Basketry: Out of hundreds of traditional crafts, none has so many everyday applications…

Low-Tech Magazine

We tend to think of technology as rock and metal – from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, from pyramids and statues to Viking swords and pirate cannons. We think of the things that survive to be placed in museums, in other words, and tend to neglect the early and important inventions that ordinary people used every day but whose materials did not survive centuries of exposure.

29,000 years of history

Virtually all human cultures have made baskets, and have apparently done so since we co-existed with ground sloths and sabre-toothed cats; for tens of thousands of years humans may have slept in basket-frame huts, kept predators out with basket fences, and caught fish in basket traps gathered while paddling along a river in a basket-frame boat. They might have carried their babies in basket papooses and gone to their graves in basket coffins.

The earliest piece of ancient basketry we have comes from 13,000 years ago, but impressions on ceramics from Central Europe indicate woven fibres — textiles or baskets

The Wobblies Legacy…


The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the other anti-capitalist forces of today could find no greater inspiration than the Industrial Workers of the World – the IWW, one of the most influential organizations in U.S. history, that was founded in Chicago in 1905 by a band of fiercely dedicated idealists.

The Wobblies, as they were called, battled against overwhelming odds. Their only real weapon was an utter refusal to compromise in a single-minded march toward a Utopia that pitted them against the combined forces of government and business.

Their weapon, their goals, the power of their opponents, the imperfect world about them made it inevitable that they would lose. But this is not to say the Wobblies failed because they didn’t reach their goal of creating “One Big Union” to wage a general strike that would put all means of production in the hands of workers and transform the country into a “Cooperative Commonwealth of Workers.”

To say the Wobbles failed

Dave Smith: ‘Dumb Farmers’…

to be of use (2005)

The most fundamental of businesses, and one whose values I believe come closest to those taught by the wisdom traditions, is organic family farming. I’ve found my own Creative Action Heroes among the peasants and those who look at life with a peasant’s perspective — organic market farmers, organic restaurateurs, and others involved with the organic food movement. Their mission, and the missions of their businesses, address a problem, either directly or indirectly, that touches all of our lives: environmental pollution from toxic chemicals on the land, in our water, and in our food that cause health problems.

Our culture’s idyllic idea of the small farm features the white farmhouse with the red barn, chickens clucking in the barnyard, pastured animals munching sleepily on green hills, and the farmer rocking gently on the front porch at dusk. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. A small organic or sustainable farm is a beehive of swarming activity from before first light until way after the sun has disappeared. I remember reading somewhere that 70 percent of Americans, if they had the choice, would live on a farm. Whether or not they would choose to work that farm is another matter entirely.

Gene Logsdon: Our Hidden Wound

From GENE LOGSDON (1992)
The Contrary Farmer

I’m a hayseed, I’m a hayseed,
and my ears are full of pigweed.
How they flop in stormy weather—
gosh oh hemlock, tough as leather…

—From a children’s rhyme heard in the Midwest in the 1930s and forties.

Most of us grew up in a society where farmer was often merely a synonym for moron, and I am quite sure that many farmers are still haunted by feelings of inferiority laid on them by this kind of urban and urbane prejudice. In fact, I suspect that many of the most competent farmers among us continue to expand their farm empires not out of greed or an insatiable desire for wealth, but because they feel compelled to prove again and again that, by God, they are not inferior to anyone. They want to cram that fact as far down the throats of their boyhood taunters as they can, and, sadly, they spend their lives doing it.

In my high school days in the late forties, supercilious town girls routinely claimed that milking cows

Todd Walton: Greek To Me


“The church is the great lost and found department.” Robert Short

The terrace at the Presbyterian in Mendocino can be a wonderful place to sit and read and write and eat a snack, especially on a sunny day. From every bench one has a view of either the ocean sparkling in the distance or of the stately white church with its impressive shingled spire. Tourists and itinerants frequent the terrace, and sometimes these visitors will notice me there on a bench, deduce from my appearance and demeanor that I am a local character, and then ask me questions, which I do my best to answer.

“Where is the historical monument?” I think you mean historical landmark, and this church is the landmark.

“Is it a Catholic church?” No.

“Can you go inside the church?” I can, but I prefer to stay out here.

“I mean can we go inside the church?” If the door is unlocked, ye may enter.

“Is there a good Mexican restaurant in the village?” No.

“Is there a homeless shelter around here?” Not in Mendocino, but there is Hospitality House in Fort Bragg providing shelter for well-behaved homeless people.

“How far is it to Fort Bragg?” Eight to ten miles depending on which sign you believe.

“Is there an inexpensive motel around here?” No.

“Where is the best place to watch whales?” Alaska.

“We meant around here.” Take Little Lake Road to where it ends at the ocean. Get out of your car and…

“We have to get out of our car?” No. You can watch from your car, though your chances of actually seeing a whale or a whale spout will be greatly diminished if you stay in your car.

“Is there a good Chinese restaurant around here?” No.

“German?” Nein.

“Pizza?” Frankie’s.

Will Parrish: A Travesty Of A Mockery Of A Sham


The United States government’s “compensation” to American Indians for past and present injustices typically amounts to what Groucho Marx called “a travesty of a mockery of a sham.”  Case in point: In 1974, the California State Legislature voted to pay enrolled members of California Indian nations $0.47 an acre – about $650 per Indian — in exchange for having expropriated all the land of California.  California officials arrived at their $0.47-an-acre calculation because that’s what land was worth in the state, on average, in 1853.

Another example is an agreement announced last week between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bradley Mining Company, and the Elem Pomo’s US federal government-recognized tribal administrators. As compensation for poisoning the Elem’s land and waters with prodigious amounts of methyl mercury tailings for several decades, thereby causing premature deaths, birth defects, cancers, and bodily deformities among tribal members, while in the process destroying the tribe’s ability to grow food or harvest fish safely (as they have for more than 10,000 years), the Bradley Mining Company would pay the Elem $50,000 and give them five land parcels under the settlement. The EPA says the 380 acres that make up these parcels have been decontaminated.

In exchange, the Elem would never again be allowed to sue the United States government, including the EPA and BIA, or even the Bradley Mining Company, for any reason.

Within days of the settlement agreement’s release, Elem Cultural Leader Jim Browneagle submitted a “public comment” letter to the US Department of Justice and the EPA denouncing the terms of the settlement.

“If the current settlement agreement is approved, it will be a travesty of the federal justice system and violation of Indian Civil Rights Act and Indian Self-determination, while undermining the protection of natural resources and tribal sovereignty,” he wrote. He also called the settlement “a setback of environmental justice [and] a denial of fair and equal compensation to the living surviving Elem members and families for their lifelong pain and suffering and loss of tribal lifeways (gathering of healthy foods and fish).”

The Politics of a Local Economy with Doug Mosel Tonight 2/24/12 7-10 pm…

Presentation and discussion with Doug Mosel, founder of the Mendocino Grain Project and Campaign Coordinator for Mendocino’s Measure H (no GMO) initiative…. in the Plowshares Community Room, 1346 S State Street.  $5-$10 donation requested for this benefit event.
From Occupy Our Food Supply Global Day of Action Next Monday 2/27/12:

Vandana Shiva, Indian physicist and internationally renowned activist, adds: “Our food system has been hijacked by corporate giants from the Seed to the table. Seeds controlled by Monsanto, agribusiness trade controlled by Cargill, processing controlled by Pepsi and Philip Morris, retail controlled by Walmart – is a recipe for Food Dictatorship. We must Occupy the Food system to create Food Democracy.”

Raj Patel, activist, academic and author of The Value of Nothing, reflects: “It’s hard for us to imagine life without food corporations because they’ve made our world theirs. Although we think food companies make food for us, in almost every way that matters, we – and our planet – are being transformed to suit food companies. From their marketing to children and exploitation of workers to environmental destruction in search of profit, the food industry represents one of the most profound threats to sustainability we face today.”

Occupy Wall Street’s Sustainability and Food Justice Committees issued this statement in support of #F27: “On Monday, February 27th, 2012, OWS Food Justice, OWS Sustainability, Oakland Food Justice & the worldwide Occupy Movement invite you to join the Global Day of Action to Occupy the Food Supply. We challenge the corporate food regime that has prioritized profit over health and sustainability. We seek to create healthy local food systems. We stand in Solidarity with Indigenous communities, and communities around the world, that are struggling with hunger, exploitation, and unfair labor practices.”

“On this day

Are you happy? Is this really as good as it gets?…


Are you happy? Chances are… you probably aren’t. That’s because according to a new study by “24-7 Wall Street” that looked into the OECD’s Better Life Index to determine what the happiest nations on the planet are… the US didn’t even crack the top 10. The happy nations spend far more of their GDP on social programs than we do here in America. What’s the point of being exceptional – as Ronald Reagan would describe America – if that exceptionality doesn’t make us happy? Until we fix our elections – and kick the corporate millionaires and billionaires out – and claim once and for all that our democracy belongs to We The People – that it’s part of the commons – then we’ll always be stuck in the muck wondering if this… is as good as it gets…

Transition: What’s happening around the world right now…

Complete Story with all videos here

Let’s start this month’s round up in Derbyshire, where Melbourne Area Transition have received planning permission to install 48 PV panels on the roof of their local 12th century church, and there they now sit, in their energy-generating splendour.  Here’s a short film made by Chris Bird (author of the Transition book ‘Local Sustainable Homes’ who blogs here) where MAT’s Graham Truscott gives him a tour of the roof.

In a second video, Chris and Graham get in off the roof and talk in more depth about how the scheme came into being, and the obstacles it overcame:

TT-Llandeilo in Wales are fighting to save their historic Market Hall while plans are being considered for a new Sainsbury’s supermarket to the north of the town – read more in This is South Wales.  Picking up a story from last month’s round up, which was explored in more detail in the last Transition podcast, here is an article in Treehugger on TT-Whitehead planting 60,000 trees which includes their fantastic video that we featured here last month.