My First Post about Jay

Monday, July 07, 2003

Jay, our Heinz 57, loves children and is truly my best friend. As a boy, on every birthday I wished for a dog that looked just like him. It took 50 years of waiting but here he is. He is not only a friend but an alter ego  like Augustine is for Natalaie. He talks ofr me at times and has his own voice and view of the world. Later this week he will join my site as a regular contributor providing I hope a ground level, and more grounded,  view of reality.

There will be a prize for the one of you that gives me the best idea of what breeds make up the total Jay – please help.

First Post on Food Systems and History

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Many of us ask how best to change our industrial society. Many have an idea of what we need as a species to survive – a more networked world where we work with nature rather than against her. But we don’t know how to get there. Maybe we don’t need a plan but only to wait for what will happen.

My thesis is that we have endured a number of food/technology crises. Each time we this has happened, we have had to make a fundamental shift in how power is used and society is therefore structured.  I think that we are on the brink of such a crisis today. Let’s have a quick blog-like look at our history in this context and then look at what is coming in our lifetime.

Let’s revisit the breakout in 60-40,000 bc that I have talked about earlier today. Remember that we think that complex language was an adaptation to hunting on the savannah and hence was our start as homo sapiens – the tool maker. Our new ability to learn across tribes and across time, rather than only directly face to face in present time,  gave us the ability to adapt to changes in the environment by using culture not biology.

This ability to adapt via culture has given modern man a huge adaptation accelerator that we have been relying on ever since. Think about this for a moment, all other species have to make biological adaptations to environmental change. This is very slow. Humans can use culture or collective learning. Example – Modern man migrated north into the ice because he had clothing, fire and the culture to use weapons and boats in the hunt and tools in the preparation of food. A small ape could compete with a Polar Bear! This ability has given us a unique advantage in the acquisition of food. But this is also a poisoned chalice. Our ability to get food at a rate higher than a natural fit with the resource tends to lead us to over-exploit the resource. As with all systemic processes, the food system tends to collapse suddenly leaving man in a crisis that not only affects his stomach but his society.

Until the breakout, the world was full of large and slow animals. Giant sloths, giant tusked mammoths etc. They had evolved to be very large to make it to hard for the predators of the time. Large size was also an adaptation to cold weather. A large animal has a smaller surface to size area and can therefore hold heat better. Clovis man had the hunting tools, the social structures and the food processing capability, butchery, drying, cooking etc to devastate animals that had been immune from predation before. This lead to a population explosion. By 10,000 bc man had reached every corner of the earth.

Here is the beginning of the pattern that we need to understand. We find a technology for food production that is so successful that it leads to the collapse of the underlying resource. We then have to reinvent our society to take on a new technology. Which in turn leads to a population explosion and the destruction of the underlying resource and so on. Question – will we ever learn?

By 10,000 bc we had effectively wiped out the large animals. It was not just us. The coincidental & dramatic end of the ice age must have been a large factor, but we probably tipped the system. Hunter Gatherer man woke up one morning with nothing left to hunt and had to hand over power to the Gatherers. I bet the end might have happened in the life of a generation. A boy would have been born into plenty and died of starvation. The big game harried by man and failing to adapt itself to the change in climate must have gone like the bison or the carrier pigeon as if overnight.

What must this have meant socially? In short, the men became unemployed as they are a bit today. These were not Gatherer Hunter societies. They were Hunter Gatherer societies. There must have been a revolution in power as women became the prime food source. In many parts of the world, man stopped being a nomad and had to settle. What had been gathering quickly turned into gardening and animal domestication. We see this shift in power in the rise of the Goddess and the sacrifice of the son king every year to ensure the harvest. The idea of property emerged. In the era of the Goddess, property went through the female line. So power was held in a gynarchy – a hierarchy of women. In this time there are no walls and no evidence of much inter tribal warfare. It must have been a golden age unless you were the Son King – but even then you had a good year.

The shift to patriarchy and to the power system that we inherited, comes from the technology used in food preparation and from a different response in the east to the collapse of the large game source. .

Pottery is a key technology platform. Most of our transforming processes today are based on the idea of applying heat and pressure. Nature on the other hand uses water and enzymes. A new breakout for man came from learning how to use high temperatures to make pottery for food storage and cooking. This technology lead directly to the technology of metal working which in turn lead to advanced tillage tools, such as the plow and then to weapons. It also lead to the wheel. The first wheel was a pottery wheel. Some consultant of the time, an outsider, must have one day made the click and suggested that the wheel could be attached on a different plane to a sled and we would have a cart. With a cart and a plow you can have farming. With farming you can have a surplus. Until this time nearly everyone had had to work in food production. With a surplus, new occupations open up not directly related to food. With a cart and a surplus you can have a city. With a surplus you can feed priests, soldiers and civil servants. With the new tools and the domestication of oxen to pull the plow, we had a population explosion that is only today levelling out at maybe 8 billion in 2050.

In the east another process  unfolded. Here the men did not give up power to women and settle. Instead, they selected a small number of animals that could be domesticated, sheep, goats and horses and became herders. They developed a very extreme form of patriarchy. Gods were men and were cruel. This group migrated west.

The tipping point was when the Herders and their Gods met the Farmers and their Goddess. The herders, saw that stealing food and calling it taxation was a “good thing”. They saw that they could use the huge surplus populations as armies and priests and our modern world was begun. At first the Goddess married the God, Hera and Zeus. But then Yahweh, and later Allah, killed the Goddess off. Her ghost is Mary

There are many subplots along the way. Enclosures, the agricultural revolution and the advent of industrial farming and distribution. But we have been on an arc of the same system of exploiting the bounty of nature and using force and power to dominate those that grow food since Babylon. This at one level has been very successful. We have enjoyed a huge population explosion.

But we are near the end. We will see the end of wild fish in the sea in our lifetime. We, like Clovis hunters, will only have memories of fishing the ocean. Like Clovis men our ability to use technology and organization will have deprived the world and ourselves of a great bounty. We too will have overexploited the soil itself. But most importantly we will have overexploited fresh water.

In 50 years time it will not be possible to grow food in California. In 50 years time the Orgalla aquifer will have run dry and we will not be able to grow food in the mid west. In 20 years time China and India will have outstripped their water supplies. Maybe our world will be warmer as well and we will have droughts thanks to nature as Clovis man endured the great melt. In 50 years time our population will be about 8 billion just as our food system comes to a halt.

If we are smart we will use some hiccups along the way to start making some changes.

In 10 years borders will be shut to the transshipping of food as food safety scares such as mad cow, foot and mouth, wart etc are used politically to protect local food systems. The whole idea of mono cropping aimed at exports will die off. The farmers in the west will crack before the water runs out.

In 5 years, the outcry against processed food and its role in our obesity epidemic will start to change food habits in the mainstream. This month we have seen Kraft and Nestle begin to make changes. Pop and trans-fats will be seen like tobacco. A demand will rise for food grown in a new way.

Our children will have to reinvent how we get and process food. Vast cities with only 3 days supply of food will no longer be able to rely of an industrial complex to send them cheap food. I have seen this in Ukraine where every family in Kiev has a Dacha plot and ensures its food supply by gardening. In Havana, every family has an urban plot.

As with the end of the large animals or the takeover of the Gardeners by the Herders, all our power lines will shift. Vast agro-industrial enterprises will have no place in a such a a world. The process of cityfication, started in Mesopotamia 6,000 years ago will have to unwind.

It will not be the internet per se that will change how and where we live and who has power or not. It will be the end of our current food system. It may be the internet that will enable us to adapt more quickly to whatever we find as the alternative but be assured when power shifts it is not a fun time.

It may be likely that the balance of power will once again shift between the sexes. I suspect that the new food system will be local and will be closer to gardening than farming. Women are already in the vanguard in this field.

So what do we do? We can wait for the collapse. You say that it will not happen. It’s a matter of simple math, when you take more water over time than is recharged, it runs out. When you pollute your water systems as we are on PEI over time with nitrates, you tip at a point in the future and you have no usable ground water. If we do nothing, all this is only a matter of time. Or we can wake up and see that water and food are the key. We will not be able to save the western water shed, not the Orgalla nor India or China but we can save ourselves. All we have to do is to wake up and look at the trends. Then we do as man has always done we get together and find a new way!

The Breakout link –

The great leap: “60,000 years ago humans were on the brink of extinction. An evolutionary eyeblink later, there are over 6 billion of us. How did we do it?” [Guardian Unlimited > [ t e c h n o c u l t u r e ]] [Universal Rule]

More and more evidence is emerging that something unusual happened with humans about 60,000 years ago. I’m waiting for the movie. [A Man with a Ph.D. – Richard Gayle’s Weblog]

The breakout 60-40,000 bc is the tipping point where man left the world of animals. More and more the thesis behind this shift has been that complex language appeared at this time. A blind alley for research has been the search for a mechanical adjustment in the body – the throat/larynx area. Soft tissue does not last – hence “proof” of language as a product of mechanical adaptation cannot be found.

More progressive researchers think instead about mindset and culture as evidenced in rates of innovation in tools and art which can be observed. There is no doubt that the rate of innovation becomes exponential for homo sapiens at this time. Poor old Neanderthal has almost no innovation. Art appears to explode fully realized at this time “Lascaux”

The theory that appeals to me is that early man could speak even Neanderthal. But early language as with say highly evolved apes and monkeys was not merely vocal but used a wide range of visuals. Alarm calls, food calls, are all part of the language of many primates. This language is by definition trapped in the present. “Hungry” “Back off” “I want you” I’m sad” etc My mother in law still lives in this world of the emotional present. It is a language of self – we see the world only through our eyes and only in the now. There is no future. The driving force is emotion. This mindset does not allow us to imagine a future and hence there can be no speculative innovation. You can only learn by observing the work of another directly. It is very hard to to exchange ideas outside of a tribe.  I bet the vocal apparatus evolved in this prolonged era of mother in law world view. So the tools were ready for a different application.

So how did we speak in anew way that enabled us to think of a future and to learn indirectly?

Robin Dunbar suggests that complex speech evolved for man from the primate habit of grooming. All Primates groom. The reason is to keep up emotional health in a hierarchy. Grooming enables you to form and sustain your protective political alliances and community within the tribe that keeps you safe from internal aggression. You get the protection of some alphas and you support each other when you have been put upon by a higher person. We do this at the office but today we use words and we call it gossip. Human society like all primate society is highly political and hierarchical. Think of high school! The cool set – cliques etc.

This is Dunbar’s aha! As we moved onto the Savannah where we had to hunt in an organized manner – unit size had to grow so that there were at least 8 adult males. This drove a tribal size of about 40 with perhaps 8 adult females and 15 youths and children. As the unit size grew there was a conflict between the grooming time needed to hold the structure together and the time needed for other activities such as hunting and food preparation. You can only groom one person at a time but you can gossip with many – especially is you are a woman and you are sitting by the fire working on skins with the other women while looking out for the kids. So we started to chat! Getting my drift?

Might social software act as a chat/gossip amplifier? Might it be a driver for an extension of mindset and consciousness that gossip drove 60,000 years ago?

Blogging and Friendship

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Dina often provokes me to think more deeply. In her recent series on corporate blogging I started to think about the friendships that arise from Blogging.

I wonder – are we seeing a new basis for friendship? In the past, we have made our friends through a combination of place, interest and values.

EG – Until maybe 30 years ago on PEI, you married a girl who was no more than a day’s buggy ride. Your friends came from the small community you lived in and were cultivated in the pressure cooker of the local school. If you were Catholic, you could only associate with other Catholics. Good Catholic girls until 30 years ago did not even ride in cars with Prots. Then religion was the dividing line for one key set of values. Everyone farmed or earned their living connected to agriculture so all shared an interest in farming and all shared the same set of pioneer values that come with being yeoman farmers.

You can laugh at this narrow world but stop for a minute – where did your friends come from? Place interest and values. I bet place wa important.

My close friends still come from my time at university. I have given up all my school friends but for 2. I see now that they were a product of place. At school we all had such a narrow choice. So we all made do with the small pool of possible friends that a house of 65 and a school of  700 could provide. Once I entered a large enough world, Oxford, where there were many more choices, I focused on those where I had a closer match in interests & values. At the time we all shared a common set of values about ourselves and the world – we were all enamoured by the corporate world and all joined it willingly and did well financially from it. These friendships have endured. One reason is that we have all given the corporate world up. It is weird coincidence that this group are all now self employed and could never work back in the system again. We must have sensed intuitively all those years ago that we would make the shift in values from group to self. In addition we had another link. An interest that we all shared was our children. I am godfather to 7 and this precious human link to the future of my friends has kept our friendship alive.

This tells me that, today that for me shared values and a shared interest seem more important and enduring than a shared space in connecting friends.

But for many people place is I think still the main driver for friendship. Especially if you do not move around much and where your old friends who were cultivated in early life live close to you. I have moved more times than I can recall. All these moves have I seen in retrospect broken any place-related links except the ones where the interests and values are in still in synch. All my corporate friends who are still very corporate have largely fallen off. The exception are those that I feel are trembling themselves at the edge of the line.

What is true for friendship is true for love. The troubadours tell us that love enters through the eye. But even in love the requirement for place is eroding. I think that the key is that in cyberspace you can be heard. To hear someone is a gift, To hear them is to know them. Paradoxically being heard is a challenge in the early days of a face to face relationship when each person’s need to speak can stop their ability to listen. Being yourself  can be hard in face to face where “projection” plays such a large role and where we seek to please. We so often “see” who we want to see rather than the real person who is there. With blogging, it seems to be hard to hide the real you. The real you may take time to emerge but emerge it does. The irony is that in not seeking to please, we are more attractive to others.

The issue seems voice. After a while of blogging our real voice comes to us. For the first time maybe, we say to the world –  “here I am warts and all” Where Robert Scoble has to admit that it is hard to reconcile how work and his marriage. My reaction – Scoble is a real person and not just a techno scribe. Where Dave Winer cannot help but feel like a parent to RSS and sounds off he becomes a man and not just a commentator and developer. Paradoxically, the more real we are- the more frail – the more attractive we are. Conversely, corporate voices do not lose their temper or have doubts. Corporate voices are like Dolores Umbridge’s from the Ministry for Magic: they use soft language for terrible things such as final solution or “right sizing”. As Cluetrain tells us – the corporate voice is becoming the great lie that we cannot hear anymore. But I get ahead of myself. Back to friendship.

My question. Is blogging changing the rules for friendship and maybe for love? With blogging, you can get to “know” someone in a deeper way than after many candlelight dinners, many years at school and many barbeque’s with neighbours. We hear how the other person thinks. We hear what really interests them. We experience their values. In return, we can gently link up so that over time they too can know us too. Projection is more confined as we do not rely on the visual cues for our norms of what is attractive on the surface before we know what is attractive below the skin. Everyone is at choice – you can make the connection or not. I don’t know the sound of your voice and in many cases don’t know what you look like. In most cases we are separated not only by distance but by culture and by different Gods but if we speak the same values and we are interested in the same things, then the link is made.

The values that I am talking about are the great divide between those that are externally motivated and those that are on the path to a self motivated world.

There is a huge gulf between these two sets of values. Those that have crossed this line know that there is no going back and that it is dangerous to speak out too clearly to those that remain in the “group” mind. They too have acute sensitivity to heresy and there is no heresy quite like not having to belong to the group anymore. This shift in values is what is really going on today. In the centre is the progress/corporate hegemony. In revolt on the right are the fundamentalists who long for a mythic past where women know their place and God speaks for us. This group is firmly in the group set of values and are outstanding in forming groups – hence their power. On the left is a new group that is not really a group. We are the Cultural Creatives, the Free Agents. We don’t like groups and have not until now found a mechanism for getting together that fits our self driven mindset. Until now. Until blogging. We have no power as isolated individuals. Until now. Until blogging.

For the irony is that for those of us that have crossed the line, it is lonely. While our motivation is based on self, we are still primates and human and we crave brotherhood and sisterhood. Blogging appears to be a tool that enables non joiners to find a mechanism to join safely with others like them. A club for non clubbers!

For me the potential in blogging is less corporate than social. It will create a new business model rather than support the old. What do I mean by this?

I have hopes for corporate blogging but they are dim. Why am I so depressed about this? Because of the values clash. The essence of the corporate state is that it is a collective where the group identity is paramount. Such a values set is like anti matter for those who are self motivated. Corporations claim that they want initiative and creativity but they need obedience more. Obedience is the core piece of DNA in the Ford model.

Where blogging will help most is in creating social and economic networks of individuals who share common goals and values – look at Matt and Paolo. Or look at how the community of bloggers is coalescing on PEI around Peter Rukavina. Look at how a whole group of doctors is forming around Marc Pierson Look at the influence that Ross Mayfield is having on all of us that think about social software or that Critt Jarvis is having on the election. This is the world I think that I, Dave Pollard and Dina are looking for.

Look at what happens when those who have developed relationships via blogging meet in person!

This is surely a revolution? Place and Face are no longer the initiating drivers for human relationships. The blogosphere is becoming the safe place for creative people to connect in. Just as eBay made it possible to trade safely outside your local area, so blogging makes it possible to access a global network of friends and lovers safely.

Monty Python and the Tipping Point

Monday, June 09, 2003

Monday, June 09, 2003

I was wondering how best to explain tipping points visually to my students – then I remembered John Cleese forcing the last mint – only “wafer thin” onto Mr Cresote

The Initial conditions – Mr Creosote’s gluttony and vomit

The Tipping Point – “Wafer thin!”

Post Bifurcation – The New System – No Way Back

My first post on father’s day – My Dad

Sunday, June 15, 2003

My father has been dead for 22 years now. When he was alive, I thought that I knew him. But as the years roll by, I see that I only knew the part of him that was at home. Maybe this is true for all child parent relationships. We actually only experience a part of our parents.

I picked up a book the other day that talks about my father in a broader way and I thought in tribute to him today I would post some of the more outrageous stories about him Thanks to Wally Stracey his business partner for many years whose memoirs I take these comments from. (The italics in the brackets are my comments)

“Jim Paterson wasn’t simply one man but a number of characters rolled into one…He was strictly a one off and a paradox in so many ways.

One minute he could behave like a rude infuriating snob, elbowing and pushing his way to the front of a queue as though he some kind of divine inherited right to be served first. The next moment, he would put himself out to assist some weary young mother struggling to board a flight and over-burdened with a couple of kids and too much luggage.. There were times that he had an air of such supreme confidence and self-reliance it bordered on the arrogant and yet the reality was that he could not bear to be alone…

He never exercised, he drank and smoked too much, he did not eat properly and he kept irregular hours. When we warned him that the regimen he was following was hardly conducive to good health and a long life, he replied by asking when was the last time we had heard him say that he wanted to make the Guinness Book of Records for longevity! (He died aged 55 – My sister found him sitting up in bed holding a book in one hand and a cigarette in the other)

Despite the fact that his lifestyle was almost guaranteed to do him physical damage, he was a hopeless hypochondriac. Travelling with Jim was like travelling with a mobile chemist’s shop he was so well stocked with an array of pills, antacids, lotions, laxatives, salves and ointments. Always present was at least on bottle of Dr. Collis Brown’s famous morphine-based concoction that had been used around the British empire for more years than any one reading this has been born and then some (I recall one of the testimonials dated from the Crimean War!!!) Once, when visiting Toronto, he inadvertently ran out and went to a chemist and asked for a bottle of the good doctor’s mixture. He was quite taken aback when the horrified pharmacist informed him that it had been on the dangerous drugs list in Canada for at least 75 years!

On another occasion there was rumour that Dr. Collis Browns’ Mixture being taken off the shelves in England (where we lived) or at a minimum that there would be changes to the formula. A distraught Jim hastily dispatched his driver Charlie (Charlie had been a cat burglar who needed to lay low for a few months and had a temporary job with Dad that extended into many years – Charlie helped me carry his coffin into the church for Dad’s funeral- he was an Alfie character – this was in the 1960’s – and no one had a better “brother” than him than I did) around London to buy up all available supplies.

I (Wally) learned early in the game if you were not feeling well to keep quiet lest you be plied with an astounding variety of pills, herbs and medicines all guaranteed to give you instant relief to your discomfort. (Dad always believed that if the dose was one pill that three must surely be better) One could easily  disperse a meeting in London simply by announcing that Jim was arriving with a bottle of Dr CB’s and wanted everyone to take a dose to ward off the latest species of flu or whatever other dreadful malady that was currently making the rounds……

Nobody could say that Jim was not an extremely intelligent man and yet he was capable of doing some of the most incredibly silly things at times. This partly because he was terribly impulsive….There were times when he would be down in spirits, feel very sorry for himself and act like a spoiled and petulant school boy. These occasions were relatively rare and at most times he was whirlwind of activity, a human dynamo who taxed your ability to keep pace with him mentally and physically. An able debater with an excellent command of the English Language, once he had worked up a full head of steam in order to push some new scheme or acquisition, it was next to impossible to withstand the onslaught…He overwhelmed one like a tidal wave and the best tactic that could be employed to divert him from a particular course of action was to suggest some other idea that he would hopefully find more exciting and challenging.

I (Wally) recall some years after his death when Indal (Wally’s company in Canada) was in court fighting a grossly unfair tax assessment. David Culver, (Dad called David hours before his death to apologize for being such a difficult friend – David gave the eulogy at Dad’s memorial service) then President of Alcan, was called to give testimony relative to certain, metal supply contracts that he had negotiated with Jim over the years. David became aware that his testimony seemed to indicate that each time they had met, Jim had gotten the better of the deal and finally said to the Judge in a plaintive tone “Your Ladyship, I realize that it seems that every time that Mr Paterson and I met.. he took me to the cleaners. But your ladyship, I cannot impress on you too strongly what a tenacious individual he was. Once he trapped you in a room, there was no escape: regardless of the hour and totally exhausted one was literally forced to capitulate….”

( Dad had set up a metals trading company called PISS , or Pillar International sales and services to buy metal for the group. They had become Alcan’s largest client. They would have these marathon annual buying meetings in Bermuda with Alcan – part of the strategy was to wear the Alcan team down with no sleep and oceans of drink. He also set up a corporate account with the best “escort service” in London so that visitors would not have to sleep alone. It was called the “Culver Corporation” in honour of David. If you were a member you simply gave the madam a “Culver Corp” card and all the money aspects would be dealt with by Dad’s secretary)

We could not have come from more disparate backgrounds but one of Jim’s endearing traits was the fact that he didn’t pick or judge his friends based on their social backgrounds or by how much money they had in their bank accounts. If Jim liked you, he liked you and was fiercely loyal to you…He was very unselfish when it came to the people working for him. During the wage freeze and high inflation times in England before Mrs Thatcher had taken the country by the throat and shaken it out of lethargy, Jim constantly schemed to find ways to raise salaries of colleagues, some of whom were even having trouble paying their children’s school fees. But I never heard him complain about his own situation that was being squeezed just like everyone elses’s.

(Dad made millions for others but while he lived a very lavish lifestyle which was all funded by the company he never made any money for himself – I think that what he really got off on was seeing ideas become realities – something that I appear to have inherited. Above all he was a teacher – his “boys” ran his firm for more than 15 years after his death)

Nor did Jim ever claim credit for his colleagues achievements. Bu conversely would brag about how well they had done because he was able to share in the pride of their accomplishments. He never had to ride on anyone’s coattails or steal their glory in order to serve an over inflated ego as is often the case with many executives.

I (Wally) have only scratched the surface in my comments about this wonderfully complex man. However one of the most succinct, amusing and best descriptions was contained in a letter that I received from Sir Thomas Hiley in Australia…

As for Jim Paterson someone should write a book about him. Magnificent perception, good but not infallible judgement, a fine personal charm and with it all times “an enfant terrible” If he had grown up with Al Capone, Capone’s mother would have sought police protection for her son. He should have been a German Count levying tribute on the passing Rhine traffic. He enriched my life even at times he raised my eyebrows’

Valete Dad and to you too Wally

12:57:12 PM   comment [// 0]

I woke up this morning to be greeted by my daughter who is home for the summer. I have my card and downstairs I hear the noises and smell the smells of a massive English breakfast being cooked for me. But I feel sad. Where are all the fathers of my  age group? All of them are dead. Not one of my school and univrsity friends has a living father.

So here’s to you Dad. I miss you

Your devoted son


My First Post on the Science of the Early Years

Monday, May 12, 2003

I spent two days last week with Dr Doug Wilms, one of the top researchers in the world on the topic of child development.

There were many aha’s – here is one of them. Human development is linked to trajectories. When we are 2, small differences in vocabulary, of only 150 words, will drive the type of trajectories that my poor diagram tries to show you. This small difference at 2 spreads out by 15 to a 10 year spread in grade 10. The upper quartiles will have the cognitive ability to work at second year university. The lower quartile will be at the grade 5 level. Those in the middle will be therefore 5-7 years off the extreme at both ends. The same is true say for journeys. If Columbus’s three ships stated off from Spain with a 3 degree difference. One would have landed in Greenland. One in Hispaniola and the other in Argentina. Small differences over time slope out to be large and not fixable.

Some conclusions:

  • In Chaos Theory, we know that “Initial Conditions” are important. This graph shows us why. Only 150 word difference at 2 drives over time a huge differential. The effort to change these trajectories builds on a log scale. We can do a lot with a little when we are very young but by the time we are about 15 we are locked in. Most of the remedial work is done at school where it will have little effect. Especially by grade 4. The optimal time to ensure that your kids will do well is to read a lot to them from 4 MONTHS ONWARDS. You might say that this is ridiculous. A Baby can’t comprehend at 4 months. But they build pattern recognition. Their vocab is built as a direct result of the vocab that you use with them. So read up a level all the time.
  • To read to a 4 month old demands that you hold the baby as well. Touch is the other driver for development. We know that monkeys that are not touched and we know that orphans that are not touched develop very poorly. So reading to babies hits the two big drivers – vocab and touch.
  • The revolution in development will come less from a revolution at school and more from our recognition that the optimal time to learn is before 6!
  • Infants and young children learn only one way – from play based experience – the opposite from how we teach at school.

My First Post on Agriculture

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

This chart shows a picture of how the money works in farming on PEI for 50 years. I suspect that it shows the picture for all of industrial agriculture.

Here is how to “see” the picture. The heavy blue line along the bottom is net farm income. You will note that until about 1972 it hardly moved. Since then volatility is the rule. The lightblue line is farm debt. You will see that debt has broken free from net income. Farm capital is the brwon line. Here’s the problem. Farm capital has risen becuase the banks need it to rise to keep the loan valid. But net income has not kept pace with debt. When the system has 3 bad years the house of cards has to fall down. Like the fishery – farming has become grossly over capitalized. The difference has to come out of the foundation resource – the natural capital – so rotation is reduced and sloped land is tilled.

It is only a matter of time
10:27:51 PM   comment [// 0]

This is the reality of some of our farming in the spring. When you grow Russet Burbanks (the main fry potato) for processing, you have to harvest in late October too late for a cover crop. The result – devastation. Is this because many of our farmers are evil or stupid? No – they are trapped. They have been suckered into a very capital intensive business where there are only two buyers. As the years go by, the farmer drifts more into the hole and can only keep afloat by taking it out on the land. Our rivers are silting up. Our water is becomiong contaminated. Our farmers are going broke.

What can you do? Stop buying fries.