Noble savages

Noble savages

I was born in south London, Croydon to be precise, and lived in the UK until I was 26 years old. Today I am an Australian citizen, and in a few months, I will have lived in Sydney for 26 years.  

A lot has happened since I left to seek fame and fortune in far-flung lands, or was it to escape from the religion of my upbringing. You will need to read Paul Sorol to find the answers to that intergenerational conundrum. 

I lament what has become of my homeland as I watch its descent into parody from afar, and I worry for the future of its people. 

The latest escapades in the Boris saga make my previous sarcasm over political buffoonery sound tame. He is a disgrace but not half as his sycophants. Failure to endorse a no-confidence vote in an incoherent, toerag who lies to everyone is extreme cowardice. The shame will eat their souls in the end.

It is hard to imagine anything worse than fooling people into Brexit and partying during a lockdown to break the law of the land you just imposed, but it is coming—a food crisis.

Briefly, the UK does not grow enough food to feed everyone. There is a roughly 50% shortfall. The arrogant assumption of the muppets is that food can be purchased and imported as needed. Wake up. In the coming food shortage, families get fed first, not foreigners in a country with the worst economic outlook in the OECD. Why do you think China is shoring up its supplies?

I highly recommend reading the excellent book Feeding Britain by Tim Lang for a thorough explanation of the dire situation the UK is in, together with a logical and achievable list of solutions. Boris and his cronies have no excuse. Wise advisors have already told them the extent of the problem and how to fix it.

Food security has become my “outfit of the day” as I gather together my career in ecology into some pre-mortem eulogy. 

In thinking about how much food is grown, what society does to share that production around (or not), and the precarious prospects for global supply chains, I imagined that our cultural maturity would hold us in good stead. Well-educated, intelligent, technologically gifted people in democratic societies would be able to anticipate the challenges and figure out solutions, even if it took a global crisis to trigger deployment.

Then I came across this quote from Canadian historian and author Ronald Wright

When Cortés landed in Mexico he found roads, canals, cities, palaces, schools, law courts, markets, irrigation works, kings, priests, temples, peasants, artisans, armies, astronomers, merchants, sports, theatre, art, music, and books. High civilization, differing in detail but alike in essentials, had evolved independently on both sides of the earth.”

Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (2004, pp 50-51)

I had no idea. 

My schoolboy knowledge of the Aztecs did not cover such sophistication. I was blinkered by education in a country famous for its colonialism. The truth of expansionism is brutal; just ask the Ukranians.

What shocked me the most was the gaping hole it shot in my assumption about mature, gifted people being able to solve problems. Tragically the Aztecs couldn’t deal with the disruption heralded by Hernando Cortez in 1519, even with their high civilisation.

Maybe our modern version of civilisation will not be enough either because there is no invisible guiding hand on the tiller.

But it is ok; a few dipshit politicians still have a job.


Check out sustainably FED for over 120 posts with comments and suggestions to get everyone through the food, ecology and diet challenge.


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Liberal bullies is another delicious oxymoron

Liberal bullies is another delicious oxymoron

I used to walk to high school. It took half an hour at teenager pace and required a courageous traverse across a playing field populated by thugs from a nearby comprehensive.

Just a little background for those unfamiliar with the class system that forms the skeleton of British culture. Rich kids go to the posh grammar schools and end up at university while the working classes send their kids to the state comprehensive schools. Not out of choice but necessity. Natural tribalism is readily expressed in the youth as a consequence of this unfair inequality. 

My parents leveraged their status as local pastors to get me into the posh school meaning I had to run the gauntlet of the disaffected looking for an easy mark.

My recollection of these encounters was me using my smarts and gift of the gab as a defence against the bullying tactics. My chat, for the most part, worked. Apparently being able to speak their language knocks the bully off guard. Sure any loose change I might have carried was often part of the exchange but my attempt to identify with my would-be oppressors certainly had an effect.

Looking back I am grateful to those anonymous hoodlums. It was the start of my learning to fit into almost any crowd and so avoid the worst of being seen as different. This made life easier whilst I built self-confidence and learned to find my voice.

In a series of excellent articles, Robert Reich reflects on the global bullying phenomenon. He calls out Putin, Trump, right-wing nationalists, bigoted TV pundits, politicians, misogynists, and billionaires who use their money to manipulate. He connects these individuals and tropes as abusers of power and concludes that abuse encourages other abuses so standing up against all forms of bullying and brutality – is essential to preserving a civil society.

He is right. 

There was no freedom of movement across that playing field on my way home from school, no matter the life lessons I learned. I like to think that I stood up to them in my own way, hoodwinking them out of giving me a beating. It was a puny attempt that would not have stopped them from picking on the next hapless kid from my school.

But in the bigger far more critical situation of the modern global bully, every little will help.

Quote by Robert Reich on freedom

Today as an Australian citizen who cast his vote with fingers crossed that it would be enough to keep the local labour party member in parliament and that nationally the Liberal-National coalition bullies would get a hiding, I am feeling like I just talked my way out of an uncomfortable encounter.

The electorate came to its senses. 

It rejected the conservative coalition who, for a decade, was deaf, dumb, and blind to climate, women, and the disadvantaged whilst waving coal at us, holidaying during a firestorm, and dodging responsibility as all bullies do.

We now have a Labour government but not because we like them—they lost votes too—because they have spent the decade complicit with the hoodlums. They are in power because smart people, especially women, voted for independents. The people stuck it to the bullies and the two major parties have fewer lower house seats than ever before.

The commentary tells us this is seismic and creates the opportunity for a reset on just about everything.

After a decade of boofhead behaviour, we had had enough—the liberal bully oxymoron is no more. 

Who knows, they might even be gone forever.


Hero image from photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels 

Rapid change has happened before

Rapid change has happened before

Alloporus is always on about the happenings of WW2

The loss and the horror are a stain on history that is painful to recall but stare past the nightmares of the war and remarkable things happened during the years of conflict. Here are a few of them.

The US government increased spending by an order of magnitude between 1940 and 1945 and spent more money (in current dollar terms) between 1942 and 1945 than it had in the 152 years prior to 1941. 

The US was in the war for three years and during that time manufactured 87,000 naval vessels, including 27 aircraft carriers, 300,000 planes, 100,000 tanks and armoured cars and 44 billion rounds of ammunition. 

US soldiers on battle tanks. Photo by Suzy Brooks on Unsplash

Whole towns and cities were turned into munitions factories all while many of the young men were serving in Europe and the Pacific. Women took on blue-collar jobs so there were workers to run the machines.

At the same time, the manufacture of cars was banned as was the construction of new homes. There was rationing of food, tyres and gasoline because it was considered fairer than taxing scarce goods. And to save fuel a national speed limit of 35mph was imposed.

Remember this is the US where libertarians rule and U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy was about to unleash the Second Red Scare, lasting from the late 1940s through the 1950s. McCarthyism was characterized by heightened political repression and persecution of left-wing individuals, and a campaign spreading fear of alleged communist and socialist influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents.

Even in a society leery of socialism, the war produced an extraordinary collective effort in the US and an acceptance of government regulation. It was a similar story in the UK and even in the occupied countries, people resisted for the greater good.

If such collective will against the axis powers could bring such change and effort why not now when we need it again?

Here is what George Monbiot suggests 

Public hostility and indifference create a lack of political will.

Indeed, don’t look up.

I agree but would add another break on drastic responses — the ineptitude of our politicians.

Most of those in the big dog posts are there because they have a single skill, political surfing. They ride the political waves into positions of authority. Very few get there on intellectual merit, leadership skills or foresight.

It is not always their fault.

Our collective failure to recall history and use it to see the future means we have no sense of urgency. Indifference means we don’t ask for leaders with flair, vision or skills. We accept muppets

But the decisions needed now are as era-defining as those made by the US in the 1940s that won a war and set the country on a steeper industrial path.

We need that decisive force not just to deal with imperialist aggression but to feed everyone well.

More on the issues of global food, ecology and diet on sustainably FED


Hero image modified from photo by Tommy Kwak on Unsplash

Remembering armchair activism from the 1980s

Remembering armchair activism from the 1980s

When I went to university in 1979, there was plenty of noise. British students were boisterous.

We shouted and boycotted Barclays because it was the biggest high street bank in South Africa. We listened when the Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigned against Barclays because it helped finance the Cabora Bassa dam project in Mozambique.

Then, after James Callaghan’s minority Labour government lost a no-confidence motion by one vote forcing a general election that elected Margaret Thatcher, we had some local politics to get us lefties agitated. We crowed when the new conservative government introduced means-tested student loans. A few of my buddies estranged from wealthy families suddenly had to fund their education.

I remember that the first black-led government of Rhodesia in 90 years came to power after the power-sharing deal of Ian Smith in the soon to be independent Zimbabwe. I didn’t know that I would live in that beautiful country a few years later.

Alloporus at the University of Zimbabwe, 1987

The handsome young fellow at the start of his academic career, Zimbabwe, 1987

1979 saw the One-child policy introduced in China with significant political and population consequences.

Meanwhile, in the United States, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

By 1979, protests to end the Vietnam war were over. But their residue left a slightly cantankerous youth still able to muster an occupation of the university administration building. I can’t remember why.

What I do remember was that protest was inherently political. 

It meant something to throw challenges and abuse at the politicians because these were the people who made decisions. Whether that was Margaret or PW Botha, the last prime minister of South Africa before the State President was given executive powers under the new post-apartheid constitution, politicians were the target.

What I didn’t feel was any danger. 

My generation railed for others because we had it lucky. The world was our oyster, and we were enjoying a fabulous education heavily subsidised by the state.

Not so much now.

It is much harder everywhere, with more obscure prospects and a clear risk of system collapse. Even the fundamentals of the social contract are crumbling.

School strike for climate placcard

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

Activism skipped a few generations before it landed in schools. 

Today, the teenagers have taken up the chants and populated the demonstrations because they are worried. And I don’t blame them.

They point to the risk of environmental collapse and ask for urgent action.

Only the groundswell of justice that pushed my generation onto the moral high ground is, at best, a trickle of support. The political elite has insulated themselves from the noise in the fantasy land of their parliaments and used the media to make blunders like Brexit into great victories.

They are all deaf, dumb, blind and crap at pinball.

Even when the best of the schoolkid activists addresses them, all they can say is “go back to school”.

“Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future.”

Greta Thunberg, Houses of Parliament, UK, April 2019.

Guardian columnist and writer Zoe Williams sums it up.

And then, in the matter-of-fact simplicity of youth.

We are sick of conference upon conference as if that alone is the solution.

Ella Simons, 15-year-old high school student from Melbourne, Member of the School Strike for Climate movement.

Each generation lives with noise. 

In hindsight, my late baby boomer peers had few moral dilemmas to chant about; the reality was far away in another land. We were unhappy with one in ten and danced with Rankin Roger as he implored Margaret to stand down, but these issues were never existential.

Today’s generation has its very future in the frame.