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Transport in a Post Peak World

Let me just state right up front , for the record . I love fossil fuels , i can hear the howls of protest now  but there it is, i think their great.  As an exercise imagine if all the products and services provided by fossil fuels vanished from your life right now.  For a start you wouldn’t be angry with me for saying i love fossil fuels because you wouldn’t have a computer to read it on,  you’d also probably find yourself sitting on the ground because most if not all of your house just vanished and you would be wondering what the hell was going on !  Or maybe your feeling a little smug right now because your in an all natural building and so almost nothing came from fossil fuels. Did you dig the clay literally with your hands ? Or did you use a shovel made from steel ? Used your hands ? Im impressed  but i still got you cause your still reading this on a computer.

The point of the mental calisthenics was to point out that we’ve got to get away from the whole us and them mindset.  Us being the side of right who know that the current way we run our society  is totally unsustainable , that fossil fuels are evil  etc etc etc  and Them being the evil fossil fuel using society around us. People, hate to break it to you but  we are all Them.  As part of my work at PRI Australia and now The Koanga institute in New Zealand it’s been my privilege to meet all sorts of amazing young people from around the world and i must say i’ve had some fun pointing that out to them but the brutal fact of all this is that  we need to accept that fact and get on with  the first steps in moving towards a more sustainable society. Note i didn’t say sustainable i said more sustainable  because we simply don’t know what exactly that is , unless of course somebody wants to be dropped off with a tribe of Kalahari bushmen or some other increasingly rare group of hunter gatherers.  See the romantic notion of the wholly sustainable life is at the moment just that ,  a romantic notion.  Theres growing food because its good for you and the environment and it strikes a blow at the heart of the big multinationals and then theres growing food because your life depends on it.  The two are light years apart and so is the current hijacked concept of being sustainable and the reality that we don’t have a clue how we are going to achieve it and the fact that life is going to be a lot harder and dirtier and a hell of a lot less convenient.

 

Right about now is usually when the author says”but” and launches into an optimistic pep talk about how our lives will be better, fuller, richer etc. Sure they will be, no arguments but it will also be bloody harder !

So on to our main topic ‘Transport in a post peak world.’  Now if your not up with the concept of peak oil then i will direct you to my good friend Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil for a more in depth explanation but simply put Fossil fuels are a finite non renewable resource. They are also incredibly energy dense ,we have built our entire civilization around them,  they are getting increasingly harder to find and more expensive to extract.  The whole project of Globalization was only made possible through cheap transport fuels so as these fuels get more and more expensive this system will simply seize up and with it industrial agriculture.  Not convinced ? Fact is for every calorie of food we consume in the developed nations Ten (10) calories of fossil fuel are used to grow it package it and ship it.  Now even a small child will quickly figure out that that little equation is not sustainable.  In fact its not a little unsustainable its almost as though someone sat down and carefully engineered it to be as unsustainable as possible.  Added to that, for every kilo of food we grow using modern methods we lose between 6 kilos (in the USA) and 11 kilos (China) of soil forever.  So that which cannot be sustained will not be sustained, meaning our food production system will be coming a lot closer to home (Less food miles) and will be primarily along organic lines.  And if anyone cares to try and argue those points they can take it up with the laws of thermodynamics i’m just the messenger ! Of course what applies to transportation of food also holds true for all other goods such as flat screen TV’s, Ipods and such that are produced overseas and shipped to market.  Ditto the mined raw materials to produce these things  and Ditto the fuel hungry mining process itself. For interesting developments in the revival of sailing ships for goods transport check out  The sail transport network http://www.sailtransportnetwork.org/

Now we’ve discussed transport of industrially produced food and goods a little and i’m not going to say much more except that people really need to consider supplying most of their  non negotiable needs themselves (see “Walking the middle path”). But i suspect where most people will (at least initially) squeal the most is the effect these unfolding events will have on personal mobility.  Leaving aside the complex knock on economic effects of peak oil its a sure bet that transport fuel will be harder to afford be it from increases in price or a reduction in peoples ability to afford it.  And you can read into that what you will, but it seems to me to be baked into the cake.

Of course nothing is simply going to stop, its just gradually going to get harder and harder to sustain current personal transport habits.  And its the changing of personal habits that is our first line of response and also that which has the potential to give us the most bang for our buck. Recent studies have shown that simply by being more organized and more mindful we can reduce the kilometers we travel by a third without any real loss of quality of life. Im sure we all know what i’m talking about , the quick trip to the shop because we’ve run out of milk, the two or three trips by different family members to get different things or because they didn’t want to wait for the other, or the classic shopping two or three times a week rather than once because we can’t be bothered planning out our meals. It all adds up. Taken a little further think of the benefits of coordinating with  friends to shop together, the money saved in fuel can pay for a nice cup of coffee or better yet when they get dropped off you get to pop in for a coffee.

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Of course don’t overdo it !

 

Not only are you saving fuel your maintaining and strengthening social ties !

 

Join a car pooling club or co operative or a ride share scheme. Our cars spend most of their time parked in our driveways doing nothing except quietly but rapidly depreciating. Depending on your situation public transport might also make better sense.

 

Below are links to a few of the ride share schemes in NZ and OZ

http://www.coseats.com/      http://www.carpoolnz.org/   http://www.jayride.co.nz/

And then of course there is the humble bicycle one of our most efficient transport machines. Here not only do you get cheap transport but time to think,  and a free workout . Cargo bikes are big at the moment and for good reason, here you can take the little ones for a ride or bring the groceries home. I want one badly in fact before leaving Oz i was part way through building my own. See  http://tomscargobikes.com/tomscargobikes.com/HOME.html for great DIY instructions.

fossil fuel

 

 

 

 

Many cities in both Europe and the US are now running  bike share schemes to ease parking and traffic issues in the inner city

peak oil

 

 

 

 

 

And of course electric bikes are now readily available and coupled with the cargo bike concept are able to move fairly large loads over extended ranges.

aprop tech

 

 

 

 

 

 

While on the subject of electric vehicles i must say i’m not a fan of Electric cars. While i believe they have their place in the mix we must not use them to try and prolong  “business as usual “ Business as usual is going away.  We are far better keeping the cars we already have going as the massive amounts of energy that have gone into their manufacture is highly amortized  whereas new cars be they super efficient or not have a huge energy cost to manufacture.

As Dmitry Orlov says “The idea of making cars more efficient by making more efficient cars is sheer folly.”

Of course the Elephant in the room is Air travel particularly International Air travel.  Air travel is set to become something that only a few very well off people will be able to afford. For all the reasons previously laid out.  And yet the alternatives are few in fact i can think of only two . The first is don’t and the second is sea transport in general and sail transport in particular.

And in point of fact  passenger sail transport networks whereby tens of thousands of individuals travel between countries already exist.  Web sites where individuals can sign on as crew for a share of costs such as http://www.findacrew.net/secure-server/eng/yacht_crew_jobs.asp are constantly matching yacht owners needing an extra set of hands with people wanting the adventure of ocean travel . Im sorry theres not more to say here on the subject of flight except that fantasies of cheap flights using Bio fuels or such are just that Fantasies.

So while this is just a quick summary of potential transport issues and solutions heading into the future we all need to take a good look at where we live and how we are going to get by on less more expensive fuel. Questions like How far do you commute to work?  How many cars do you have? Do you live far out of town? Where do the kids go to school ? Where is your food going to come from? and can you afford it. All these are question people are only now starting to ask and unfortunately  due to the way we’ve designed our living arrangements predicated on cheap energy the answers aren’t good.

Its going to be an interesting ride !

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Walking the Middle Path

Some of you, having looked at the title may be going ”uh oh“, some may be going “great something about buddhism“ still others may be going “whats he going on about?”. This story is for everybody. I don’t know much about Buddhism except that as religions go, it seems pretty balanced. In the area we used to live, the kids did buddhist studies at school and a lot of what came home seemed to sit well with how we, as a family lived. Getting back to my knowledge of buddhism, as I said  its pretty thin, except that the term “walking the middle path“ which is a central concept of Buddhism, just so happens to pretty much perfectly sum up my personal philosophy on dealing with the challenges in my life and the changes afoot in the wider world. Now don’t get confused and think I follow the Buddhist middle path, but that simply the term fits well with how I think and that certainly my middle path and that of Buddhism are ultimately about balance, self honesty and a healthy dose of critical thinking.

Now those that know me will know that  one of my central themes is not falling in love with any one idea or fix, as “The solution”. I think its a trap when we identify with, or are identified with, an idea, a movement, or a technology so strongly that we are trapped within that frame of reference and so miss other ideas or solutions other than those we are familiar with. Having said that, its why I identify so strongly with the permaculture movement. Without going too far into it, to me the strength of permaculture and the very fact that can make it so maddening to try and describe it to others, is its vigorous adoption of new ideas without diluting its core concepts. Its not an idea so much as an idea about how to arrange ideas. Confused ? Me too. I did say its maddening. Think of it this way, permaculture is both a bookshelf and the system of how we arrange the books on that bookshelf, its not the books themselves. So on our bookshelf called Permaculture we have such titles as, organic gardening, biodynamics, solar passive design, composting, holistic management etc etc etc. As new titles become available and/or we have new updated editions of our existing books, our library grows. As our library grows we begin to rearrange where we place our books on the shelves as the information contained within links with and forms synergies with our other titles. What is not Permaculture is when the authors or fans of a particular book insist that it’s the bookshelf, or at least the most important book in the bookshelf. As a permaculturist (or a follower of the middle path) I’m pretty promiscuous. I don’t care where or who the book came from. As long as it works for me it goes on the shelf with all the other books.

Anyway the trap as previously identified is falling in love with one title and constantly retracing the same familiar paths contained therein without questioning what is valid and what has merely become habit. We’re now approaching our central theme and while I’ve strayed far, I hope I’ve laid sufficient groundwork to illuminate my point.

Suppose we absolutely loved a book called  “Civilization is going to collapse and millions are going to die” or conversely a book titled “Renewable energy will allow civilization to continue on as usual” (I’d like to add at this point that the last title is a much edited and updated version of the classic “Fossil fuels are forever”).  At this juncture, I’d like to leave the whole book analogy behind as its getting pretty tiresome and I’m sure we all get the point.

The trouble with whichever story you believe is that its maddeningly difficult to predict the future and that even if you could, it completely ignores the possibility (nay probability!) of both futures and any number of variations in between unfolding simultaneously in different parts of the world. What I’d like to propose is that we take  the middle path and accept that we can’t accurately know the future beyond some very broad brush strokes (e.g Fossil fuels are running out, we’ve overshot the carrying capacity of the planet and “The Hobbit” will be a box office success) and get on with doing those things that work no matter what the future holds for us.

For example within the school of thought that says the global economy is falling apart (of which I’m one) there are two main sub groups, the deflationists and the hyperinflationists and every variation in between (who is right, I could care less). What I’m interested in is what will work no matter who is right and get out of the predicting the future game entirely. So the deflationists say money will be scarce and whoever has it can purchase what they want (cash is king) while the hyperinflationists say we will be flooded with money which will destroy its purchasing power, so load up on gold . If you choose to believe one story over the other, then you immediately expose yourself to the risk of choosing wrong. Refusing to choose one or the other is of course not the whole strategy – our next step requires us to look to the implications of both competing points of view and seeing what core issues they have in common.

As a general theme, if what you decide to do reduces your dependence on others (be they individuals or companies) for the necessities of life (food water shelter etc) then you have chosen the middle path, an action which immediately makes you more resilient to the vagaries of live no matter what they are. In fact what you will find, is that the same actions keep cropping up no matter the potential problem you are trying to circumvent .

This is why growing your own food is such a powerful act. It works and has huge benefits  whether or not the global financial system is falling apart, whether the inflationists or deflationists are right. Take our earlier example – the deflationist with his wad of cash and the hyperinflationist with his bag of gold. They both have to eat and if they are trying to buy food from someone who is also hungry, then I don’t care how much money or gold they have, they are going to be hungry. We do have to present both sides of the argument and so yes, growing food is a big commitment if you are doing it well. It also has lots of nasty side effects like increased nutrition from eating nutrient dense, toxin free food and increased flexibility from having to actually move your body, not to mention that members of your family may follow you outside from sheer curiosity and then you might actually have to talk to them instead of sitting in front of the TV watching Survivor or some such reality show. While food is a biggie, it is only one of a number of necessities in our lives that if we reduce or remove our dependence on others for, has vast benefits plus some possibly nasty side effects as previously mentioned. Where the middle path doesn’t help is if we are confused about what is essential and what is not. The trouble being, in this day and age we tend to get our wants very much mixed up with our needs and consider things like flat screen TV’s and i phones as not negotiable, a fallacy that can be quickly dispelled by a couple of days without food or having no home.

As a further example, take the typical modern house. Statistically they are getting bigger, the number of people living in them is getting less and we are spending less time in them. A thirty year mortgage paying off a $400,000 loan to get that house will keep you working for the best part of your life and see you paying much more than you borrowed. Now lets build a very modest house, small, recycled and local materials, no toxic substances like off gassing plastics, solvents or glues etc. I’ve known a few people do it for around $10,000. What would you do with all the spare time and/or money if you weren’t working to pay off in excess of $800,000 debt? You could have some nice holidays, that’s for sure!

Now why don’t more people do this? Well? Could it be that we’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced that we deserve it? That we need to have it, that it must be this way because everybody else is doing it? Convinced that we need to work for thirty years as a slave to a bank, that if we don’t have a vast house we might actually die, that people will actually look down on us if we have a small cheap sustainable house. My advice would be send them a nice postcard from wherever you’re next holidaying, or wave at them from your tiny house with the big garden and the solar system on the roof that supplies all your energy as they head off to work .

So what would I do? Nail down the essentials, grow as much of your own food as practical, get out of debt and reduce your dependence on anyone who is providing anything to you for a profit, especially if it is considered a need. Following the middle path, consider if what you do for a living  is resilient to things like economic downturns, get involved in community. Above all, learn to think critically and don’t fall into the trap of automatically believing those things you most want to happen.

Live life, be happy!
Cheers Tim

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Amaranth Porridge

Serves 3 or 4 depending how hungry you are!

  • 1 cup of amaranth
  • 1 can of coconut milk (you can use ordinary cows or goats milk too)
  • 2 cardamon seeds
  • 1 curl of cinnamon stick
  • 1 handful of dried fruit, possible raisins or dried apricots sliced
  • 1 Tbspn of whey (you can easily make your own, just and a little yoghurt in a cloth with a bowl underneath; it will turn into cream cheese in the cloth, and whey in the bowl)

Soak the amaranth in 2 cups of water and the whey for 24 or even 48 hours – the longer the better.  Drain through a sieve – make sure the seeds can’t go through the sieve – and put grain and can of coconut milk with all the other ingredients into pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer on slow heat until grain swells, turn off and sit for 20 minutes.

Serve as is, or add fresh , bottled or dried fruit, and sprinkle with toasted ground pumpkin seeds.

Enjoy!

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Monarchs, Brix and Nutrient Dense Plants by Oscar Morand

I will always remember this day, as my first day actually witnessing a practical understanding of the Reams Biological Theory of Ionization and the Trophobiosis Theory of Francis Chaboussou.

Before sharing with you my experience, I would like to introduce myself and where I stand at the time of writing this article. My name is Oscar Morand and one year and a half ago my main occupation was to be a city boy living in the middle of Geneva, Switzerland. My focus has always been in science and the connections between them. I left the 31st December 2011 for Australia, and there I spent 6 months immerging myself in permaculture. Nature brought into my life the chance to meet Geoff Lawton and David Holmgren, with whom I spent time. After the Australian trip I returned to Europe, and afterwards went to Jordan to Greening the Desert – The Sequel, a project site with Geoff and Nadia Lawton. I am currently staying at the Koanga Institute in New Zealand, on the land of the Kotare Village, created by Bob Corker and Kay Baxter. Again, 6 months is the time allowed for myself to spend in this amazing place. There I have learnt about many beautiful things; having such a vast amount of knowledge and understanding at my disposal, I could freely dive into the subjects that I love. This is kind of new to me, to actually grab a book, a pen and some notes and tell myself: “Here we go, Oscar, let’s study!” And then, pure pleasure, spending hours and hours gaining knowledge and building practices for the now and the future, valuable and ethical stuff, things that resonate with my inner being, where afterwards I am like, “Yeah! This stuff is great, I want more!” And I dive again, into the realm of satisfying self-action transforming learning. I spent time in the gardens and also did the 10-week Natural Building internship, gathering skills into so many different practices that I will not list them here. But what stays on my heart is that this is a place where people can decide to be free of the “have-to” and be intentional about what they truly want to do.

Thank you so much to Kay and Bob, for allowing a space where my body and my mind can experiment freely. The article that follows shows an aspect of one of my learning journeys, gathering different kinds of theory and knowledge into something that, I hope, makes sense.

While having a wander in the garden with Jai, we found ourselves contemplating our fellow earthen inhabitants, the monarch caterpillars. Their beautiful black and yellow-striped bodies, crawling on the swan plants and munching the green leaves, invite anyone to just sit and slow down to the rhythm of nature. And so we did.

I will try in this essay to express the observations made on this day by Jai and myself.

We were in the Koanga main seed garden, at the Kotare Village. In front of us, several garden beds, let’s call them bed n°1 and bed n°2. At the end of each bed there were some swan plants for the monarchs. Our gaze was focused on bed n°2: there the monarchs were plenty and very active, eating vast amounts of the plants, the leaves, the fruits and the stems, leaving near to nothing. How hungry and devoted they were to accumulate large quantities of energy for their transformations.

monarch

But after a little while looking at this specific bed, my attention was caught by the plants next door, on bed 1, and what a surprise! The beds, two plants each, looked pretty similar but on bed 1 the monarchs were a lot less numerous and the amount of leaves still on the plants was way bigger than on the plants on bed 2. And the most surprising fact was that even if it was 2pm, even if the conditions were exactly the same than the “excited” monarchs of bed 2, these “bed 1” monarchs were mostly dormant, and a few were moving very slowly. I even tried to poke one on the antenna (peace upon him) and almost no reaction. As a good scientist I needed a reference point, so I went to poke a “bed 2” monarch and there the reaction was huge: the monarch moved all around and I could feel how annoying it could have been.

Another observation was their manures. And yes, I did spend some time observing very closely the output generated by our fellows the monarchs, and again two different results between bed n°1 and bed n°2. On bed n°2 the manure looked almost the same colour as the stem of the swan plant: a light green colour. But after looking at bed n°1’s monarchs’ packet of fertilizers it was different. The colour was a lot darker: a dark green. To be sure about what I was noting on the excrements of these insects I stood there a little hour comparing the manures from different caterpillars on the same plant, and still the same conclusion: the bed n°1’s manure is darker than the bed n°2’s manure. Here is a picture of bed n°1’s “output”.

monarch 2

And obviously a third observation was the number of chrysalides on each bed. The swan plants were at the very end of the bed and the rest of the bed was planted with lamb’s quarters. It looked like the monarchs were moving to the close-by lamb’s quarters to begin their chrysalises. And, logically, bed n°2, where they were the most active, had the higher number of monarch caterpillars ready to begin their journey as magnificent butterflies.

monarch 3

Now that I have shared with you my observations, I will try to explain why the same insects at the same moment have such different behaviours, through the knowledge that I gained by my study of the Reams Biological Theory of Ionization, and the work of great scientists like Phil Callahan, Dr. Arden B. Andersen, and Francis Maboussou.

My very first step towards the understanding of what was happening was to grab a refractometer and take readings of the swan plants in both beds.

Refractometer? Let’s explain a little bit: “The refractometer is a tool which measures the refractive index of a liquid. When light rays shine through the liquid they strike the carbohydrates, salt and other molecules depending upon the type of calibration used. When the light rays strike the molecules, they bend or refract. The greater the calibrated molecular concentration of the liquid in question, the greater the refraction.”1 And the molecular concentration of the plant is “the concentration of sugars, vitamins, amino acids, proteins, hormones, and other solids dissolved within the juice of the plant which is measured in BRIX (ratio of the mass of dissolved solids to water).”2 The Brix unit that the refractometer gives is basically the mineral contents of the plant; thus, the higher the refraction, the higher the mineral content, the higher the nutrient-density of the plant.

It is really a beautiful tool that allows each one of us to assess the nutrient density of our plants, which is a perfect reflection of the health of our soil. So the BRIX of the swan plants were as follows:

–          12 for the swan plant on bed n°2, the bed with the excited caterpillars

–          18 for the swan plant on bed n°1, the bed with the dormant caterpillars

What we can conclude based on these observations is that the plants on bed n°1 have a higher nutrient density than the plants on bed n°2. This may shed some light on the fact that the manures of the monarchs on bed n°1 with a BRIX of 18 were darker than the ones on bed n°2 with a BRIX of 12. The higher the nutrient density of a plant, the higher the nutrition of it, the higher the amount of minerals per caterpillar’s mouthful; thus, the higher the mineral concentration of the monarch manures and, therefore, the darker the poo.

Alright, this makes sense but it still doesn’t explain why their behaviour was so different depending on which plant they are feeding, and also why there were fewer monarchs on bed 1 than on bed 2.

First, let’s look at why the monarchs were more attracted by the plants on bed n°2, the plants that have the lower BRIX reading, 12.

If I think about universal patterns, I can observe – and it has been observed by a lot of other human beings – that the complex process of Nature allows the most adaptable to survive and, on the other hand, the less adaptable to be devoured. For life to happen a creature is born, then needs to harvest energy in one way or an other, reproduce and die thereafter to be consumed, or biologically decayed, by an other form of life – all of this in an infinite net of interdependence and endless cycles of birth and death. This is the guidance by which life is able to evolve towards more complex forms of life. If it weren’t the “sick” that were annihilated but the “healthiest”, the result would be a world covered by non-functional plants, animals and microorganisms. It just doesn’t make sense!

That’s the reason why we are able to see lionesses pack-hunting herding animals and getting the slower ones, being too young, old or sick; plants thriving where there is a healthy soil food web and others dying on soil without life; and insects developing pesticide resistance, enabling them to survive in high chemical environments compared to other insects, who just die.

This can partly explain why the monarchs are packing themselves on n°2’s plants. Nature follows the path of least resistance, trying to achieve the highest ratio of energy invested for energy returned. It will always first recycle the less functional, allowing the most adaptable and healthiest forms of life to perpetuate themselves.

For us humans, the difference between a healthy horse and a sick one is obvious, but what about plants? What about plants that look exactly the same to our naked eyes? How are the monarch caterpillars able to select the plants with the lower BRIX readings? Here is the answer, lying in the work of an amazing man:

“Dr. Philip Callahan of the University of Florida, a USDA entomologist, explains that insect antennae are actually like small semiconductors, and, as they are coated with wax, are also paramagnetic structures. They receive various wavelengths in the infrared spectrum. Once the information is received, the insect’s brain determines whether the frequencies correspond to a mate, food, water, or something else. Everything emits infrared radiation, and each thing has its own specific range of vibration. The vibrational frequency of all the component parts of a thing makes up its composite vibrational frequency. This is what the insect receives and processes.

If a plant is in perfect or near perfect health (mineral balance), it will vibrate at a given composite frequency. If there happens to be a mineral deficiency, it will vibrate at a slightly different composite frequency. If there is a serious deficiency or several deficiencies that make that plant unfit for animal or human consumption, it will vibrate at a significantly different frequency that the insects know as food, hence an insect infestation. This phenomenon is easily proven. Grow a plant, a potato for instance, according to the program that is laid out in the next chapter of this book, and also grow one according to conventional practices. Keep track of the sugar (BRIX) readings and notice which plant is devoured by insects and which is not. Once the quality of a crop surpasses a given level, there will not be an insect problem with it because the crop will not vibrate at a composite frequency corresponding to the insect’s food.”3

Amazing isn’t it? The insects are able to sense, to capture the vibrations of their environment and process it to determine if it is food or not. Now we understand why there were more monarchs on the plants of bed n°2 than on those of bed n°1. The plants of n°2, with a BRIX reading of 12, have a lower composite vibrational frequency than the plants of n°1. Not only that, but I suppose that the BRIX of bed n°1’s plants are high enough to not be considered as proper food by the insects.

But there were still a few caterpillars on the swan plants of bed n°1, remember? The ones that were dormant, as if the plant had poisoned them. And guess what? That is what happened or, more exactly, it is a kind of indigestion from the too-high-to-digest mineral content of the plants. Dr. Arden B. Andersen explains: “Insects get sick from healthy plants because they cannot handle the rich nutrients present in those plants. Further verifications of energetic communication can be found in the writings of Robert Becker, Vlail Kaznacheyev and Phil Callahan.”

This statement leads me to the Trophobiosis Theory of Francis Maboussou, an agronomist of France’s National Institute of Agricultural Research. The Minister for the Environment in Brazil, Jose Lutzenberger, reformulated this theory in a simple statement: “a pest starves on a healthy plant.” 5 The idea is there, but let’s explore the theory a little bit more deeply. Kay Baxter pointed me towards an article by John Kempf6 where he beautifully explains what is actually happening inside the plant.

Basically insects and pathogens have a less complex digestive system than higher animals and humans. And through their field study his team observed different stages of plants’ health. Each one corresponds to an increase in the overall health of the plant that affects the way it functions, the way it behaves. The product created by the plants will tend to complexify, which results in the inability of simpler organisms to have the digestive capacity to process the available components of the plants.  For all this evolution to happen the plant needs primarily efficient photosynthesis through adequate quality and intake of air, water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. And afterwards, it will need a healthy and active soil food web developed in the rhizosphere (the digestive system of the plant) to support it:

  • During the first stage there is the production of simple sugars, food for insects and disease pests, then the process evolves and goes towards the production of complete carbohydrates resistant to soil-borne pathogens.
  • In the second stage the plant, having this symbiotic relationship with the soil food web, forms complete proteins resistant to larval insects.
  • The third stage sees the abundance of energy being stored as complete lipids resistant to air-borne pathogens. This is only possible through the support of a well functioning soil food web.
  • And, finally, the fourth stage opens us to the creation of “complex plant protectant compounds”, built by the presence of the elevated lipid levels. The plants create these phytoalexins, which are part of a wide diversity of PSMs (plant secondary metabolisms). These PSMs act as anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and also produce digestion (enzyme) inhibitors, resistance to beetles and various other insects occurs. 7

Agri-Dynamics Director Jerry Brunetti says, “The plant hormones, gibberellins and abscisic acid are also terpenoids (diterpenes) and some of the diterpenes act as phytoalexins, which are molecules whose production is triggered by an infection or predation. Thus the phytoalexins’ chemistry is strongly anti-bacterial or anti-fungal.” 8

In his work, John Kempf stops at the fourth stage but doesn’t state that the evolution process stops there.

I don’t know what specifically inhibited the voracious hunger of the monarchs. By referencing the work of Francis Maboussou, John Kempf and others I just want to highlight that in life and Nature there reside some powerful evolutionary processes. Even if I am unable to precisely determine if our swan plants have reached the fourth stage or went further, I can only guess that the monarch caterpillars began to be affected by the overwhelming health of the swan plants at 18 BRIX.

This does mostly answer the questions raised by our observations of the monarchs, but doesn’t end the story. From our perception the plants stopped producing food for insects, fungi and bacteria and began to produce healthy human’s food as soon as the general vibrational frequency of the plants increased.

All this is very new for me and I recommend reading the article by John Kempf – you can find the reference in the notes. I don’t know for you, but inside me it creates even more questions than answers. What does it really mean to have a crop destroyed by insects? Does it mean it is not meant for human consumption? What can we do to increase the health of our soil? Are we designed to digest stage 1 plants or more complete ones? But also, how healthy can a plant become, and how can we achieve the best quality crops? And, finally, how healthy can we become if we have the opportunity to eat only the most nutrient-dense plants?

A last observation would also be, why do these two garden beds, next to each other, have such different BRIX readings? Here at the Koanga Institute we give it our all to remineralise the soil into a healthy and living super-organism. We add a wide range of inputs, in the form of minerals, pre-composted fertilizers, liquid fertilizers, biofertilizers, compost teas and, obviously, compost. All this work is done by hand, where an uneven application of any fertilizer is very probable. We also use the Grow Biointensive method of John Jeavons and follow a strict rotation in the garden beds. With this information we can see that our two beds have probably not had the exact same treatment in the past. And I am grateful for that, allowing me to deepen my knowledge through deep observations.

Too conclude, this is a win-win situation for both species: the monarch caterpillars and the swan plants. The monarchs that have the most accurate ability to sense their vibrational environment are able to direct themselves to the plants with lower mineral content, therefor being food for insects, which allows the monarchs to thrive. And the swan plants with the higher mineral content, hence, the healthiest, are the ones that will set the greatest number of seeds, being untouched by the insects, to perpetuate their lineage and even reinforce it.

I would like to acknowledge the fact that it is a win-win situation not only for the two but also for the greater whole, including, for example, the microorganisms thriving in the rhizosphere of the high BRIX swan plants, and us, human beings, receiving these gifts from Nature.

How wonderful and miraculous Nature is? The more I study it, the more amazed I am by its inherent tendency to be perfect.

Oscar Morand

Ps: Thanks to Ashly Dyck for the patience and the time spent on editing.

Notes

1  Dr. Arden B. Andersen, The Anatomy of Life & Energy in Agriculture, page 84

2  Albert Bates, The Biochar Solution,

3  Dr. Arden B. Andersen, The Anatomy of Life & Energy in Agriculture, page 50

4   Dr. Arden B. Andersen, Science in Agriculture, page 251

5   Jose Lutzenberger, quoted in “Trophobiosis Theory: A Pest Starves on a Healthy Plant” by John Paull, ELEMENTALS ~ Journal of Bio-Dynamics Tasmania # 88 2007, web. http://orgprints.org/12894/1/12894.pdf

6   John Kempf, “Crop Health Transitions,” Acres U.S.A. November 2011, Vol. 41, n° 11, page 22

7   John Kempf, “Crop Health Transitions,” Acres U.S.A. November 2011, Vol. 41, n° 11, page 22

8   Jerry Brunetti, “Plant Seconday Metabolites, Acres U.S.A. December 2011, Vol. 41, n°12, page 60