Let there be light!!

Four week in and we have now done a detailed survey of the site and its buildings and identified what we need.

As in the best of traditions the problem is the solution and we need above all heat and electricity for the structures (I’m already tired of typing greenhouse and polytunnel!!) and electricity in general.

We always intended to make this site as off grid as possible, just to show it can be done and, well, we’re frugal Yorkshire folk and don’t like paying other people to do stuff we should be doing our selves.

So to that end we will be offering (at incredible cheap prices to mainly cover costs) a plethora of courses and lectures on just that. Living independently.

Where you get the chance to get hands on dirty practical experience of saving money.

Here’s a taster of what we have planned…

Cider, apple juice and free orchard growing.

Off grid electricity, design, building and maintaining battery banks for those pesky power cuts.

Hyper efficient wood burning stoves called Rocket stove and adapting them for different uses.

Food preservation and storage, buy cheap to eat later. No freezer required.

Solar energy for home heating. From the stuff others throw away.

Beer and wine making.

Basic carpentry skills and general DIY Hacks.

So keep an eye on the events calendar for what’s coming up.

And remember, everything we do, adds value to you

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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.


More Mushrooms ! An interview with Paul staments

Hi folks, here is an interview with Paul Staments. It’s a bit long but funny in places so well worth taking the time to read. It may just change the way you view the planet we live with…..

What is fungal intelligence? Paul Staments, the “Mycelium Messenger” reveals the great ecological purpose of mycelium – earth’s new internet. Beginning with his magic mushroom, psychedelic work covered with a DEA License and evolving into a much more robust work that his “mother is happy about” – this interview will prepare you to see a whole new world the next time you walk into the forest. Hear stories from Paul’s new book, Mycelium running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World and listen to a deep discussion on mushroom consciousness with the man behind this 21st century manual for healing the earth. You’ll understand why mycelium solutions bring new opportunities to detoxifying and purifying polluted water, toxic spills and other ecological issues of today.

 

Meredith Medland:  Hello, and welcome to ‘Living Green’.  I’m your host Meredith Medland.  In this episode we are going to have a lively, provocative and deep discussion with Paul Stamets, author of ‘Mycelium Running  – How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World’.  This book is a 21st-century manual for healing the earth and creating sustainable forests through mushroom cultivation, featuring mycelian solutions to water pollution, toxic spills, and other ecological challenges.

In our show today, we are going to have a yummy mushroom tea filled with Paul’s greatest adventures.  We are going to learn about Daryl Hannah’s visit to his mushroom farm, why billionaires are flying into Paul’s hometown to invest in any company he starts and why fungal intelligence provides a framework for understanding everything from string theory and modern physics to the structure of the Internet.

 

Meredith Medland:  Welcome Paul.

Paul Stamets:  Thank you Meredith.

Meredith Medland:  All right.  So let’s just get something straight right off the top.  You, in the late 70s, got a license from the DEA and you studied psilocybin mushrooms.

Paul Stamets:  That’s correct.  I was actually covered by a DEA license.  My professor, Dr. Michael Beug had it.  And I was listed on the license as one of the researchers.

I was fascinated by the psilocybin mushrooms and did a lot of work with the electron microscope and was a significant contributor to Dr. Gastan Guzmon’s monograph on the genus Psilocybe, which is a world monograph.  In that genus are the majority of psilocybin active species.  I have named four species in that genus to date that still survive in the scientific literature.  Sometimes the named species are thrown out later by other mycologists.  I’m happy to say that after 25 years they still stand as being valid species.

This led me into cultivation.  Then as my horizons broadened, I started to become very interested in growing other types of mushrooms, non-psychoactive ones.  My mother was happy about that!

Paul Stamets:  So I started getting into gourmet and medicinal mushrooms and that’s really opened up a whole new arena.  The more that I studied the subjects the more I realized I didn’t know and how much more there is to know.  There is a wealth of knowledge inherent within fungi that we are just beginning to learn about.

Meredith Medland:  Yes, indeed.  It has been really fun researching you for this interview.  For those of you who would like a little more background on Paul as we continue, he has been a mycologist and a mushroom enthusiast since the late 70s.  He has pioneered tons of things as it relates to edible mushrooms; he is credited, like you said, with the discovery of four mushroom species.  You have got six books now.  You speak on conferences all over the world.  You have a very, very deep vision of what an interconnected world environment looks like.

Also, the underlying thing that I have understood is that you really believe fungi can solve our world’s problems.  In fact, I have read that you have been saying that mushrooms will save the world.  You also coined the term ‘myco-remediation’ to describe the use of fungus to clean up environmental problems and absorb toxins.

Paul Stamets:  Well, I coined the word ‘myco-restoration’, which includes ‘myco-remediation’, ‘myco-filtration’, ‘myco-forestry’, ‘myco-pesticides’ and the use of fungi to help stabilize ecosystems.

I think the take-home message that listeners would benefit from is to realize that when the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago and coalesced out of stardust, the first organisms first appeared in the ocean.  The very first organisms on land were fungi.

They marched onto land 1.3 billion years ago and plants followed 600 million years later.  Now fungi munch rocks.  They produce oxalic acids and other enzymes and acids that actually will take minerals out of rocks and make them crumble.

There were at least two cataclysmic events that steered evolution on this planet.  250 million years ago there was a huge asteroid impact.  When that occurred, enormous amounts of debris were jettisoned into the atmosphere.  The earth became shrouded in dust.  The skies darkened and sunlight was cut off from the face of the earth for years, decades, we really don’t know how long.  Because there was no sunlight plants died.  Large animals died.  More than 90% of the species actually went extinct and fungi inherited the earth.  The organisms that paired with fungi survived obviously because most of these fungi did not require light.

So life then again began to proliferate.  Lots of species then evolved.  Then we marched forward again until 65 million years ago and BAM, we got hit again.  There is a recurring theme here folks.  So again, with the second asteroid impact the earth was shrouded in dust.  The sunlight was cut off and fungi re-inherited the earth.

Those two asteroid impacts steered the cooperation or symbiosis of animals and plants with fungi.  So we exist today in collaboration with fungi.  They are the construct of the food web.  Fungi are the grand molecular disassemblers of nature.  They break down plant, animal and mineral into soil.  So these are the great soil magicians of nature.

And most everybody knows that the topsoil on the earth is incredibly thin and yet it supports hundreds of millions of different species that live in the very top 6 inches.  This thin skin that has given us life is greatly threatened.  As we lose biodiversity, especially with fungi, we begin to unravel the very food networks that have given rise to us.

Even though we could be called an evolutionary success, I like to think that every organism on this planet has a vote.  If there were a United Organization of Organisms, otherwise called Uh-Oh, if every organism voted, would we be voted on the planet or off the planet?  I think that vote is happening right now.  Unless we pay attention to preserving biodiversity, the very organisms that give us life will be destroyed.

What is most unfortunate is that we are recognizing the role and the importance of these organisms as they are becoming extinct.  And like rivets on an airplane, how many species will we lose before we have catastrophic failure?  I think that we are top-heavy right now from an evolutionary sense.  We are losing the very ground support network that has given us life.  If we are not careful, the rule of nature is that when a species exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecosystem, nature revolts.

I think we will see a viral storm in the very near future.  These viral storms are a direct result of loss of biodiversity and the efforts of nature to knockdown the virulent organism, which unfortunately means us.

Meredith Medland:  There are a lot of people with whom I have spoken who are taking what you are saying very, very seriously – big experts in the environmental movement.  At a lot of the conferences, LOHAS and other places I have been, even in the last two months, your name is out there and people are taking you very seriously.

In our last interview on ‘Living Green’, Sarah Haynes who is with the Spitfire Agency is working with Daryl Hannah to green the Virgin conference, or Virgin Music Festival that is coming up.  She is completely passionate.  People are hearing about you through the grapevine.  One of the things I would like our listeners to get out of this show today is a sound bite that you give them, or a few sound bites, about who you are and what your message is, so they can literally repeat that.

Paul Stamets:  Well, it’s hard for me to encapsulate it in one phrase but I am a mycelial messenger.  If anyone gets anything out of this, it is the role and importance of mycelium in nature.

Unfortunately, the problem that we face in our society is – you mentioned mushrooms.  People think about Portobellos or Magic Mushrooms.  And there is a form of biological racism that has prevented science from using these fungi and the mushroom forming fungi to our advantage.  When people understand that the largest organism in the world is a mycelial mat over 2200 acres in size and yet it is one cell wall thick.  We have five or six skin cell layers that protect us from infection.  How do these mats achieve the largest masses of any organism in the world and be one cell wall thick, surrounded by billions of hungry microbes per gram that want to eat this highly nutritious network of cells?

It’s because the fungi are in constant biomolecular communication with its ecosystem.  They are articulate.  They are inherently intelligent.  We are born from fungi.  600 million years ago we separated from fungi.  Fungi are our ancestors.  We respire carbon dioxide.  So do fungi.  We inhale oxygen.  So do fungi.  Our best antibiotics against bacteria come from fungi.  But we don’t have very good anti-fungal antibiotics because they harm us because of our close relationship.

In the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, a new super kingdom was erected two years ago called Opisthokontum, recognizing that fungi and animals belong to one Superkingdom.  So if we understand the evolution of life on this planet and that we have fungal origins, and understanding how to use these fungi as our hereditary partners can greatly have a positive impact in being able to support life systems on this planet.

Fungi move quickly.  I have lots and lots of examples, especially recently of how important fungal biodiversity is.  One example is I have been working with a Bioshield Program of the US Defense Department.  I have submitted over 300 samples.  They have analyzed over 2 million so far.  One of my samples of mushrooms that comes as a species called Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis) comes exclusively from the old growth forests of western Oregon, Washington, Northern Califorinia and British Columbia.  It is now thought to be extinct in Europe.

This mushroom, exclusive to the old growth forests, has within it very strong anti-pox properties, which includes smallpox.  The Bioshield Program has affirmed this.  There is a vetted DOD press release.  If you google ‘Stamets’ and then ‘smallpox’, people can read it.  Our research has further continued.  I am bound by confidentiality agreements, but we may be navigating to a whole new class of antivirals.

Now if we lost our old-growth forests, if we lost that species that grows exclusively in that forest as they have in Europe, and there was a smallpox epidemic, and after 1980, no one has been immunized against smallpox, we are extremely susceptible to a smallpox epidemic.  If we had lost the biodiversity within the forest that has the species that potentially could fight smallpox, millions of lives would be at stake.

So we can’t say now whether it will be clinically applicable.  But all indications thus far are extremely positive.  The Bioshield Program is funded with $4 billion or $5 billion and they have some of the best testing protocols of any laboratory in the world.  We have passed all of their major benchmarks.

There is also, if you don’t mind me mentioning, an NPR.org interview with myself and a representative from the Bioshield Program and the former Assistant Director of the FDA, who founded the Bioterrorism Institute, all saying that my work with these fungi is exciting.  It was unexpected, but this is what the Bioshield Program was set up to do, was to find new medicines that were coming from unexpected sources.  So I make the argument that we should save the old-growth forests as a matter of national defense.

Most listeners may not know the history of the use of penicillin. It was actually a housewife in 1942 who sent in a moldy cantaloupe to a military hospital laboratory in response to the US government’s plea to Americans to send your moldy fruit to this one location.  From her moldy cantaloupe came a strain of Penicillium chrysogenum that produced 200 times more penicillin than the government had in any of the laboratories.  Her strain led to saving millions of lives.  The Japanese and the Germans did not have penicillin.  But the Americans and the British did.

So that is an example of biodiversity.  But this mushroom growing in the old-growth forests doesn’t enjoy the widespread habitat distribution that a Penicillium mold does.  It is restricted.  We need to invest in our ecosystems.  Biodiversity is absolutely critical to human survival.  Nature, through hundreds of millions of years of experiments has many great successes.  How we navigate through many of the issues that we face today by looking back and looking towards nature to see the experiments that have been successful, we can gain a lot of tools that have been tested in the theater of evolution that are extremely helpful to us.

So rather than going to molecular modeling and great computers and being able to play God, which I know incentivizes researchers and scientists because they can pull all these patents, I think it’s much better that we go full circle and we look at the very habitats that have given us life and understand the complexity in the relationships.

Meredith Medland:  Thank you.  We are going to take a break and after the break we’re going to talk more about mushroom consciousness and how it relates to string theory and what you think of the way the cells are mirroring what is happening with the Internet.  We are going to get a little more into your belief system around how fungi are helping with the planet.

Meredith Medland:  So I’m going to take a break now to thank our sponsors.  We will be back right after this.

Meredith Medland: Welcome back.  My name is Meredith Medland and you are listening to ‘Living Green’.

Paul, let’s go right into your belief system.  I imagine this is a big belief system and we have a short interview here but what is different about your perspective on the planet that isn’t being spoken about in regular circles in everyday conversation?

Paul Stamets:  Well, you’re really asking me to push the envelope here.  I believe that nature is intelligent.  I believe that we are born of nature and if we are intelligent then, by definition, nature must be because nature gave rise to us.

The structure of the mycelium mimics that of the computer Internet.  I first proposed this in the mid-1990s that mycelium is Earth’s natural Internet.  As you walk upon these membranes of cells, these are neurological landscapes that infuse all soils.  They are sentient.  They are aware that you’re there.  As you leave your footsteps, the mycelium reaches up and responds by grabbing newly available broken twigs or sticks etc.

I think nature all around us is conscious of our presence.  Whether we are conscious of nature’s presence of course, is a totally different matter.  I proposed that mycelium is the Earth’s natural Internet and I got a lot of flack for this.  But I am really happy that Dr. Nick Reid from Edinburgh and another group of scientists from Oxford came out with two papers this year looking at the mathematics of Internet and the structure of the nodes of crossing as mycelium grows.  Lo and behold, using the same mathematical formula, they found that through evolution, mycelium has optimized its nodes of crossing and the design of its networks to the same optimum that the computer Internet theory also is seeking.

So those two graphs actually fall right on top of each other.  There is a series of astonishingly powerful papers that really support my view.  These are neurological landscapes.  We chose the route of going over ground and encircling our nutrients and creating stomachs.  The mycelium chose the route of going underground and externally digesting its nutrients and bringing in its nutrients through the cell walls.

So mycelium conforms to string theory and the organization of matter in the universe follows strings of matter.  As we go further out in larger and larger dimensions we see these same types of mycelial archetypes throughout nature.

Networks are resilient.  They survive catastrophes.  They are able to re-grow and survive.  That is the way of nature.  I have the sense that we are part of this larger fabric.  We call it same self-recognition.  The mycelium grows.  It achieves a fabric like structures that gives it the ability to be able to navigate through very complex ecosystems.

There are so many examples.  I have been fortunate in that this is my time.  I am the mycelial messenger perhaps.  There are a lot of other – thousands of other people before me and thousands of other people that will come after me.  My trust and belief in the deep intelligence of Nature keeps bringing rewards that shock people and that have been verified scientifically and that open up many new opportunities.

There are some things that are implicitly true in life.  I have to say I have found a deep well of knowledge.  Literally every day that I wake up I am happy to be alive because I know my life has meaning and I can save thousands of lives if not thousands of species.

Time is short.  We are going to lose 50% of the species on the earth in the next hundred years, of species that we know.  What about the species that we don’t know?  Over 90% of the species in the kingdom of fungi are unknown.  We only know about 10% of all the species that are out there.  So we have a little bit of knowledge.  And the little bit of knowledge that we have and what we know about it and how rapidly we are losing these candidate species means that we are losing tools in our biological tool chest.

I have a great concern that if humans don’t get their act together – and this petty politics just is a bunch of cacophony that distracts people from the issues that we should be really focused on.  Frankly, I don’t care about ‘American Idol’.  Frankly, I don’t care about the Republican Party.  This is just a bunch of noise as the ship is sinking.  We should be focusing 100% on preserving the ecosystems because these ecosystems are our children’s destiny.

I fear and I sense that children in the future are pointing and calling back in time, pointing their fingers at us asking us, “What the hell were you thinking?  What are you doing?”  There is a growing legion of mycowarriors I hope emerging around the planet to pick up this cause.

My book ‘Mycelium Running’ is a manual for the mycological rescue of the planet.  It is a powerful book.  It’s one book I think in a series of manuals that people can use to help reverse course or change course.  Smallpox doesn’t care if you are Republican or Democrat.  Smallpox doesn’t care about borders.  These bioepidemics are going to have a great leveling effect politically speaking because once they emerge out of the landscape we are going to all have to work together very, very rapidly.

Prevention is a lot better than treating after the fact.  Every hour that we spend trying to prevent these bioepidemics and lots of species going down the toilet frankly, will be time very, very well spent.

Meredith Medland:  One of the things that I recommend that our listeners do is go to www.dhlovelife.com, that’s www.darrylhannahlovelife.com and she interviewed you.   There is a five-minute segment on her website that is video and she goes into your mushroom – I guess – what is it?  It’s a farm you would call it right?

Paul Stamets:  We have a large laboratory complex here.  We grow about 200 to 300 species of mushrooms.  I think in Darryl Hannah’s video we show about eight or nine of them.

Meredith Medland:  Yeah, so that was simply amazing.  And there is a key point in that video from the visualization standpoint that I think our listeners would enjoy.  That is you lift up a bunch of wood chips and you show what mycelium is.

Paul Stamets:  Anyone can go outside right now and find a piece of wood that has been on the ground and just lift it up.  You will see mycelium.  Mycelium is a not so invisible landscape that is underfoot all around you at all times.

I propose to you that the mycelium is conscious.  There is a consciousness there and we need to engage these intelligent organisms for our mutual benefit.  Now whether you believe they are conscious or not doesn’t really matter.  See what they can do.

The proof is in their activity.  We have been able to break down diesel and oil spills from 20,000 ppm of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to less than 200 in eight weeks thus being able to clean up habitats so they will rebound with all sorts of other organisms.  Otherwise they are anemic, biologically nearly sterile environments and extremely toxic.

The fungi are the leading edge organisms in nature.  Just as the first organisms came to land over 1.3 billion years ago, these fungi are edge runners.  And being edge runners they like interface environments.  As they go across a habitat, they built food webs that support all sorts of other organisms that ride upon them.  So people need to understand that these fungi are extremely powerful environmental healers.  And when we engage them purposely, then they can be fantastic allies for helping us repair the ecosystems that we have so severely damaged.

Meredith Medland:  So, should I go out and commune with the mycelium and sit with them?  It makes me want to take psilocybin mushrooms and have a big conversation is what it inspires me to do.

Paul Stamets:  Been there.  Done that.

Meredith Medland:  Yeah.  But I guess for me, for my show, not necessarily that my interests represent all of our listeners, but I’m inspired because I hear you saying, “All right.  Mushrooms definitely are able to heal pollution or contaminated soil.  So there is that element.  There is the smallpox element.  There is just a cool factor, that hey, we are losing a lot of our ecosystem.  Let’s focus on mushrooms.”  It sounds like a great idea.  This is a great conversation because it wraps in consciousness and Nature and politics and oil spills and the environment.

And I have been asking each of my guests to give an eco-challenge that they can take on through next year’s Earth Day.  So in the next portion of our interview what I would like to do is talk to you about what we can do.  You know, I am just living my life, doing my thing, and I would love to commune with mushrooms and help get this story out and I would like to be able to have an eco-challenge for myself and our listeners that would really let us be messengers for you and keep the mushroom consciousness alive in us.

So we are going to take a break.  If you will help me with that when we come back that would be really lovely.

Meredith Medland:  My name is Meredith Medland.  You are listening to ‘Living Green’.  And Paul, you have got an eco-challenge for all of us.

Paul Stamets:  Well in order to get the most mileage from this communication I would definitely reiterate that please get my book ‘Mycelium Running – How Mushrooms Can Save the World’.  There is a lot of information that I think will convince people, even people who are the most skeptical.

My eco or myco challenge would be for every listener out there to indeed go sit with nature and then explore with your hands.  Dig into the soil.  Smell the richness of the soil and find these mycelial lenses that are all around you.  Every mycelial lens outgases fragrant signatures.  The forest ecosystems smell so good largely because of the fragrances of the mycelium that are outgassing.

Understand these mycelial lenses and how vast they are and then identify, if you can, target 10 edible mushrooms that you can learn how to identify.  They are very easy.  Morels are very easy.  Shaggy Mane’s very easy.  Choose the 10 most common edible mushrooms in your area.  Learn how to identify them.  And then take children into the woods.  When you’re picking the mushrooms, show the mushrooms come from this hidden, invisible network just beneath the surface of the soil and that these fungi create the very soils that give us life.

Mushrooms are like tips of an iceberg.  Unfortunately it is the tip of the sinking iceberg as we lose biodiversity.  But it is important that children are familiarized as quickly as possible that we live in symbiosis.  We are symbiotic communities.  Even humans are not just one species.  We are these large mosaics of microbes.

I may be speaking with one voice.  This is the voice of Paul Stamets.  And all the listeners may be listening in a sense as one individual.  But in fact, we are composites.  So it is my microbial community speaking to yours.  These fungal networks that exist in nature not only are they a great example of networks and resiliency, but I don’t think most people know that they are walking upon these things and they breathe life – the absence of which we will have biologically anemic environments.

I wrote Al Gore and Richard Branson.  They haven’t written back.  But I wrote a two-page document on reversing global warming and saving biodiversity by investing in humus.  Mycelium and mushrooms are composed of complex carbohydrates.  They sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  As the mycelium grows, it produces these wonderful acid crystals called oxalic acid, which are two carbon dioxide molecules joined together.  So is the mycelium grows not only are these carbon rich compounds like proteins, but the cell walls are exoskeletons that are extremely high in polysaccharides, carbohydrates.

Then the mycelium is also producing all of these crystals that take CO2 out of the atmosphere.  By investing in the fungal lifecycles we not only take CO2 out of the atmosphere, but we build humus.  So the carbon sink and the carbon bank of soils is increased.  As soils are increased, they have a better carrying capacity of more biodiversity and we reinvest then in ecosystems that can further support life.

The opposite trend will be obvious to listener as a form of ecological suicide.  We are engaged, right now, in ecological suicide.  If you put a dome over Shanghai, how long would that city survive?  One day.  Maybe two days.  There are regions of this world that, if you amplified them as an example of an ecosystem, there would be no life, certainly not life, as we know it.

That’s what I think is happening.  It is a growing plague of deforestation that is occurring around our planet.  Once the CO2 levels hit 10,000 parts per million, all large animals will die off.  That trend is a trend towards which we’re going right now.  I wish people would spend more attention to this issue rather than so much of the political cacophony that dominates the airwaves.

Meredith Medland:  Well you have got my attention.  I’ll definitely be messengering as much as I can.  I really appreciate you committing your life to this.  It’s really wonderful to experience.  It’s just clear that that’s who you are in the world.  You have chosen your thing and this is what you are doing.

Before we wrap up our interview, there are two questions and things that I would like to talk to about.  One is a little more about mushrooms.  The other is about your martial arts and your black belt.  I’m also a martial artist so I’m a little curious about that.

Before I ask you about that, Paul, a friend of mine told me about recognizing mushrooms.  I would like you to talk a little bit about what happens when we take the time in nature to explore mushrooms.  What might happen to us?

Paul Stamets:  Well, mushrooms can be invisible to the naked eye and they can be right in front of you.  And people just can’t see them.  There have been many times that I have naturally sat down in the woods, mushroom hunting and not being able to find mushrooms.  I am sitting there quietly in the forest resting.  I look over and the very mushrooms I’m looking for are right by my feet sometimes.

I have had several examples like that.  When you create this visual picture in your brain and when you have this memory image then you can then pattern your memory image across the landscape and suddenly all these mushroom shapes will start jumping out at you whereas before you did not notice them at all.

Mushrooms also have a very keen sense of humor.  The psilocybin mushrooms are most often found in the Northwest around law enforcement facilities, courthouses, universities and churches.  So if you want to go and find psilocybin mushrooms in the Northwest, go to your local Sheriff’s Department.

 

Paul Stamets:  It’s a little bit of a problem frankly.  But they have a very peculiar sense of humor it seems like the institutions that need them the most are where they tend to migrate to.

Folks, I’m being absolutely serious.  It’s funny.  But it’s true.  So mushrooms have appeared to me in the strangest of ways.  There is a Psilocybe species called Psilocybe sylvatica.  Only two collections have been made in Washington State in the past 40 years.

I was a starving student living at the end of a dead-end road A-frame with no power and no water.  One night, around 11 o’clock I felt emboldened to stand up and I walked through the woods at night on an old abandoned logging road.  There was no moon.  And I suddenly stopped frozen.  I leaned down in total darkness and I put my hand on top of this species that has only been collected twice over decades.

Meredith Medland:  Oh, wow.

Paul Stamets:  Shivers went up and down my spine.  It was too dark.  I didn’t have a flashlight.  I pulled out my wallet and I threw some paper on the ground thinking, “I’ll come back because what I felt, felt like one of these mushrooms that I was seeking.”  The next morning I came back and there was a second collection of this species called Psilocybe sylvatica, which means woodland mushroom, ever collected.

How does that happen?  I mean, how does that happen?  The improbability of that is beyond mathematics.  Yet it happened.  So mushrooms have called to me and I think they can call to many people.  If we seek them they will find us more so than we find them.

Meredith Medland:  I’m glad that I found you.  We are going to wrap up our show today speaking a little bit about what it means to you to be living green.  And give our listeners a sense of your spiritual practice, what your day looks like, what your connection to God source/divine is that if you would be willing, give us just a little intimate view into you, what we wouldn’t get on the conference circuit or the reading literature about you.  What is moving you throughout your day?

Paul Stamets:  Well my mother has had a great influence on me.  I grew up in a highly charismatic Christian environment.  My mother is a charismatic Christian leader.  She has a group of people that have built a vast facility around her in Eastern Washington.  My mother has raised a group of children who are very much scientists and who are non-charismatic in their belief system.  But we inherently know that my mother believes in the power of goodness.

I had a great epiphany one day.  I’m always trying to build bridges between people on the far left and on the far right and this whole thing about intelligent design and the conflict with evolution.  I woke up one morning with this great epiphany.  I called my mother who has a group of people who pray for me every day.  Frankly, I like that.  I’ll accept all the good wishes that I can get.

I told my mother that I had this great epiphany.  I wanted to share it with her because I think it is a bridge between people who think they are on polar opposites but they actually aren’t.  I actually made this into a bumper sticker.  It is ‘Evolution Is God’s Intelligent Design’.

I think that says it all.  The mystery of Nature and that of God is far greater than that which our minds, with all their limitations, can even begin to comprehend.  If we knowledge that we are ignorant in the face of Nature and God’s complexity, then any interpretation that we have of God is inherently flawed, which doesn’t mean that you can’t be spiritual.  It means that, as we struggle to understand the vastness of the universe, whether you believe in one deity or whether you believe in Nature, I think it is all one and the same.  Ultimately I think that the chasm between people who believe in Nature versus people who believe in God that will narrow.  Indeed Nature and God is one.

Meredith Medland:  Mmmm.  Thank you for that.  Listeners, if you would like more information about Paul or if you would like to see some of the research that I did prior to the interview, you are welcome to go to my blog, which is at www.personallifemedia.com.  If you’d like to e-mail me, and engage with me about what you think about all the different shows, you can do that at Meredith@personallifemedia.com.

And Paul, I just want to let you know that we will never look at a mushroom the same way.  You have certainly changed my thinking around it.  If someone had told me when I was young, I was always dressing up as Alice in Wonderland in costume.  I’m blonde and that the character I really identified with.  So it brings me great joy and happiness to have been able to share this time with you this morning.  Thank you so much.

Paul Stamets:  Peace be with you all.

Meredith Medland:  All rights.  Thanks.  Blessings.  Listeners, for text and transcripts of the show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network you can go to www.personallifemedia.com.  We are illuminating the psychology of ecology every day here on Living Green.  Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:  Find more great shows like this on PersonalLifeMedia.com

Mycelium running

Mycelium, Mushrooms ,fungi, Fungus. The world beneath our feet is full of wonder and mystery. From microbes and beetles to worms and larvae the soil beneath our feet is a hive of activity turning organic matter and rock into a rich moist medium we rely on for our survival. So what role does mycelium play in all this ? and just what the hell is mycelium ?

Simply put mycelium is the white thread like fungus that permeates all healthy soil. Mushrooms that we see popping up in meadows are simply the fruit of these organisms. The mycelium spreads through the soil consuming organic matter converting it into food and waste products. One cubic inch of soil can hold over eight miles of mycelium spreading out in a vast planet wide network. This network develops using the exact same mathematical system that governs how the internet develops. And like the internet this organic network has the capacity to share information , things like temperature, humidity,moisture content, contaminants and food sources. Living in the soil, surrounded by bacteria and other vectors for disease  and because the threads of mycelium are only one cell wall thick, they have evolved the ability to secret anti-bacterial and anti-viral compounds.

Mycelium has the potential to help us repair the damage we have caused. The large network of interconnected threads has the ability to filter out bacteria and protozoa. Using the anti bacteria compounds the trapped bacteria are killed and consumed. This ability can be used for mycofiltration. Helping to clean up our waterways from agricultural and industrial pollution.  Myco-remediation use’s mycelium’s ability to break down the hydrocarbon structure of cellulose and lignin that makes up plant matter to break down man made hydrocarbons. Compounds such as petrol, diesel and oil. Taking contaminated soil, inoculating it with suitable mycelium species and leaving the mushroom to complete it’s life cycle results in healthy clean soil.

So what does all this have to do with the permafuture project ? Well after reading Paul stamets book mycelium running we realised the potential that mycelium had to help us in our goals of helping people become more self reliant as well as repairing our environment . Its another tool in our armoury. And so, using a technique called stem but grafting we are growing our own oyster mushroom’s. The stem butt is exactly what it sounds like, the bottom or butt of a mushrooms stem that is in contact with the soil. The mushroom is dug up. The stem is cut of about an inch above the stem and the mushroom eaten !! This stem butt is placed on damp cardboard and is left for a few weeks. The mycelium “leaps off” onto the new food source and we have an inoculated substrate allowing us to move or “run” the mycelium into various substrates. And its cost us less than 50 pence to do.

Using this and other techniques we can repair polluted soil’s, improve agricultural land, clean rivers and stream and generally heal our environment. Leading to better health and better quality food for all of us.

Not bad for a humble mushroom.

Getting Back to the Land (on any budget!)…

I (Warren) picked a nice clump of Jack-by-the-Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) on my walk to work this morning – more on this plant in a forthcoming post – which I added to my sandwich filling during my lunch. A collegue was intrigued, so I gave him a taste; this led to a conversation about my ecological interests and my involvement with The PermaFuture Project. He asked how I first became interested in such things, and I told him about the following article by Graham Burnett

It was first published in ‘GREEN ANARCHIST’, autumn 1989, the ‘Green and Black Economy’ issue, and was reprinted in Graham’s booklet ‘LAND AND LIBERTY’ in 1994 (currently out of print, sorry). Along with his booklet ‘DIG FOR REVOLUTION’ it has become a bit of a ‘cult’ piece, inspiring a number of folks to take up allotments and get into surreptitiously ‘greening’ the landscape around them. Graham says he was recently quite tickled to find himself described as a ‘Guerrilla Gardening Guru’ in a mainstream ‘how to be green’ type book, ‘GREEN LIVING IN THE URBAN JUNGLE’ by Lucy Siegle!

ALLOTMENTS AND GUERILLA FARMING

by Graham Burnett

Along with learning to build for ourselves, heal ourselves and create energy for ourselves, learning to produce our own food is both essential if we are ever to truly take control of our own lives, and is implicitly a threat to Capitalism as it makes a start towards breaking free of the cycle of supply and demand, liberating us from the role of passive consumers alienated from a real understanding of the nature of the world around us and the most important aspects of our day to day survival.

Of course the first prerequisite for growing food is land, the acquisition of which is financially beyond the means of most of us, something the Ruling class have had sewn up for centuries, even long before the Enclosure Acts of the 1600′s. But there are always holes- spaces in which we can move- call it the black economy, call it the green economy.

allotment

Allotments are more easily available than you might think, there are huge discrepancies between lengthy council waiting lists and the wildernesses of disused plots overgrown with couch-grass and dock. Applying to the Town Hall for an allotment is probably a waste of time, your letter will pass into the convoluted pipeline of bureaucracy, ignored by councillors too busy exchanging masonic handshakes with their property speculator friends. A more positive step would be to get in touch directly with the local Allotment Society, or, better still, take yourself on a tour round the allotment site. Get chatting to the plot-holders and find out which are vacant. On some sites this can be up to three-quarters or more of the total. If you are young and have a green mohican, the ‘old boys’ will no doubt treat you with suspicion, but politeness and enthusiasm will win them over, and after all, it’s in their interests that as many plots as possible are kept cultivated. Take over the plot and get to work straight away, and pay the annual rent when it becomes due (usually about £10 for 1/l6th of an acre (NB, this is a late 1980′s figure, it’s more like £20 a year now- ed.)). There are plenty of books about how to grow food successfully (I would particularly recommend the books of the late Lawrence D Hills, including ‘Organic Gardening’ and ‘Grow Your Own Fruit And Vegetables’ and Kathleen Jannaway’s pamphlet ‘Growing Our Own’, available from Movement for Compassionate Living http://www.mclveganway.org.uk. One golden rule to remember however is don’t try and do too much at once- you’ll exhaust yourself and your enthusiasm.

guerilla_gardening

‘Guerrilla’ farming is another option, especially if you resent renting land or vacant allotments are hard to come by in your area. Apply a little vision to the land around you, railway embankments, back gardens, golf courses, car parks, overgrown bits of land at your work-place and so on. Then give a little thought to clandestine cultivations- the only limits are those of your imagination; herbs that thrive on poor soils could be grown amongst the thistles, rose-bay willow herb and buddlea on ‘desolate’ bomb-sites; a little known hole in a fence remembered from childhood explorations could give access to your local rich bastard’s grounds-sew your seeds here amongst the undergrowth or venture further and indulge in some scrumping from his orchard. Even if squatting empty property in your area is not an option (hello Neighbourhood Watch…) maybe the back gardens can still be put to use with a bit of cunning and stealth, or maybe seldom Visited corners of local parks and gardens-or even church yards? How about the flower beds that adorn your town centre if they’re not too well looked after-you could be growing your crops right in the heart of the consumerist landscape of the burger bars, chain-stores and supermarkets-imagine the irony!

Such secret gardens could be maintained with the minimum of effort- small amounts of compost could be carried in bags and weeds could be largely left alone except where they threaten to engulf your crop-they provide camouflage for your activities. Nor would you have to bother with orderly, tidy rows. A morning’s cycle tour of a few favourite spots could provide you with a week’s supplies, especially if you take advantage of all the free food that grows wild- nettles, ramsons, dandelions, chickweed, nuts berries and some mushrooms and fungi (make sure you know exactly what you can and can’t safely eat, however!)

A couple that used to live in Southend grew food on local railway sidings for years and were never discovered or interfered with. Clandestine farmers are out there now- why not join them in digging for revolution?

Graham Burnett

Perma-Seas: Towards a Brave New Land

The following article first appeared in Issue 7 of Steampunk Magazine and is published under a non-commercial Creative Commons License (this blog version was originally posted by The Liberi). We’re re-publishing it because we feel that it shows that there’s still a place for Utopian Dreams in our bleakly unromantic modern world. With a little imagination, a little science and a whole lotta good design, even potentially devastating pollutants like ‘mermaids tears’ may one day be turned into a vital resource – retroactively adhering to the 6th principle of permaculture design, ‘Produce No Waste’.

Towards a brave new land
(and the Making Thereof)

by Professor Offlogic

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.