru

Basically a small rock in Micronesia, it is currently the smallest island nation, just 8.1 square miles, and the least populated member of the United Nations. Declared a colony by Germany in the late 19th century, it was then passed around between
Australia/New Zealand/England, briefly the Japanese Empire then back to the Aussies again, until gaining independence in 1968.

Nauru was good for only one thing: Mining phosphate rock. While that lasted the Nauruans boasted the highest per capita income in the world. Once the phosphates ran out they dabbled at being a tax haven, experimented with money laundering and for a bit ran an outsourced detention center for Australia (the Pacific Solution). That cash-cow recently gave out as well.

Reason for Statehood: Depleted of all resources, nobody wanted it anymore.

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino

Bar none, the oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, having been founded on 3rd September 301 by Marinus of Rab, fleeing the religious persecution of the Roman Empire. San Marino was the world’s smallest republic from
301 to 1968, until Nauru gained independence. It is devoid of natural level ground, landlocked and completely enclosed by Italy.
If one gets elected to head of state there, one must accept or be jailed (wow, drafting politicians, what a great idea!). Even Napoleon refused to conquer them, saying “Why? It’s a model republic!” and continued his devastation on states with less model
republics.

Reason for statehood: San Marino was a refuge for those supporting Italian unification in the 19th Century, so in appreciation, Italy left them alone. What with being way the hell up in the mountains and having nothing worth going to the trouble of taking (except for a wonderful view) everyone was happy.

The Principality of Monaco

Completely enclosed by France, Monaco—occupying about .76 square miles—is largely regarded as a tax-haven, with around 84% of its population made up of foreign (and wealthy) citizens. Monaco retains its status as the world’s most densely populated sovereign (and smallest French-speaking) country. Starting with a land grant from Emperor Henry VI in 1191, Monaco was re-founded in 1228 as a colony of Genoa. It has been ruled by The House of Grimaldi since 1297, when Francesco “The Malicious” Grimaldi (disguised, coincidentally as a Franciscan monk, or “Monaco”, in Italian) and his men took over the castle on the Rock of Monaco. It’s been an up-hill battle ever since. The French Revolution swallowed them up, and then they got assigned to the Kingdom of Sardinia, which made a lot of patriotic Monegasques very surly.

Reason for statehood: As part of the Franco Monegasque Treaty of 1861, the ruling prince ceded some 95% of the country to France in return for four million francs and sovereignty. In 2002 a new treaty with France removed the stipulation that Monaco would remain independent only so long as the House of Grimaldi continued to produce heirs.

Micronations & Pitfalls to Avoid

Now we’ll briefly survey both ends of the micronation spectrum, their strengths and weaknesses.

The Principality of Sealand

Located on a former World War II sea fort (HM Fort Roughs) about six miles off the coast of England, Sealand is ruled by Prince Roy and Princess Joan (and de facto Prince Regent Michael, since Prince Roy retired to the Suffolk). Total ‘land’ area is a whopping 0.000193 square miles (about 500 square meters). Although Sealand is held in dubious regard as a micronation and is without acknowledged diplomatic relations, its existence has resulted in the closing in certain loopholes in the United Nations Convention on The Law Of The Sea (UNCLOS 1982, Article 60 sub 8, relating to artificial structures within an Exclusive Economic Zone, with Article 80 applying mutandis to artificial islands, installations and structures on the continental shelf).

Reason for statehood: Not worth the trouble, and has arguable standing of sovereignty under established legal precedents at the time of its founding.

The United States (Under Emperor Norton I)

Perhaps the most unruly, rebellious, and treasonous micronation, it occupied the approximate space between Emperor Norton I’s ears between 1859 and 1880.

Eccentric, yes, perhaps even insane, but Robert Lewis Stevenson’s step-daughter, Isabel, wrote that Norton “was a gentle and kindly man, and fortunately found himself in the friendliest and most sentimental city in the world, the idea being ‘let him be emperor if he wants to.’ San Francisco played the game with him.”

Reason for statehood: Pre-existing condition that ignored the “Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico” (those treasonous curs!).

Common Threads & Loose Screws

From the point of view of the Old Boys, it is easier to leave a small state with insubstantial natural resources alone than bother with taking it over. Geographic remoteness or being otherwise inaccessible helps in retaining independence, as does payola and/or the ability to dole out anathemas. Providing useful services like being a tax-haven or money-launderer can be a double-edged sword if you don’t do it for the ‘right people’. As regards to micronations and their rulers, bestowing yourself a royal or imperial title may severely dent your credibility in the area of establishing formal relations, either with other countries or your own.

The Electric Reef: A New Approach

Professor Wolf Hilbertz developed a process for accretion of mineral structures by electrolysis of seawater in the 1970s. As BioRock, the electro-deposited minerals are comparable, if not surpassing, the compressive strength of reinforced concrete … and self-repairing, as long as the power supply is maintained. Hilbertz and his colleague Dr. Tom Goreau established programs to use the BioRock to repair and sustain damaged coral reefs in 15 countries around the world.

Mimicking the way clams, oysters and coral produce their shells from the minerals in sea water (though far less sophisticated), low voltage direct current is applied to a metallic frame (rebar, chickenwire, metal mesh) submerged in sea water. Calcium carbonate accretion (as the mineral aragonite) occurs at up to 5cm per year on the submerged frame, sequestering CO2 in the process. Power requirements are modest, about 3 watts per square meter.

Hilbertz went on to survey suitable sites located on undersea mountains that met certain desirable criteria: Locations in international waters, relatively shallow, easily harnessed ocean currents, good prospects of aquaculture and sea floor resources.
His aim: Creating autonomous, self-assembling island micro-nations.

Two likely sites were identified as prime locations for the project, to be known as Autopia Ampere, on the Mediterranean sea mount of Ampere (about halfway between the Madeira Islands and the tip of Portugal) or Autopia Saya, on the Saya de Malha Bank (east of Madagascar and southeast of the Seychelles) in the Indian Ocean.

In the 1997 Popular Mechanics article, Hilbertz said the fact that ocean-grown cities could stand on their own economically and become independent and self-governing entities poses what he believed to be one of the biggest barriers to their creation: There is no legal precedent regarding national ownership of a newly formed island that is beyond a nation’s territorial waters.

His plan: “We’ll establish our presence there and stake a claim, and see what happens. If anyone challenges us, we have lawyers ready to argue our case. We’ve had so many legal opinions that we decided just to go ahead and see what happens.”

Sadly, the Autopia project was interrupted by the sudden death of Dr. Hilbertz in August 2007.

Et Tu, Nemo?

Suppose an anarchist collective, tired of the oppression of those land-lubber states, decide to pool resources and head out for the Low Frontier of the High Seas to found a Free Enclave?

Site selection for a Free Enclave is a matter of “looking for loopholes” (as W.C. Field explained of his leafing through the Bible); in this case the term for “loophole” may be “terra nullius”, a place belonging to nobody else.

At one time, a nation’s territorial waters were defined by the range of their cannons (the Ultima Ratio Regnum principle). Nowadays, cannon-shot goes a lot farther, and every ‘budding democracy’ (or junta) with a few yards of beach-front property can declare an “Exclusive Economic Zone” out to 200 nautical miles of their sea-coast baseline. In addition to this, the Old Boys’ rights to resources on or under their slice of continental shelf are codified in the Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Assuming you’ve done your homework ahead of time, you’ve located a likely sea-mount or bank that is not in an Exclusive Economic Zone or on the continental shelf of a nation signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (this is the loophole you are looking for, since there is no Article dealing with artificial structures/islands except in those two cases).

The Plan

  1. Sink metal forms connected to low-voltage power sources as discretely as possible (to
    avoid ‘Imperial entanglements’);
  2. Accrete artificial coral foundations for at leasta year;
  3. Establish your outpost on the BioRock structures, then expand the Enclave to your heart’s content;
  4. Establish sustainable economic activities to support the Enclave.

Load up supplies (metal framework components, windmills, diving equipment and maybe a VIVACE array or two) and make the first expedition to, say, a suitable site bordering one of the North Pacific Gyres.

The initial metal framework could be installed within a week, with the placement of sacrificial anodes, floating windmills or submerged VIVACE arrays (to keep the framework power flowing) could take a bit longer. After this, it’s a waiting game, but time is on your side.

The artificial coral will continue to slowly accrete a nucleus for your new Free Enclave. The denser your metal framework, the faster the structural strength will improve (though at the cost of a higher power level to keep it growing). More BioRock frameworks over time would improve the stability and permanence of the Free Enclave, as well as provide a better habitat for future aquaculture.

‘Soylent Black’ and Its Deadly Legacy

Even though Providence chose to secrete the bulk of Liquid Petroleum at great depths inside the Earth or under the vastness of the Seas (surely a major hint to “use sparingly”), few resources of such diverse potential have been squandered so blithely, most of it having gone literally “up in smoke” via Infernal Combustion. Much of that which was not used to darken the Skies Above still haunts us in the form of Petro-Plastic, esteemed so lightly that it was considered disposable, to be cast off without a second thought, imagining that what was out of sight was out of mind.

In Shelley’s words:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

We may now reassess the true meaning of “out of mind”: The formerly ‘lone and level sands’ of once pristine beaches, even on the most remote archipelagos on Earth, are covered many feet thick in plastic flotsam, jetsam and dead sea creatures, with the enduring plastic legacy remaining sea-born clotting expanses of the ocean so thickly that it surpasses the mass of marine life, in some regions by seven-fold or more.

Down and Out in the Growing Enclave

A budding oceanic Enclave can harvest many things from the seas, including the hundreds of tons of free-floating plastic debris. Plastics don’t biodegrade, per se, but they do photodegrade: The UV rays of the sun break plastic masses down into smaller bits and pieces commonly referred to as “nurdles” or “mermaids’ tears”. These granules, typically under 5mm in diameter and resembling fish eggs, are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds and other sea creatures … all in the name of disposable plastic “culture”.

A harvest of mixed plastic nurdles can be sieved from the water by the proprietors of a Free Enclave and separated from fish and zooplankton (plastic isn’t generally phototropic, doesn’t instinctively swim up-stream, etc) in skimming troughs. Nurdles can be sorted by type of plastic using a series of vats containing fluids of decreasing specific gravity. The first vat will allow the heavier plastics (and other debris) to sink, the next heaviest plastics will settle out in the second vat, and so on.

Solar collectors could be used to heat the harvested plastic batches (for recycling into a variety of items useful for the Enclave) or desalinating water without wasting the precious electricity needed for mineral deposition.

Pontoons made of recycled plastic could be arranged into a grid around the ever-accreting base structure, with salvaged fishing nets strung over them to give your Enclave a little more elbow-room. If these pontoons were to be equipped with simple two-stroke pumps (perhaps bellows molded into them during manufacture), the energy of the waves could be easily captured to provide additional electrical power.

“Growing” construction panels on metal mesh would be a natural progression for the Enclave. These could comprise solid floors and walls connecting the coral columns, as well as provide an exportable product.

With a little ingenuity and recycled plastic, frameworks for submarine quarters could be grown, sealed and inhabited, with access via BioRock elevator shafts: Picture a “seascraper” as a sky-scraper in reverse. Like a medieval fortress, the subsurface quarters could provide submerged refuge in times of trouble.

So, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Technology, as usual, is the easy part. Dealing with the Old Boy network of traditional states is likely going to be the major hurdle faced by the new Free Enclave. Since Hilbertz’s Autopia plans were interrupted without firm precedent being set, the usual tools remain available for dealing with conflict that may arise:

Lawyers: If you do create a new island, better be prepared to spend years in court defending your title to it, unless you have plenty of …

Guns: Sealand has had to rely on force of arms to protect their claims of sovereignty a time or two. In general, anything you can do to make yourself indispensable or more trouble than you are worth to annex (rhythms with “Switzerland”) is worth the cost, which brings up …

Money: The universal lubricant. The more “bread” you have … the better tasting your sandwiches will be (to put it politely). Engage in sustainable aquaculture, BioRock panel exports, etc. to build financial reserves.

The Free Enclave, artificial or not, will be private property, with any attack viewed internationally as an act of piracy. The international community/Old Boy network will likely write the pirates a very sternly worded memo (stained with their crocodile tears) if your Free Enclave is attacked.

The Nemo Doctrine

Existing clauses of the UNCLOS-1982 state that artificial islands and structures have no claims to territorial waters, so a prudent level of defensive capabilities within a reasonable radius of the Free Enclave is probably advisable to make moot that point of contention. The mechanics of maintaining territorial integrity are beyond the scope of this text, though the “Nemo Doctrine” that freedom hinges on nullification of the power of any state to subjugate, should be a guiding principle. Remotely triggered buoyant “aquatic RPGs” placed in a series of defensive radii on the sea floor might be worth investigating. Augmentation of these relatively passive perimeter defenses with super-cavitating torpedoes, MANPADS, “Phalanx” type air defenses and selective jamming of SATNAV signals would likely ensure de facto sovereignty of a Free Enclave.

Playing Nice

Building on shallow water sea-mounts/banks the Free Enclave will sidestep any “hazard to navigation” clauses in the UNCLOS (the hazard being well known and charted), and if anything, the Enclave on top diminishes the hazard by increasing visibility and provides another trading port for commerce. The beneficial bioremediation of coral destruction and CO2 sequestration will lend you emotional resonance with the populace outside the Enclave and generate political ‘brownie-points’ (or even swing a lucrative CO2 sequestration outsourcing contract from members of the Old Boys network in the process). “Doing well by doing Good” is at least karma neutral and would be a ‘no harm—no foul’ alternative to the tax-dodge/data haven/money laundering  schemes usually resorted to by other microstates.


The real source of consumerism…

It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things that money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.” ~ Dolly Freed

It isn’t that we buy stuff. Or that that there’s stuff to buy.

No the answer is both simple and complex, though the question is being asked more and more since the protests such as those outside Wall Street and St Paul’s continue to rise and fall in the media spotlight.

We recognise the legitimacy of this process, however to the average person in the street can still seem like a pointless thing; both the protest and what people are protesting about. It’s all very well to say capitalism and consumerism is wrong, but where did that tent come from? Where did your food or sleeping bag come from? They can’t see a way of replacing the current financial system and still have the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

And that’s the root of the problem. Lifestyles.

People no longer want to think for themselves. People no longer want to learn new skills. The Renaissance man is dead. It has become easier to buy a product to solve a problem than it is to learn to solve the problem outright. For example rather than have a set of rods to clean a drain just buy drain unblocker, rather than walk or bike to work buy a car and then pay someone to fix it.

And so we end up with house’s full of stuff we don’t need and then we complain we no longer have room and so buy a bigger house to fill with more stuff. And end up deeper in debt. Debt is indeed, as Jack Spirko says, a cancer.

So learn to do more with less. Learn to cook, concentrating more on techniques rather than recipes. Move to a smaller house closer to work and walk or bike there. Or, and this isn’t easy these days, move your job closer to home. Commit to learning a new skill each month. As a bush-crafter and martial artist I can assure you this technique works. Each year the boss over in Japan sets a theme for the year, in bush-craft terms I set my self a goal to learn a new plant each month, learn a new weaving pattern or use one plant only, till all its uses have been explored.

This month now the nights are drawing in I’m learning to knit (might not fit with everyone’s image of a martial artist, but I for one would rather be warm and active than macho and hypothermic).

So that’s the answer to consumerism. Learn to do more with less, learn to improvise. And whilst it might cost more to learn to sew than going to Primark, in the long run it does work out cheaper once you have a stock of material.

Learn the value of time. Learn the value of the Renaissance man.

Let’s see if we can bring him back from the dead.