--and "Plan B"
Our tile/capsule content - Making Tiles - Letter to TCT Caretakers - Meanwhile - Community
Why this project? - Growth - Imagine - JS Mill
(partially revised: April 19th, 2017)
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12/29/2016: * The thrust of this page is that we might want to hedge our bets on this (our) instance of civilization --by "kicking the can down the road" a bit --toward "the next time around".  Sadly, however, and while it seems likely that "panspermia" (and/or the life force implicit in the very elements we're composed of) --has made life abundant in the Universe, we hope against hope that these same factors ultimately lead to consciousness. Are there, and will there be --follow-on creatures who think about thought, meaning, the nature of existence, and who care about it all?

Back in 1976, Julian Jaynes made some educated inferences about human consciousness, much of which proved out, as brain/neuro science and mental process imaging advanced. While it might be debatable whether consciousness caused or was a consequence of our cerebral hemispheres knitting together into coherent thought --or even whether the cause was associated with more hemispheric autonomy, what legends and textual records we have (Old Kingdom Egypt, early Old Testament, the Gilgamesh epic, Hindu Veda) --suggest that, while ancient folks might have actually been more intelligent, they don't seem to have been very introspective --previous to about 1000 BCE. As to why seemingly unconnected civilizations worldwide came "awake" at about the same period and rate (which led to the phenomenal "axial period"), some attribute it to a common factor like climate change. I suspect (and hope) that the capacity was/is latent in all life, needing only a contagious trigger.

Perhaps life itself is latent in matter and energy. Call it "design" if you will, or even "the hand of God", as long as we also humbly admit to having not a stone's chance of divining "God's" Nature and his/its "intent" (perhaps a term of limited perspective).

From my/our own perspectives, we can only wish for such consciousness and caring as we've experienced. While its continuity on Earth seems increasingly doubtful, it would be comforting to know that its recreation (here or elsewhere) is inevitable. Bridging our consciousness to that of others (however distant) would be a heckuva bonus --don't you agree?

Thus, what follows.

4/10/2016: * 21 young people (ages 8 to 19) walked into history last week by going up the steps of a Eugene (Oregon) federal courthouse. Their lawsuit: kids (along with climate scientist Dr. James Hansen) wanting a future --versus government, was ruled valid by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin --rejecting objections by a considerable array of defendants that this legal action would be (oh dear!) "bad for business".

If successful, it could turn out to be the best opportunity to gin-pole humanity out of the dark ages since the Gutenberg Press. (If you hadn't noticed, it's still pretty damned dark.)

Not only are we carelessly trashing our children's environmental heritage, we've also been mindlessly messing with our kids' genetic heritage You might be aware of a Dr. Busby: a strident fellow who uses coarse public language and wears a silly looking tam hat. He has, of course, much to be angry about --as do we all. Governments and energy corporations have been carelessly releasing radioactive isotopes into the environment since the Manhattan Project. (Google up his statement/paper: "It's Not Just Cancer" at Counterpunch.)

And It's Not Just Radiation  --or that loathsome "company man" mentality of well kept scientists who stuff their white shirts and lab coats. It's a general cultural malaise which permits respectability for all those stuffed shirts --often in the face of common sense and factual refute.

~~~~~~~A court win for the kids could result in a far reaching precedent.

(What follows is my picking up on the above with some old refrains --and it has nothing to do with any notions of pasty-faced "racial" superiorities.)

Remember the old right winger refrain about "the rights of the unborn"? I've long wanted to cram that one right back down their throats. Some day --if this era's civilization survives, or if a better one follows, there'll be a permanent commission which really does advocate for and advance the "rights of the unborn" --protecting the little ones who are now voiceless in our discussions, and for whom some of us so casually presume to speak.

Babies need qualified, professional advocacy --that they should come into this world by considered and responsible intention, that to the best of our efforts^ they arrive healthy, whole, wanted, loved, provided for --into an uncrowded world --one that's not running out of air, water and decent places to live --into community settings designed for their safety and development. (To some extent, this can at least be personally gained and modeled within "intentional community".)

^ Let us not mix definitions, confuse emotions with logic, or allow (no doubt well intentioned) fellow victims of our cultural mind sets --to stopper our mouths and our thinking --by broaching that taboo word "eugenics", quickly followed (of course) by "Nazi". It's simply cruel and senseless that a heritable disease or serious defect is allowed to be passed on to a new generation. Human sensitivity and reason alone should be enough to stop it, without recourse to (say) "wrongful birth" lawsuits on behalf of stricken children.

* The legal system and the force of law isn't the best route for challenging folks to try on some common sense for fit. For that purpose, progressives badly need more music, poetry --and leadership with a spiritual component^^.

(^^In ancient times, "seers", muses, oracles and gods spoke to us in poetically metered cadences. Attic Greek and "Linear B" is understood to have been quite "tonal", the text remaining to us being diacritically marked as to pitch, so this speech probably sounded song-like as well.)

4/8/2016: In the most recent issue of Nature (magazine) we're once again reminded that the root material problem of humanity is our own fecundity. Senior author Elizabeth Hadly describes us as an "invasive species". Since we have cultural advantages and better tools, we're able to leverage the environment --far beyond what limits the advance of other creatures. The more we're able to gin up our numbers, the more scarce become the resources (energy, clean water and air, fertile land, carbon sinks), the more fragile becomes the infrastructure (continental and international shipping) which sustains us. Let one component get interrupted and our "house of cards" falls.

1/18/2016: Topics of "community" were once on my main web pages and were my main personal pursuit, but size-wise and update-wise, the largest efforts of late have been going into my amateur astronomy page --and for some time now.

Although I here-and-there encourage (and applaud) others in the pursuit of intentional community and social ideals, my own communitarian/relational failures^ and the dreadful prospects our civilization faces --have persuaded me to personally stand down on community, in favor of the coping strategies to be found on this page. (I'm fair to middling at coping.)

^ I'm just not very "apt", or the best person to defend and advance these issues.

* However: I do want to at least witness --that the quest for and the enjoyment of community, peace, place, belonging and identity --is essential to being fully human. The spiritual hunger of loneliness/aloneness, unanswered by the grace of others, erodes the social animal which is our archetype. Such grace is born of empathy, and empathy is primal to a fully realized social creature.

I feel this to be more than a matter of my own assertions and belief. These are things that a whole human being simply is, simply knows, and is resonantly drawn to.

* I thank the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard C. Cutler for reminding me to so witness --through their: "The Art of Happiness In A Troubled World" (which, I gather, is humanizing/socializing the expression of Buddhism and psychiatry).

* Fukushima Daiichi's Tepco is, of course, a symptom of how inappropriate the technologies of our infrastructure have become, how badly civilization muddles along, identifies authority, concedes prerogatives of ownership, and selects its leadership (our "deciders", as GW put it). Not only on account of poisoning our oceanic food chain, from the plankton on  up, but for a host of dreadful, corporate capitalism and over-population driven reasons. It's time to check our "knee-jerk" group-think (both in its "liberal" and "conservative" versions), then get real about optimizing what circumstances we might, and coping with what's beyond our reach.

"Realistically", my efforts will go nowhere and civilization will face its catastrophes with little or no meaningful preparation --but I want to have at least done some "due diligence" here (this page, our buried tiles). Moreover, I want to offer what sympathy, companionship and comfort --that my words-in-a-row here might afford you.

We need not only a --very different political movement, but many and diverse initiatives by individuals, small groups and service organizations --some open and public; some personal and private, a few dedicated, modern, "monastic" groups would be nice; reclusive and secret groups are probably also in order --if only to cope with and cope through perilous times.

* But let's keep this precious present moment of ours in perspective.

    ~ Even in a perfected world community, we'll all pass away as individuals, so what we're concerned with is conserving what's worthwhile from our heritage and contributions --if not as part of a cultural continuum, then at least through our best efforts to bridge the best of it into a hoped for future (however distant).

    ~ This won't be the first time humanity has bridged over the darkness, from one empire and era to the next, and it might not be the first time intelligent life on Earth has tried to do so --and failed.

* While it's certainly our duty to bear some witness and warn against the catastrophes which loom ahead, let's not lose a bunch of our personal time and effort in waiting for the bulk of society to figure that out. The general populace can absorb terrible conditions, morbidity and death --while their leadership minimizes, covers up and denies "inconvenient truths". In the time it takes for consequences, scourges and awareness to reach our society's "deciders" and opinion makers, let's not allow valuable opportunities (and our own simple pleasures) to have escaped our grasp.

* But relax as we might, stress only as we must. Our culture, without your efforts or mine, is unlikely to be totally lost --given all the durable detritus we're leaving behind, plus the many mementos we've buried and launched into space.


What we can and should add to that, individually and collectively, are humanly "warm" things:  greetings, heart felt apologies, encouragement for our inheritors' struggles, and our own personal "neediness" --of our successors' grace  --that we might be taken in, held, and kept in living memory. Such spiritual hunger is an empowering gift.

* In the meanwhile, there's a chance (very slim) that we could get lucky --in that a visible, "concrete", time capsuling effort (or something like it) could capture the attention of interested others --that a fashionable "VIP" or influential group might take notice. --And when it comes to fashion, the world can "turn on a dime". A popular celebrity, saying the right words at the right time, especially given the considerable existing discontent and skepticism about government, corporations corruption and lies in general --could initiate a tidal wave of change.

* Whatever's in store for us, there'll very likely be survivors and an eventual recovery --and one that's a lot less energy happy (since we'll have used up most of the easy to tap fossil fuel --*urp*).

* Note well that our biosphere extends miles down into the Earth and its oceans. It has already recovered from some gawdawful "extinction level events". Even though people haven't been around for very long, we too have managed to survive catastrophes: asteroid hits, years of endless winter, ice ages, many (humanly long) periods of cosmic radiation bombardment, the "dark ages" (still upon us, IMHO), and tyrants without end.

** My wife and I once watched a Dr. Andrew Weil video. He spoke of leaving a spiritual legacy to our survivors, citing a Jewish tradition of the "ethical will", and suggesting it as an appropriate rite of passage to undertake in one's late maturity. He then more appropriately characterized that formal sounding term as writing a "love letter" to your personal and familial descendants. Of course, today's ethical will might be a more expansive and inclusive document than in the past --amounting, in essence, to our "Time Capsule Tiles" project.

"But first, what is it? An ethical will is a modern incarnation of an ancient patriarchal tradition that men first transmitted orally and later wrote as letters to their sons to pass on their values to the next generation. 'Well,' I thought, entranced when I first learned about the ethical will, 'I, too - mother and ancient hippie feminist - have wisdom, values and love to express to my children and grandchildren.' What I wrote that day is the most important message I have ever written." --Rachael Freed

An excellent expression of this tradition was conducted by Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull, minister (then) of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York --as they prepared to sequester a somewhat conventional, era documenting time capsule to represent their parish and congregation, dedicated to their future generations --per:
May 28, 2000:  "--most of you have heard by now about our Time Capsule. Since the beginning of this year, there has been a committee at work, a high energy, laser-focused team, whose purpose is to document our congregational life as we conclude the 20th century and move into the 21st."
/ --- /
"We gather this morning as ancestors in the making. Just as we build on the lives of those who came before us, we trust that the great family of All Souls [Church] will extend well beyond the boundaries of our lives. On this
Memorial Day Sunday I wonder if a letter is not in order, to share with you this morning and to offer to the Time Capsule --a letter directed to those who will live their lives as the heirs of this beloved community --our grand and
great-grandchildren who we trust will see All Souls well into the 22nd century. Why not?"

"Dear whoever you are: (, scratch that. Highlight. Delete. Start over.) Why not begin like my grandmother began her letters?"

"Dear ones:  //  And dear ones you are. I know you, and you are but seedlings in the womb of this great family of All Souls. Uncertainty is such a staple of the time in which I write, who knows if there will even be a great family of All Souls, let alone an All Souls, New York City, to open this gift of time? We can only hope so."

"It goes so quickly, as my 91-year-old mother told me recently. It's barely the blink of an eye. It's as if we offer our gift of this Time Capsule one day and you open it the next, and in that interval we live our lives and craft the legacy that is yours out of which to craft a legacy for your dear ones."

" I know that not too much will really change, and yet the substance of everything changes. When I was maybe eight or nine I sat on the edge of my bed one morning looking down at my bare feet, at my still child-chubby toes,
and thought that many years hence, when I would have grown into adulthood, in fact, well before then, not only those toes but my entire body would be other than it was at that moment. The cells that formed me would have worn
out their welcome and new cells would have arrived, and this sequence would cycle and re-cycle throughout my lifetime. So what was it, this sense of self, this me, that continued anyway? As I write you, I trust that this fragile thread of who I am, of who we are, will find its way into your lives from ours."

"Just as I am proud of so much that we do through this church, I am also embarrassed and ashamed for so much of what you will undoubtedly contend with that we have left undone, or that we have simply messed up altogether.
In our larger world, Cain is still slaying Abel, brother against brother in so many renditions of that story from Genesis. Ishmael is still the child cast aside, the one of every five children of poverty. All Job's questions still stir within us as we are jarred and wrenched by the harshest of life's surprises. And we are still seeking to understand and practice some facsimile of the gospel of love and compassion."

9/9/2012: Peggy and I had previously decided to post this page again (see next entry) and restart our tiles project, but life has been full of distractions. As before, we don't present it as only a result of our despair about the paths our corporate world is blindly taking, but as a positive and hopeful activity which would be worthy of pursuit, even in an idyllic world. We'll slowly review and revise these pages over time, as we once again get out our clay and tile stamps.

* We have to design and add an extra tile that we'd previously overlooked: one which apologizes for the 250,000 years of radioactive wastes we're leaving behind, and which warns future sentient beings against developing nuclear power. (The tough part is to make all that fit into a 2.5 x 3.5 inch space!)

7/30/2011 (updated 6/3/2013): One of the television serials Peggy and I enjoyed together was: Star Trek, The Next Generation, which is now a human generation old. "ST-TNG" presents us with refreshingly thoughtful and worthwhile morality plays. I'm glad (now) that our busy lives made us miss most of the series, as that left so many good cookies "still in the box" --via DVDs, purchased and from our good local libraries.

One memorable evening we watched "The Chase" from 1993 (episode 20, season 6; or "Episode 146", and see:

> )

--which reminded us of our unsatisfactorily "completed" "Time Capsule Tiles" project. Straight away, Peggy urged that we resume it, along with some fresh ideas for TCT placements. (We need to place our long-haul tiles into geologically stable locations.) Despite our previous and lengthy outreach efforts, most of the tiles we've produced have been buried, sequestered, or otherwise placed --up and down the the west coast, which is unfit for the really long term time capsuling we're trying for.

* It's interesting that the gloom and doom of our times has not been sufficient to motivate a new beginning --that it took the positive inspiration of ST-TNG's "The Chase" to crank us up again. A better effort should come of that.

(Much earlier writ follows, with some updates)

* We've enjoyed a small but generous audience and good feedback, thanks to friends, friends of friends and the immediate community.  The City of North Bend accepted a set of our tiles for inclusion in its own time capsule to mark the City's 150th anniversary (1859 - 2009). However, and despite a great deal of outreach (such as well over 100 postal letters and a multitude of emails, many to U-U fellowships and ceramics groups), we've gotten almost no traction or even responses, and nothing from east of the Cascades --with one exception: a nice couple who are building the intentional community "Solstice Dawn". They troubled to visit us and take home a package of our tiles to Nebraska --which is a nicely geologically stable part of the United States.

It seems odd that timecapsuling is now such a hard-sell (for me, anyway), only a decade after the time capsule craze going into Y2K. I thought that the advent of the hyped year of 2012 (end-of-time Mayan Calendar, etc.) would result in another such go-round, but people seem to favor virtual/cyber over physical activities. I'm trying to interest the community which monitors and prepares the growing disaster in Fukushima --in making tiles as a way to help cope, while Peggy attempts to interest the arts community that she's a part of.

** Should our mailings and other media have brought you here with a kind offer to accept a package or our tiles --thank you! We'll gladly send you a package when the new tiles are ready.

Field Up-dates:

* In the course of burying our own tiles (we so often "learn by doing"), I realized what would be an excellent "marker", and one which would stay on the surface: plant life. The trick is to choose a self-renewing, persistent, non-indigenous species, such as has often revealed the location of long vanished homesteads. You don't want to be planting state listed "noxious weeds", so find something that works in your region, won't be the subject of an eradication program, and is hopefully beautiful and/or of food value. We chose "Egyptian (walking) Onions", even though they're likely to spread too much. When harvested in the short term, the roots/bulbs will likely bring up our package --which is okay.

* In the mid term, the magnetized 6 inch galvanized spike we're including might trip a metal locator or magnetometer. In the long term, it's up to luck --and whatever visible trace of the spike and package might be noticed when digging in the area (perhaps to cultivate and harvest a large field of wild onions).

* We're doing shallow burials now --just under the sod, since our packages of tiles will keep sinking.

Positive notes:

* "Time Capsule Tiles" and "Transcendence Ceramics" has actually been a thing of optimism and hope. While it's with heavy hearts that we watch civilization lose its way, the point of this project is to look beyond our failures, to imagine, and bridge to a better future --and such imagining is actually the first step toward such a new reality.

* To judge by the ability of biological life to recover and diversify, in the unlikely event that humanity gets completely wiped out, sentient, civilized life will eventually re-establish and right itself. My suspicion is that life is hard wired to get there through our DNA. Possibly, a destination of consciousness is explicit at the atomic level.

Humans are a pretty tough part of the biosphere as well and we need to find hope in the fact that concepts of love, grace and justice have made it through dreadful periods in the past. Although the "dark ages" were nothing like the die-off which awaits us, although we have so much further to fall (from the heights of our high population, technical development and the great hopes we so recently held out for human progress), at least "next time" (the next recovery/renaisance --perhaps among the next sentient species), we'll have lessons from the past, much to pick over and think about, from among the ruins.

* A determining factor for the future is that we'll have pretty much spent the world's reserves of easily tapped fossil fuel energy, which is a positive thing (yes) --and which, alone, might prevent our planet from ever again becoming so obscenely overpopulated and polluted.

* Perhaps the most positive note is the possibility that, as conditions deteriorate, people will likely become more spiritual --or "religious" (please: I mean it in the best, socially coherent sense of that word). Such "death bed conversions" are more than just a coping mechanism, and religious behaviors can be much more than misdirected spirituality and regimented thinking. In losing nearly everything, without the encumbrances of our false prosperity and "techno-tronic" claptrap (an Eric Fromm term), there's an opportunity to see each other and ourselves more clearly and more simply as the needy social creatures that we really are. We might at last be open to each other's grace. The art of living during this period will be to build upon such social-spiritual insights and to nail down "lessons learned" --lessons of the heart.

Time Capsuling

From the Long Now Foundation and from Googling up a patchy little education about modern geological awareness, I've been persuaded of how difficult it is to place time capsules such that they stand a chance of connecting with a future more than (say) 10,000 years off. We should try, of course, but just as time capsuling is itself a "plan B" hedge against the likelihood of our civilization failing, time capsule jumps of 10,000 years or less are a hedge against the likelihood of more ambitious projects failing.

* If you decide to make tiles --or somehow scribe finished commercial tiles (floor tiles are the most durable), keep or make them small. Large tiles break easier and are harder to bury or otherwise inter. Our last batches measured about 2-1/2" x 3-1/2", which easily drop down a post hole, wrapped in a layer of copper sponge (an unrolled kitchen scouring pad) for temporary mechanical protection. (We stopped using glass wool. Although it's ideally durable, the finders might not appreciate that it's a health nuisance.)

* If you try to write upon or ink-stamp your tiles (say: with genuine laundry marker ink), the tiles should be light complected and have a mat-like surface texture to hold the ink.

See below for information on making your own tiles, in which case you can skip the ink trip and press your stamps directly into the soft clay --and that's an impression which is forever. (Your town might well have a pottery club or class to not only assist you, but also to fire your finished tiles.)

* While I've gotten acceptable results at up 20 characters per line inch and 6 to 8 lines per vertical inch when doing soft clay impressions, 12 to 15 characters per horizontal line inch is what you want to aim for.

* That means you're not going to have much space in which to make a statement --plus: you want to speak in plain, basic English terms as much as possible. (When one really speaks from the heart, I like to think it comes out that way.)


The Long Now Foundation, based in San Francisco and Stanford has the basics of language preservation well in hand --per:

Assuming that Long Now's contributions and other clues/remnants about our languages make the trip, the rest of us need only support Long Now and otherwise concern ourselves with particular social and spiritual messages --perhaps something akin to messages on the "Georgia Guide Stones" (see:

Our culture has this cult-of-individualism thing about having to be "different" and "original", but if someone else has eloquently articulated what's in my heart, I simply quote those words.

An idea whose time briefly came:

* "Timecapsuling" became a portentous trend, especially since the end of World War Two and leading up to "Y2K". It peaked at the turn of the millennium with a reported 50,000 durable, direct burial containers being sold, some costing $5000. Here's a typical time capsule company:

The Time Capsule Artifact --should be made of:

The only materials I can think of are ceramics and relatively inert metals like lead, stainless steel, platinum, and gold. Lead is hazardous and the other metals are too valuable, too likely to be melted down or hammered out. However, a ceramic item, especially if it's too small for construction, fairly pretty and/or interesting, might be kept and taken care of for its own sake. It's likely to get hoarded into yet another hiding place --even if not at all understood.

Before switching to copper mesh, we wrapped our small tiles in fiberglass bats for mechanical protection, secured them with copper or bronze wire (stainless steel wire does poorly in the ground or under water), and interred them with a tethered marker consisting of a Cupro-nickle Jefferson five cent coin near the surface.  A foot long steel rod or shelf bracket (which reaches close to the surface) is sometimes included as a clue for finding our package with magnetic anomaly detection gear. (Click *here* for our tile/capsule content)


Just what to do with your TCT package is the toughest issue to resolve (assuming one already knows what to place on a Time Capsule Tile and why to bother doing so).

* Our coastal areas are very unstable, what with volcanism, tectonic plate pile ups and subduction, tsunamis, a rising ocean; the normal attrition due to riparian run-off, ground water effusion, storms and wave action. Most of the coastal area where I live is less than 10,000 years old. (Unfortunately, we failed to interest anyone in the midwest to help place our tiles, so we're burying them in this region anyway.)

* Much of the "craton" --the old, original North American tectonic plate which has been bouncing around the world for millions of years, gets glaciated during periods longer than 10,000 years. The southern part of the craton, which extends as far as Texas, hasn't been glaciated in a long time, but go back far enough (according to the latest theories) and not only has the craton turned 90 degrees, but there've been big geodetic pole shifts --!-- (as distinct from the many magnetic polar shifts).

I'm sure that a student of earth sciences could pick a spot for us (and this be her/his invitation) which would be stable for 100,000 years, but 10,000 or so is the best I can come up with in the United States --and that opens up a lot of terrain. The Long Now Foundation thinks that the best bet (for 10,000 years) is a cave, high up on a mountain. Mountain caves are a Biblical place of short term refuge and for good reason.

Although Long Now's cave (they own 180 acres around their mountain location) has walls of chalk or limestone, meaning it was a sea bed at one time, the location is considered geologically stable for at least the next ten millennia. You can find ancient fish fossils in the mountains of eastern Oregon (my state), but they might be worth looking into (so to speak :-) for shorter (thousands of years) time spans as well.

* Another possibility is to ship our tiles for interment in a place like Australia's "Ayers Rock": a formation which has been stable for a half billion years. (Ayers Rock is itself protected from such non-native access.)

*Click here* to bring up a set of geology maps for long term time capsuling.

* David (a member of our amateur astronomy group) added more protective wrappings to the glass wool around his tiles and placed the package into a local landfill. His reasoning is that at some point in the future, today's landfills will be mined for the stuff we've thrown away: metals, plastics (and other petroleum based products), perhaps even to recover cultural and historical information about our era.

Perhaps such waste landfills will remain distinctive features for a long time to come, due to out-gassing, giving off heat, sinkage, electrical magnetic & density anomalies, pollutant run-off, oils and solvents rising to the surface when flooded, poisoned and deformed wildlife, enhanced vegetation growth (perhaps of unusual plant species), and an on-going oral history about strange old things being found.

Never give up on our society (completely):

*** Even though a poor outcome for our era seems certain now, we owe it to our heritage and ourselves to advocate for "Plan A" living and civic solutions: cultural changes, population control, peace initiatives, sane political parties and candidates, noble intentional community efforts ("just do it"), and especially for those inter-personal social alternatives which could build an every-day life of intimate caring and keeping --something which we're now hardly able to even fantasize.

When we die:

Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael" is a socially good book (though I'd have edited it down quite a bit). Its story divides the world into "takers" and "leavers". While people are made up of both components, I think that's a pretty good way to sort ourselves out as to what's predominant.

Even if our nation/society somehow gets through what lies ahead and ends up being that imagined beacon to the world, all the "I"s that make up "we" are still going to die as individuals. Whether we can be at peace with our mortality when our time comes depends a lot on how much we've been able to leave, whether our bequests have been well received, and whether we've individually and collectively managed to improve the chances of there being some kind of a future and a chance for cultural continuity.

So, far from neglecting traditional "died and gone to heaven" stuff here, I'm proposing that the social (not "secular" --which I find a vain and distancing term) --that the social "we" is how salvation actually works. To the extent that we've lived in a state of mutual grace and caring communion, what we've shared and held in common will endure. We'll then, at least, have not stood in the way of our own salvation.

I'm not very good at it, but I'm attempting to talk about ministry: to ourselves and to others. Tolstoy said: "the Kingdom of God is within you" --a heavy responsibility! Humble though it may be, the light (of communion) within us might at some point become the last chance for someone to glimpse it --someone who our life touches; and long from now, perhaps the messenger of our tiles will carry a bit of nourishing grace to a hungry soul.

Why Time Capsuling? Why This Project?

* "The stage is now set for direct competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles, and the world's 2 billion poorest people." --Lester Brown from the Earth Policy Institute speaking at a briefing to the US Senate, per:

* From:

CORN-BASED ETHANOL ADDS TO GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: In -- 12 months, the global corn price -- doubled. Because corn is the most common animal feed, this affects the price of milk, cheese, eggs, meat, as well as corn-based sweeteners and cereals. In the U.S., milk prices -- nearly doubled. Butter prices in Europe -- spiked by 40%. Pork prices in China [went] up 20%. In Mexico there [were] riots in response to a 60% rise in the cost of tortillas. / In six of -- seven [recent] years, global grain consumption -- exceeded production. As a result, world grain reserves -- dwindled to 57 days [at one point]. This [was] the lowest level of grain reserves in 34 years. [At a time when] the UN [listed] 34 countries as needing food aid, 30% of next year's grain harvest in the U.S. [was to be] converted to ethanol to fuel cars.


This book articulates and documents most of our laments. Although depressing, finding a kindred spirit and awareness like Berman's is the essence of community (through literature) and the essence of our time capsule tiles project --a way to cope with and transcend defeat in our era, the "blessing -- of knowing each other".

We're afflicted with a "cult of individualism". When we speak of "civil rights" and "freedom of expression", it is, of course, the individual we think of, even though we're unable to fully realize and express ourselves except in community and in conversation with our personal others (if only in one's imagination).  Berman examines this growing aspect of our culture in terms of the "tribal" --meaning a life wherein the individual's life is very much his/her community's business, versus the secular liberal democracy in which we live.

I like to think that later on in our social-spiritual evolution (or that of our inheritors) an easy, "indiscriminate" empathy will obtain, making things like "getting ahead" and "the profit motive" a big "huh?". But for the current era, we'll have to hobble along with but trace amounts of such spirituality to sustain us.

It's unfortunately "normal" (circa 2006) for the advantaged (by virtue of strength, birth, wealth, looks, intelligence, --lack of scruples) to leverage and exploit those advantages such that I can make my "others" subordinate: willing to trade (say) several hours of their time for only one of mine --as we bargain for goods and services.

Adam Smith cautioned^ that consortiums of well placed, advantaged people tend to maintain and even create situations of necessity, addiction, and above all: scarcity --if only of one's own personal favors. When an option for ending scarcity arises (proposed or in fact), the comfortably advantaged will deride and stamp it out, using some convenient pretext.

Addictions are paired. The larger groups --needy addicts, are paired with smaller groups: the addictors --predators who've grown accustomed to an easy living by managing the lives of the less advantaged and keeping them profitably needy. (Unfettered population growth is, of course, the best driver of scarcity.)

Unchecked and unenlightened, the institutions of civilization will succumb to such systems of alienating "advantage", building a body of laws and customs around the basics: food, medicines, education, intimacy, pleasurable and pain relieving substances --such that supply competition is minimized and pricing is stiff. The disadvantaged then experience the "market discipline" to work harder in order to purchase what is needed. The most manageably crimped society is one in which most everyone feels that they have some precious crumb of an advantage, favoritism, some kind of a chance in the lottery, and/or who dwell in states of petty illegality --sufficient to keep them quiet.

^Adam Smith's contention that "People of the same trade seldom meet together but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices" is considered "human nature", a term which is nearly always used in a pejorative sense. We might call this state of affairs "capitalism". --No, not theoretical "free market capitalism", but capitalism as it's usually pursued: "cornering the market", gaining a monopoly, bullying, buying/pedling influence, rewriting the rules to advantage yourself.

Yet: compassion, justice and equity are also human concepts. They reside no where else but in this same human nature of ours --or are attributed to that human concept of a God or Goddess.

Again: what's basically wrong are our unexamined notions of individualism --and the distances we have to maintain among us in order not to see/feel the negative consequences of our behaviors. By turns we act charitably, then self-agrandisingly competitive, despite our (United States) society having a dominant (Christian) religion which, in principle at least, instructs us to share all and be compassionate.

Individuals who imagine themselves to be "self made" or see a lonely "rugged individualism" as an ideal, have to live with and justify being a distortion of the "social animal" we're really supposed to be. Living outside of a state of mutual (social) grace and remaining willfully ignorant of its blessings is, in my opinion, a sure bet for developing mental illness, individually and collectively.

Many and better people than I have made such statements. John Gray tried to help supporters of the (United States) Republican Party see themselves, by writing his "Day In the Life --" piece (linked below).

Others have spoken most eloquently about our lonely want of a shared soul.

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try,
No hell below us, above us only sky,
Imagine all the people, living for today.
Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too,
Imagine all the people, living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.

Plan B
(A few updates here: July 30th, 2015)

My "Plan B" attempts to face catastrophe (which seems to be assured) while remaining human --by facing it together --or (at least) in a felt "solidarity" with possible future inheritors of the Earth and, possibly, conservators of whatever we can transmit about our culture. This is partly about the practical considerations of contriving ways to send some worthy part of our essence to those inheritors via archived messages in "time capsules" --love notes in a bottle, cast upon the sea of time.

First, the dismal part: it's not likely that we're going to make it this time around as a civilization (and see *here*). There will probably be a terrible "die-off", and then a new edition of "the dark ages", perhaps after some sort of an environmental-social catastrophe over-turns our precariously stacked "apple cart".

But: I really am trying to be positive about how best to cope and play the hand we're being dealt. We should be able to hold and comfort each other in the meantime, do our civic duty to forestall the catastrophe and send "life boats" through it, while also doing our best to leave helpful thoughts, warm greetings and remembrances onto that "next time around" --however distant.

To do our small part towards that goal, my wife and I have produced ceramic tiles with over a dozen messages. These "time capsule tiles" are meant to survive at least 10,000 years, which precludes inks, paper, plastics, and low fire ceramics. These simple messages have been fired to the point of durable vitrification (3 to 5% porosity), and directly interred with a bit of mechanical cushioning/padding (which will eventually get replaced with soil/sand).

Again: the prospects for such a package to survive much more than 10,000 years are not good.  We've come to realize how dynamic and impermanent nearly all of the Earth's terrain is.  A time capsule is liable to get buried by watery sediment, the forest's "carbon cycle", subducted by the "rock cycle", melted and blended with volcanic basalt, or turned into a pathetic smear at the base of a moving glacier. Let's trust that a new and better civilization will have emerged long before that much time passes.

We originally tried to make our tiles pretty with carefully selected glazes and decoration such that they'd be kept and preserved if found by uncultured, incurious peoples. However, after determining that our messages would be far more durable as simple impressions, and that glazes presented problems without adding protection, our tiles now look much more like those classic cuneiform marked clay tablets which turn up from the remote past.

* We're all going to die anyway, but only as individuals. Under normal circumstances we'd be "okay" with such a death, as long as we're able to imagine that family, community, society, and civilization will continue on, that what we've conserved and added to this life will somehow benefit our collective future. For me, the hope that "my kind" might be remembered and referenced by distant inheritors also amounts to a kind of "salvation".

Time capsules are not enough, of course, but providing some kind of a bridge to some kind of a posterity, will have to do.  Assuming that our efforts to provide a living memory succeed, the greatest loss to us isn't that our individual lives will come to a close, but that communion in true, personal community (aka: "heaven on Earth") will remain unknown to nearly everyone in the here-and-now. (I keenly regret my failed attempts to realize "intentional community" over the past 40 years. If you're still young enough, do yourself the favor of looking into Web venues like:

--for that place where our paths through the wilderness converge: the fabled "valley of love and delight".)

Meanwhile, back at Plan B:

Looking Beyond Our Failure To Control Growth
(partially updated: 8/14/2010 --revision #15b)
What time is it --really?

These words-in-a-row would have come out much better between us, had they been the product of give and take correspondence.

There have been marked increases in global warming and pollution effects, but I think it's clear that the dominant/ruling and ever so pervasive culture of our society has learned almost nothing of consequence from those portentous, population driven run-ups. I've pretty much given up hope of our getting any traction about growth issues --or anything else.

It was hard for me to accept that most folks who fight the good fights, variously advocating for better stewardship of our planet, can go no further than such pathetic measures as high density developments and emissions controls --which measures will only serve to make our hour of Gaian atonement that much more catastrophic. There's an across the political spectrum endorsement of growth, jobs, population, consumption, and GDP which carries over into time-honored "progressive" political slogans, speech, and mindsets. Nearly every city council serves in search of more ways to "grow ourselves out of our problems".

Life boats: Since there appears to be no preventing the consequences of continuous growth (a new edition of the dark ages with eco-horrible oak leaf clusters), I suggest that we start preparing for such miserable outcomes and figure out how we might (generationally) cope our way through it all. This will likely be a long term social process, ultimately requiring centuries of planning, quiet wisdom, wily survival skills, enduring calm, strong self-knowledge/identities, and unshakable community among those who would so persevere.

But why re-invent wheels? The human spirit has triumphed over long periods of darkness in the past, so let's study what worked and how it was done.

Our period in history is now closing on the end of an --at times-- hopeful era that most recently got restarted with the Renaissance. While we're going to need a lot of independent innovation to complete the human social journey, it's best not to leave notions of cultural hibernation (ie: what measures might accomplish the survival of civilization as both living and dormant spore) --entirely to amateurism.

** Peg and I would like to see the development of a new family of formal studies which would expand the concept of "permaculture" to include humanity --and its eventual recovery.

(There's a remote chance that, seeing the advent of such dark and pessimistic disciplines as credible degree programs, the general populace and it's turn with the wind "leadership" would come to grips with the gravity of our situation.)

8/27/06> Hey: life, hope, culture, and Love will go on --or eventually return. I believe that the great Gaian genome is hard wired for that.


* The potentially most effective approach toward an effective "population policy" (aka: efforts toward population control) that I've seen suggested would be a program of "meeting folks where they're at" --by pointing out the birth through high school graduation cost of bringing up a child. In the United States, it amounts to an average of about $250,000.00^ --an amount some might otherwise choose to spend on (say) dozens of overseas vacations, early retirement, a private plane, an exotic automobile, or a high maintenance mistress.

^ $330,000, assuming today's rate of inflation, and add on about 25% if it's an only child.

* Only a few people will get into my presentation here --those who already basically agree with it {hug}. I expect that most folks won't become mindful of the inevitable tragedy until a massive "die-off" is well under way.

* However: when that turmoil is upon us and for whatever triage and salvage might then be possible, it will be invaluable that a few people had at least laid down some anticipation and understanding of why it all came about.

While many population experts have predicted stability at a world population of about 11 billion (meaning a grinding state of existence and attrition, in which deaths = births), nature (left unchecked) is cyclic: sinusoidal at best, catastrophic at worst. Instead of slowly stalling out at 11 billion (that black curve in the next graph), a significant downturn is more likely, followed by oscillations (the blue curve) around some "limit" (based on the carrying capacity of the planet --times a factor for the over-all industrial efficiency applied to exploiting its remaining resources).

* Most likely: civilization will crash. I side with those who think that the first die-off will be deep and bleak, since a limit of 11 billion (or whatever) assumes way too much: that mechanized and chemicalized agriculture will endure, that mass transportation and the (profits motivated) orderly distribution of food stuffs (and other resources) will continue, that the petroleum which powers all this activity, will keep flowing to where it's socially needed.

I think you know better.

I suspect we'll go back to "subsistence agriculture" (locally grown and consumed food) at best. While some have estimated that long-term industrial agriculture is (just) sustainable at 2 billion people, modern, regional, organized, peace time subsistence agriculture might only support 10% of that, with lower, medieval type population levels more likely (the red curve).

Assuming there's first a long period of anarchy and bedlam, then war lords and feudalism, we can anticipate a "hunter-gatherer-plunderer stage of social development that would sustain only several tens of millions worldwide, mitigated only by isolated pockets of whatever passes for civilization, culture, and agriculture.

Published on Wednesday, December 21, 2005 by the Guardian/UK

A Risk of Total Collapse:

"We would be foolish to take for granted the permanence of our fragile global civilization"
--by Dylan Evans

Is it possible that global civilization might collapse within our lifetime or that of our children? Until recently, such an idea was the preserve of lunatics and cults. In the past few years, however, an increasing number of intelligent and credible people have been warning that global collapse is a genuine possibility. And many of these are sober scientists, including Lord May, David King and Jared Diamond - people not usually given to exaggeration or drama.

The new doomsayers all point to the same collection of threats - climate change, resource depletion and population imbalances being the most important. What makes them especially afraid is that many of these dangers are interrelated, with one tending to exacerbate the others. It is necessary to tackle them all at once if we are to have any chance of avoiding global collapse, they warn. {end quote}

We progressives, "cultural creatives", the socially motivated, want to be well (if quietly) represented among the survivors. If the aftermath is to be a long-lasting period of darkness, hey: we might need several hundred years for planning and background work --in order to turn that vestige of an obtusely ignorant society around --in order to "get it right" --"next time".

Think about how long "growth is good" has been an integral part of our language and culture.

* Traditional religionists have been counseling us to be fruitful for thousands of years --and that "God will provide".

* Free marketeers and capitalists assure us there's no population problem, and no other problem --that
unbridled opportunism, greed, individualism and the invisible hand of Adam Smith --can't put to rights.

* It's been the wisdom of the political left for over 100 years that we need only tend to the redistribution of our collective wealth. Their take on birth control and "population policy" has long been that it's gotta be some kind of a right wing genocidal plot.

* Trade, guild, and booster business groups naturally combine to foster the growth (control and acquisition) of "markets", becoming inimical to any kind of population control.

* New agers, ecologists and "sustained development"-alists prescribe doing more with less and less --until we're taking turns breathing and growing vegetables in our hair.


One of the liberal assumptions we (most of us) have labored under is democracy --at least the representative facsimile we celebrate as a republic. But to survive and blossom as a culture, and considering how unmindful of our Constitutional heritage, and how easily bamboozled the voting public has shown itself to be, our conceptions about democracy will have to change, and change forever. In all humanity, honesty, and social good will, I think we'll be compelled to reexamine how community and society should be constituted and franchised: who "rules" and how it's to be gone about.

* Don't you have to admit that how we've so far gone about the business of governance is ending up a pathetic failure?

Surely, you also agree that to make this re-examination come out right, a good start would be to redefine the "self" as more of a social creature and less of an autonomous individual.

No: I'm not promoting subordination of the individual. My quest runs more along the lines of "Quaker meeting", appropriate humility, interpersonal spirituality, a positive (and erotic) connection with life.

During the darkness which is likely to come, we'll need each other and we'll also need leadership --with dogged integrity, patience, prudence, the ability to creatively solve problems, and avoid trouble. Through both formal studies and local initiatives, it's time to start designing and cultivating the kinds of portable community which can adapt to the exigencies of the near future, yet still conserve and realize the promise of the human spirit --when we finally emerge into the climax civilization of a distant future.

No: I'm not suggesting that today's people should "live for the future", but that we should live as if there's a future --and assume that we can be an integral part of it --in the now.

I'm imagining "intentional community" groups who would prepare themselves (as families, associations, and communities/tribes), preserve what's socially relevant from our vast culture/history, and learn how to strengthen the human bonds --which make community, civilization, and social continuity possible. Perhaps something along these lines can be initiated through the resources of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (at:

> ).

Just being a part of the discussion stage --would be to know a measure of such meaning, continuity and social salvation.

"There is an almost sensual longing for communion with others who have a larger vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendships between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality almost impossible to describe." -Teilhard de Chardin

(Thanks to

Professor Lovelock: "The Point of No Return is Behind Us"

Thirty years ago, the scientist James Lovelock worked out that the Earth possessed a planetary scale control system which kept the environment fit for life. He called it Gaia, and the theory has become widely accepted. Now, he believes mankind's abuse of the environment is making that mechanism work against us. His astonishing conclusion - that climate change is already insoluble, and life on Earth will never be the same again.

From: The Independent (U.K.) Jan. 16, 2006:

The world has already passed the point of no return for climate change, and civilization as we know it is now unlikely to survive, according to James Lovelock, the scientist and green guru who conceived the idea of Gaia - the Earth which keeps itself fit for life.

In a profoundly pessimistic new assessment, published in today's Independent, Professor Lovelock suggests that efforts to counter global warming cannot succeed, and that, in effect, it is already too late.

The world and human society face disaster to a worse extent, and on a faster time scale, than almost anybody realizes, he believes. He writes: " Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

In making such a statement, far gloomier than any yet made by a scientist of comparable international standing, Professor Lovelock accepts he is going out on a limb. But as the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on Earth since Charles Darwin, he feels his own analysis of what is happening leaves him no choice. He believes that it is the self-regulating mechanism of Gaia itself - increasingly accepted by other scientists worldwide, although they prefer to term it the Earth System - which, perversely, will ensure that the warming cannot be mastered.

This is because the system contains myriad feedback mechanisms which in the past have acted in concert to keep the Earth much cooler than it otherwise would be. Now, however, they will come together to amplify the warming being caused by human activities such as transport and industry through huge emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2 ).

It means that the harmful consequences of human beings damaging the living planet's ancient regulatory system will be non-linear - in other words, likely to accelerate uncontrollably.

He terms this phenomenon "The Revenge of Gaia" and examines it in detail in a new book with that title, to be published next month.

The uniqueness of the Lovelock viewpoint is that it is holistic, rather than reductionist. Although he is a committed supporter of current research into climate change, especially at Britain's Hadley Centre, he is not looking at individual facets of how the climate behaves, as other scientists inevitably are. Rather, he is looking at how the whole control system of the Earth behaves when put under stress.

Professor Lovelock, who conceived the idea of Gaia in the 1970s while examining the possibility of life on Mars for Nasa in the US, has been warning of the dangers of climate change since major concerns about it first began nearly 20 years ago.

He was one of a select group of scientists who gave an initial briefing on global warming to Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet at 10 Downing Street in April 1989.

His concerns have increased steadily since then, as evidence of a warming climate has mounted. For example, he shared the alarm of many scientists at the news last September that the ice covering the Arctic Ocean is now melting so fast that in 2005 it reached a historic low point.

Two years ago he sparked a major controversy with an article in The Independent calling on environmentalists to drop their long-standing opposition to nuclear power, which does not produce the greenhouses gases of conventional power stations.

Global warming was proceeding so fast that only a major expansion of nuclear power could bring it under control, he said. Most of the Green movement roundly rejected his call, and does so still.

Now his concerns have reached a peak - and have a new emphasis. Rather than calling for further ways of countering climate change, he is calling on governments in Britain and elsewhere to begin large scale preparations for surviving what he now sees as inevitable - in his own phrase today, "a hell of a climate", likely to be in Europe up to 8C hotter than it is today.

In his book's concluding chapter, he writes: "What should a sensible European government be doing now? I think we have little option but to prepare for the worst, and assume that we have passed the threshold."

And in today's Independent he writes: "We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of [CO2] emissions. The worst will happen ..."

He goes on: "We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realize how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilization for as long as they can." He believes that the world's governments should plan to secure energy and food supplies in the global hothouse, and defenses against the expected rise in sea levels. The scientist's vision of what human society may ultimately be reduced to through climate change is " a broken rabble led by brutal warlords."

Professor Lovelock draws attention to one aspect of the warming threat in particular, which is that the expected temperature rise is currently being held back artificially by a global aerosol - a layer of dust in the atmosphere right around the planet's northern hemisphere - which is the product of the world's industry.

This shields us from some of the sun's radiation in a phenomenon which is known as "global dimming" and is thought to be holding the global temperature down by several degrees. But with a severe industrial downturn, the aerosol could fall out of the atmosphere in a very short time, and the global temperature could take a sudden enormous leap upwards.

One of the most striking ideas in his book is that of "a guidebook for global warming survivors" aimed at the humans who would still be struggling to exist after a total societal collapse.

Written, not in electronic form, but "on durable paper with long-lasting print", it would contain the basic accumulated scientific knowledge of humanity, much of it utterly taken for granted by us now, but originally won only after a hard struggle - such as our place in the solar system, or the fact that bacteria and viruses cause infectious diseases.

A rough guide to a planet in jeopardy

Global warming, caused principally by the large scale emissions of industrial gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), is almost certainly the greatest threat that mankind has ever faced, because it puts a question mark over the very habitability of the Earth.

Over the coming decades soaring temperatures will mean agriculture may become non-viable over huge areas of the world where people are already poor and hungry; water supplies for millions or even billions may fail. Rising sea levels will destroy substantial coastal areas in low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, at the very moment when their populations are mushrooming. Numberless environmental refugees will overwhelm the capacity of any agency, or indeed any country, to cope, while modern urban infrastructure will face devastation from powerful extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans last summer.

The international community accepts the reality of global warming, supported by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In its last report, in 2001, the IPCC said global average temperatures were likely to rise by up to 5.8C by 2100. In high latitudes, such as Britain, the rise is likely to be much higher, perhaps 8C. The warming seems to be proceeding faster than anticipated and in the IPCC's next report, 2007, the time scale may be shortened. Yet there still remains an assumption that climate change is controllable, if CO2 emissions can be curbed. Lovelock is warning: think again.

Climate Change Will Kill Billions This Century, Scientist Says, Jan. 16, 2006

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Climate change will kill billions of people this century as the Earth warms, passing into a "fever" phase from which it may take 100,000 years to recover, James Lovelock, the scientist who propounded the "Gaia" theory, said.

Temperatures in temperate regions such as Europe and the U.S., will soar by 8 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, and those in the tropics will rise by 5 degrees as a result of man-made emissions, Lovelock wrote in today's Independent newspaper.

"We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma," Lovelock wrote. "She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences."

Lovelock's Gaia theory, advanced in the 1970s, sees the Earth behaving like a self-sustaining organism, with a control system that keeps the environment fit for life. By trying to take over regulation of the planet's climate, humans have condemned themselves to "the worst kind of slavery," and will soon find it impossible to keep the Earth fit for life, Lovelock said.

"Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 percent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves," he said. "Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

Not all scientists and politicians support the theory that the planet's climate patterns are changing as a result of human activity. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has said there's no proof that global warming is causing a change in the weather.

Lovelock said that with the U.S. and emerging economies such as China and India unlikely to cut back emissions of so-called greenhouse gases that trap the sun's heat, "the worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate."

~~~~~>> But enough of that --for now.

THE problem:

We've been hearing regular harangues about overpopulation for two centuries, beginning with Malthus' "An Essay on the Principle of Population" in 1798. The usual implication of such admonishments is that we should stop just short of our Earthly and regional carrying capacities. But there's a much better concept to advocate: that of an optimum population, and I doubt that anyone has articulated such a goal better than John Stuart Mill:

There is room in the world, no doubt, and even in old countries, for a great increase in population, supposing the arts of life to go on improving, and capital to increase. But even if innocuous, I confess I see very little reason for desiring it. The density of population necessary to enable mankind to obtain, in the greatest degree, all the advantages both of cooperation and of social intercourse, has, in all the most populous countries, been attained.

A population may be too crowded, though all be amply provided with food and raiment. It is not good for man to be kept perforce at all times in the presence of his species. A world from which solitude is extirpated, is a very poor ideal. Solitude, in the sense of being often alone, is essential to any depth of meditation or of character; and solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur, is the cradle of thoughts and aspirations which are not only good for the individual, but which society could do ill without. Nor is there much satisfaction in contemplating the world with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature; with every rood* of land brought into cultivation, which is capable of growing food for human beings; every flowery waste or natural pasture plowed up, all quadrupeds or birds which are not domesticated for man's use exterminated as his rivals for food, every hedgerow or superfluous tree rooted out, and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture.

If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a better or happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.

It is scarcely necessary to remark that a stationary condition of capital and population implies no stationary state of human improvement. There would be as much scope as ever for all kinds of mental culture, and moral and social progress; as much room for improving the Art of Living, and much more likelihood of its being improved, when minds ceased to be engrossed by the art of getting on. Even the industrial arts might be as earnestly and as successfully cultivated, with the sole difference, that instead of serving no purpose but the increase of wealth, industrial improvements would produce their legitimate effect, that of abridging labor.

Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and other to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes. But they have not yet begun to effect those great changes in human destiny, which it is in their nature and in their futurity to accomplish. Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers, become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot.

--From J. S. Mill's Principles of Political Economy, Book IV, Chapter VI ("Of the Stationary State"), Section II (as it first appeared) --published in 1848.   (* A rood = 1/4 acre)

Gosh: what stand-out thoughtfulness!

--Here we are, 168 years later, and the painfully obvious issues of overpopulation have yet to mature even to the point of denial and ridicule^ (as has the political commentary about climate change). On every politician's lips we hear: "growth", more jobs, prosperity, buying power to drive it, more exports and general consumption.

^ (Re: Schopenhauer's 3 stages of truth: ridicule, violent opposition, wide acceptance as being self-evident.)

Our integrity, spirituality, and self-identity should demand that we (personally, collectively as we're able) --live, act, choose, and advocate as would be consistent with a sustainable future.

We should advocate things like a "population policy", tax incentives/disincentives, and similar "social legislation" --unless you can think up some better ideas. Author and past AGO keynote speaker Bill McKibben advises that getting such concepts enacted into law would be a long time a coming --finally to arrive only after most of the populace had been persuaded of family limitations anyway.

Some radicals ("deep ecologists") have proposed (and I mention it to emphasize the gravity of our situation) --that a viral, sterilizing contagion be released --!

* We might also get personally and officially behind the distribution of contraceptives, Planned Parenthood, the protection of clinics and programs that make abortions available, lobby against clinical rules that disallow sterilization until after the 3rd child, and assist/support the development of new contraceptive methods and devices (such as the "Janesway" female condom garment).

Another approach might be similar to India's official advocacy of smaller families --perhaps along the lines of our nation's anti-smoking campaign.

Crass appeals to pocketbook and quality of life issues could be very effective (with children costing out at something like $250,000 each these days). I'd prefer to think that people are best motivated by the general welfare of society, but this issue is important enough to "meet people where they're at".

Growth Links:

The Population Connection, Die Off, Die Off-2

Day in the Life of Joe Republican

By John Gray
July - 2004

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see,
some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because  some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed hell get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some Liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the
banking system before the depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republicans would still be sitting in the dark!)

He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.

He turns on a radio talk show, the hosts keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn't tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys
throughout his day) Joe agrees, We don't need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I'm a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.

Tim Murray, a Canadian writer makes a great fit on this page.  Thanks Tim!
(And see more from him below.)

The Inconvenient Truth About the Inconvenient Truth
-- by Tim Murray

Posted (elsewhere) by Tim Murray on June 29, 2007 (minor editing: 6/24/2008)

Al Gore makes an impressive, but flawed presentation.

   1. For one thing, he does not make the point that reaching Kyoto targets would be impossible without a reduction in the population. You cannot feed such an unsustainably high population without chemical fertilizers and large-scale, energy-hungry agriculture.

   2. Secondly, he completely neglects the fact that in all likelihood peak oil has already occurred globally and natural gas supplies will be exhausted sooner than gasoline becomes practically unavailable. I think he should give more thought to the implications of this for climate change considering what types of energy are most likely to be exploited next (nuclear, burning wood for electricity, corn/sugar cane for ethanol, coal) and what is the capacity of these energies to meet present usage levels. Imagine the deforestation and acid rain caused by using wood and coal for electricity after oil and natural gas are extremely scarce. Or all the nuclear waste from trying to power electric cars. Obviously there are no technological fixes that can allow economic growth to go on for much longer. I think Gore needed to make the point that the population is growing faster than conservation technology could ever grow and since all people must consume in order to survive --I haven't met an economist who would dispute that-- no technology will allow for perpetual human population growth on earth.

   3. Thirdly, what about habitat loss? Is climate change all we care about? Most biodiversity is near the equator, not the poles. How many species' extinctions have so far been due to climate change compared to how many have been due to wild habitat loss caused by the growing human population? Biodiversity performs about 33 trillion dollars in free and vital services to the human race annually, from cleaning our air and water, replenishing our aquifers, creating our topsoil, cycling nutrients, pollinating flora, isolating atmospheric carbon, preventing erosion, and providing genetic diversity. Without these services our "economy" would die. Biodiversity gives ecosystems the resilience they need to cope with changes and fluctuations. Biodiversity is humanity's most important insurance policy. The blatantly evident manifestations of global warming are surely startling, dramatic and frightening, but biodiversity loss caused by human impact will be, as biologist Neil Dawe of the Qualicum Institute puts it: "the final nail in our coffin."

   4. Lastly, Gore loses credibility in his contention that we can reduce our impact to zero if we individually opt for greener alternatives. His exact words: "We have the ability to do this. Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, with the electricity we use, the cars we drive. We can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands. We just have to have the determination to make them happen." This is absurd, since it implies that a human doesn't need to consume in order to survive. No matter how "green" a human is, he will still convert potable water to waste water, consume biomass (harvest plants and/or animals), produce waste, etc. You can be a vegetarian with "a diet for a small planet", but if you checked out the January 07 issue of National Geographic you would realize that vegetarian consumers are causing vast areas of precious Amazonian rain forests to be mowed down for soybean farming. Enjoy your tofu. Or you can buy into Jack Layton's plan and drive a "green" car, retro-fit your house, recycle your garbage or erect solar panels (made of plastic) and windmills (lots of material involved there too). But you are still going to be a consumer. And while you are doing your part as a "green" citizen and cutting back your consumption in accord with their prescriptions, Jack and his Green Party rival Elizabeth May want to add 300-400,000 new consumers --immigrants --annually, to build up Canada's population to 40 million. Reduce our ecological footprint as individuals, but increase our numbers so that aggregate consumption remains high. Make sense?

The real "inconvenient truth" is that our religion of Economic Growth, which is predicated on population growth and high consumption, will negate any efforts to stop climate change or solve any other environmental problem. Economic growth and Kyoto don't mix. Economic growth and biodiversity don't mix. And to graft a "Green" agenda onto a political party that is committed to Economic Growth is an exercise in self-delusion, contradiction and futility. Neither Gore, nor Layton, nor May, nor Dion, nor anyone leading any major environmental organization will speak about this truth.

So what is the solution? The solution is the establishment of a "steady-state" economy that would maintain constant stocks of wealth and people at levels that are sufficient for a long and good life. The conversion of natural wealth through the economic process should be low rather than high, and always within the regenerative and absorptive capabilities of the ecosystem. The alternative is a growing economy, and unlimited growth on a finite planet is an impossibility.

Tim Murray,

Quadra Island, B.C.



* Comment by Rick Shea on July 6, 2007

    Excellent analysis, and thanks, Tim. I posted the following at our CRCP discussion forum on April 8th, in response to a column in a local newspaper.

    Jackie Deshannon didn't quite get it, and neither does John McDonald. "What the world needs now" is neither love nor a benevolent dictator.

    McDonald's proposals to increase gasoline prices, limit urban sprawl, divert taxes to transit, implement block pricing on gasoline, and generally change our lifestyles are all worthy proposals, but they don't address the underlying problem --a problem which will only make any and all of these measures completely and utterly futile.

    That problem of course is sheer human numbers and population growth. Cut our green house gas emissions by 40 percent? A decade or two of growth will negate any benefits. Build denser development closer to the workplace? A few decades of growth will bring back the sprawl. Block pricing on gasoline? The wealthy don't care, and growth will make up for any short term reduction in use for the rest. Sheer human numbers makes the likelihood of a serious contagious disease more and more likely, depletes other planetary resources, and increases the number of violent conflicts between nations and even between inner city neighbors.

    Mr. McDonald is in good company, though. Al Gore, David Suzuki, Elizabeth May, and virtually everyone with a conscience seems to be unable to take that last step, to acknowledge that unless we deal with the underlying problem of population growth and sheer human numbers, Mother Nature will soon take care of our short stay at the Hotel Planet Earth in any number of ways.

    It is sadly true that any prominent public figure or politician who proposes population caps, or even (horrors) population reduction through natural means, would be committing political suicide. Yet this is precisely what our beleaguered planet needs.

    Perhaps it is due to misunderstanding, long-held economic myths, or even simple propaganda that citizens are unwilling to listen to this message. Population caps at a local level do not necessarily limit mobility, yet opponents resort to ignorant and histrionic statements such as "throw up a wall," "close the drawbridge," and so on. Given our national birth rate, population caps at that level do not even prevent immigration. On a global level, population growth is slowing even now. We could speed that process along through education and better birth control.

    Canada could become a world leader by establishing a national population cap at our current level, and by entering into immigration/emigration agreements only with other countries who have done the same. Canada could implement the theories of steady state economics, where growth in the quality of life is not linked to growth in consumption and population.

    Despite the histrionics and propaganda; continued population growth and increased consumption are not inevitable or even necessary. Indeed, if we cannot break out of that mindset now, our growth will most surely kill us. The only item in question is how.

* Comment by John Zeger on December 16, 2007

    I just want to add this little bit of info from Terrierman's Daily Dose (blog), Oct. 12, 2007 that provides data that shows that greenhouse gas emissions in the past 100 years haven't risen because of a per capita increase but rather because of population growth:

    "The inconvenient truth is that the world is NOT producing more greenhouse gases per person than it did in 1830 when the world had 1 billion people. Nor is it producing more greenhouses gases per capita than it did in 1930 when the world had 2 billion people.

    The inconvenient truth is that the world is producing about the same or less greenhouses gases per person today that it did 50 or 100 years ago. People forget that horses produced serious amounts of greenhouse gases (methane) and so too did homes heated with wood and coal.

{Link}    Table 1, page 19 from "Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions Convergence or Divergence?" by Joseph E. Aldy, 2005 published by Resources for the Future (a PDF)

    The simple fact is that while the atmospheric level of CO2 has increased 30 percent since 1860, world population has more than quadrupled since then. Per capita CO2 emissions in the industrialized world are actually in decline, and have been for quite some time. When we look at all CO2 production, we find that global population growth and CO2 emissions track almost perfectly.

    The problem is not that we are driving cars or cooling our beer in refrigerators -- it's that there are too many people. Too many people necessarily results in too many cars, too many refrigerators, and too many coal-fired electrical plants.

    There are too damn many of us!

    Population growth, energy use and CO2 emissions track perfectly. The causal agent here is human population growth -- an "inconvenient truth" largely glossed over in Al Gore's otherwise excellent movie. Figure 2 is from "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide as a proxy for growth of the human population? ," 1995, University of Washington

    Al Gore is willing to talk about rebuilding power plants, building nuclear reactors, knocking down or retro-fitting every building on the planet. He is willing to discuss what's wrong with Ford and Chevy, but he is not willing to talk too long or too loudly about population growth for fear his audience might look over his shoulder to see how many people are sitting in his own family room."

Is it reactionary to oppose immigration?

Taken from:
(Posted in December of 2007 --minor editing: 6/23/2008)
[Note: AGO has folded, but their 2004 final posts remain up as of this writing]


"Web diarist James Sinnamon sent us this piece from Canadian writer Tim Murray. The article raises some interesting questions that are equally relevant to Australia."

Andy Kerr, former president of Alternatives to Growth Oregon, posed these questions, "To those who support generous immigration, I ask you this: Why are you are on the same side as Microsoft and the other huge computer corporations and of Archer Daniel Midland and the rest of the agribusiness lobby? How can you support a policy that helps ensure that our existing poor will never be adequately valued for their labor?"

Kerr's questions could well be asked of so many left-wing critics whose first reflexive response to closed border arguments are that they are "right-wing", "reactionary", "racist" or "xenophobic", despite the fact that historically the first beneficiaries of mass immigration to North America, and several other localities, have been cheap labor employers. Naomi Klein, in "The Shock Doctrine" blemishes her excellent analysis with this commonplace attitude.

If Klein wanted to probe the shock therapy applied by big capital by using immigration as a battering ram to break down the working class, she need only have looked to the history of British Columbia, where her brother Seth labors for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In the nineteenth century Chinese labor contractors imported labor to the point that perhaps one-third of the entire workforce had become Chinese. Working for half the wages, paying no taxes, they were prepared to ignore safety regulations, so the Dunsmuir Coal Company used them to break a pivotal miners' strike in 1883. The Miners Union then presented a resolution to government to restrict Chinese laborers from working underground, and another one stating that these laborers were a menace to underground safety, had lowered wages, deterred other Canadians from seeking employment in B.C., offered unfair competition and were provocative to public peace.

In 1907 five Tokyo immigration companies filled an order to bring 6,000 Japanese laborers to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) when the province was experiencing a recession. B.C. workers were against the ropes, so the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council met to form an "Asiatic Exclusion League". Two days later a Japanese ship arrived with 1177 laborers. The chemistry was right for the infamous Vancouver anti-Asian riot of September 7, 1907, an incident which has been retroactively depicted as a simple and despicable act of racism. In fact it was a reaction to B.C. businesses which were then using Japanese cheap surplus laborers instead of their Chinese counterparts. It should be known that Native Indians also seethed with resentment at the Japanese presence.

Chinese immigrant labor had finally been slapped by a "head tax" by the federal government in response to decades of lobbying by the B.C. to level the playing field with Canadian laborers. But they wouldn't follow suit with a similar tax on Japanese labor for fear of jeopardizing trade arrangements with Japan. Hence the end run by employers and the pogrom by B. C. workers. To demonstrate labor's outrage at the collusion between now Lieutenant-Governor Dunsmuir and the orchestrate the Japanese influx, a Socialist legislator moved a motion in the B.C. House that Dunsmuir be impeached.

It should also be noted ---and this is always omitted by revisionists--- the Oriental Exclusion Act was actually a misnomer. It was in reality, the Oriental Laborers Exclusion Act. Chinese merchants and their families continued to enjoy access to Canada. The purpose of the omission is obvious, to foster guilt and shame so that an agenda of "justice" an restitution can be pursued by Canada's immigration industry so that corporate Canada can have its labor requirements satisfied in the same way that robber baron Robert Dunsmuir's was. Just 30 miles from where he used Chinese labor to break the miners strike of 1883, the corporation I was working for used Chinese labor to try and break my strike a century later. As waves of Chinese, fresh from Hong Kong, passed through my picket line, escorted by police, it occurred to me that I was having a "multicultural" experience. I was so enriched. Like the miners were in 1883.

The same misrepresentation and spin was made of the "Komagata Maru" incident where East Indians were denied entry at the Port of Vancouver. Does this mean that racist antagonisms did not alloy with legitimate economic grievances? It would stretch credulity to argue that case, particularly in light of the outrageous internment of Japanese-Canadians in 1942, the fact that Chinese-Canadians were denied the vote until 1948, or the right to own property in the exclusive British Properties among other indignities. But should illegitimate motives discredit and invalidate the very cogent arguments of working people to defend their livelihood?

These arguments have been made by socialists and trade unionists not only in Canada but in America a century ago by Jack London, Socialist Party leader Victor Gerber, and the legendary Samuel Gompers. They were also made by the heroic Cesar Chavez who was committed to restricting immigration. Chavez even picketed the border and reported illegal aliens who served as strike-breakers against United Farm Workers.

Today leading labor economists have carried on the fight. Dr. George Borgias of Harvard University is most notably among them. It is his contention that native-born American workers lose $152 billion annually because of job displacement and wage depression caused by immigration. And yet, how does the labor movement respond? This is what the Carrying Capacity Network asks:

"The AFL-CIO, the biggest labor union in the country, is AGAIN urging Congress to give amnesty to as many as 13 million illegal immigrants. Result: depressed wages and lost jobs for Americans while rewarding lawbreakers with the right to work and potential citizenship. Isn't the AFL-CIO sanctioning lawbreaking by pushing for an amnesty?"

Where does the Canadian labor movement stand? You can guess. In a letter dated May 4/06 to Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day and Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Monte Solberg, Secretary Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Hassan Yussuf complained about the "zealotry" of the Canadian Border Services Agency. "(They) aggressively deported a number of undocumented residents, particularly those from the Portuguese community as well as targeting members of the Asian, Chinese, Caribbean and Latin/Central-American communities. The manner in which those deportations were handled exposed a government acting with excessive zeal, hardness, and in some cases, an inexcusable lack of humanity.

I suppose the more "humane" course of action for the CLC would be just to let everybody who wants to come to Canada stay. Open borders. One world. John Lennon's dream. Just imagine. But that's globalism isn't it? Who will speak for the Canadian workers whose wages and working conditions are being hammered by this vision of brotherhood?  Why, the CLC of course. Like its political arm, the NDP, it claims to represent them. Yussuf's letter concludes: "The CLC representing more than 3 million workers, joins with those calling for a moratorium on all CBSA deportation/detention activities."

How about a moratorium on immigration instead? That would do more for those 3 million workers. And more than a swift process, in the CLC's words,  to "regularize undocumented workers whose skills are in need and who have been contributing to the economy." You have to love the CLC's politically-correct language. Calling an illegal immigrant an "undocumented resident" is like calling a drug-pusher an "unlicensed pharmacist". How does the labor movement like it when people call scabs "replacement workers"? And why doesn't the CLC just call "regularize" what it is ---amnesty for law-breakers, or, as Geoffrey Blainey once put it, "an incentive for others to arrive, hoping to benefit from further amnesty."

Contemporary socialist and trade union affinity toward  international solidarity even at the expense of national well-being can be traced to a Marxist legacy that sees class, not nationality, as the primary divide. Even social democracy taps into this tradition which combines as one strand in a muddled xenophilia with Christian and environmental thought. The latter mutation is expressed quintessentially in the Canadian Green Party line that since global warming is a global problem requiring global cooperation, to obtain this we must not send out an unfriendly message of "fear" by closing our borders, but on the contrary drop them instead. Presumably a radically downward adjustment in consumption habits and greener technology will compensate for all the extra millions who would swarm in. Instead of "workers of the world unite", the Greens offer us a new rallying cry: "more and more people, consuming less and less".

What is interesting is that American icon, Ralph Nader, Green Party candidate for President, does not share this Canadian love affair with the world. He had this to say in 2000:  "We cannot have open borders. That's a totally absurd proposition. It would depress wages here enormously, and tens of millions of people from all levels, including scientists and workers, would be pouring into this country."

Australian political scientist Frank Salter had this to say about the socialist attitude to nationalism. "The Left, as it has evolved over the course of the previous century, looks down on the ordinary people with their inarticulate parochialisms as if they were members of another species. since they care nothing for the preservation of national communities. Ethnies are considered irrelevant to the welfare of people in general. It would be understandable to Martians to be so detached from particular loyalties. But it is disturbing to humans doing so, especially humans who identify with the Left."

Such is the European Left's identification with the Other at the cost of the resident national that, in the name of anti-racism, it was possible for left-wing novelist Umberto Eco to declare his hope that Europe would be swamped by Africans and third world emigrants just so to "demoralize" racists. And such is the identification of the AFL-CIO with 13 million illegal immigrants as potential recruits that it supports amnesty and essentially a corporate welfare program that reduces wages for the lowest of American workers. A scheme which advocates call "liberalism" but American workers call an invasion. The CLC (Edgar Bergen) and its social-democratic parliamentary arm, the NDP (Charlie McCarthy), sing the same tune. Crocodile tears are shed for "undocumented" workers who allegedly make great contributions to the economy, according to their hire-a-left-wing-think-tank. But Statistics Canada's conclusions about the effect of immigration on the Canadian work force echo those of Dr. Borgias for American workers. Except the May 2007 Statscan report showed that in Canada, it was the educated workers who were really taking a hit. Between 1980-2000 their wages dropped 7%. And in Britain, careful analysis revealed that the Trade Union Congress was wrong in its contention that amnesty would net the Treasury one billion pounds annually. Rather it would cost taxpayers 1.8 billion pounds a year.

But alas, socialist thought is not monolithic. The Leninists were wrong. For the working class, national identity was as important as class identity, or as Orwell put it, "in all countries, the poor are more national than the rich." If they can't find a voice on the Left, in desperation they will look to the Populist right, as they did recently in Switzerland. But just when it looked like the field was left entirely to globalists, maverick social-democratic and socialist leaders in the tradition of Berger, London, or Canada's J. S. Woodsworth are staking a claim for national, as opposed to international, solidarity. They are doing so after their constituents have been battered by one of the greatest migratory waves in history, that saw the United States for example import the equivalent of three New Jerseys in the 1990s alone, or 25 million people. One would think that Naomi Klein, a Canadian, would have known that the Father of Canadian democratic socialism, the Saint of Canadian politics, the Rev. J. S. Woodsworth steadfastly opposed immigration throughout his leadership in the 1920s and 30s. Woodsworth understood that his constituency was in Canada, not overseas. His motto was no doubt that of Vancouver Rev. Edwin Scott: "We are not universal nations yet. Universal nationality and universal brotherhood are two different things."

The Democratic Socialist Senator of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, has begun to make some noise about the disaster that is the illegal immigration invasion in the United States. His voting record in reducing chain migration, fighting amnesty and unnecessary visas rates B-, B-, and A+ respectively from Americans for Better Immigration. "If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don't know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now." To Sanders the American working, middle class is caught in a squeeze. "On the one hand, you have large multi-nationals trying to shut down plants in America, move to China and on the other hand you have the service industry bringing in lower wage workers from abroad. The result is the same: the middle class gets shrunk and wages go down." Five million people have left the middle class during Bush administration, Sanders observes.

Other social-democratic leaders have spoken out against open borders. Former Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt now admits that immigration under his government was excessive and damaging to Germany. In a book published in 1982 he confessed that "with idealistic intentions, born out of our experiences with the Third Reich, we brought in far too many foreigners." Dutch Socialist leader Jan Marijnissen is strongly opposed to the practice of importing East European workers to undermine the position of Dutch workers. East Europeans are hired as "independent contractors" to circumvent labor law. Marijnissen wrote "It is unacceptable that employers pay foreign workers 3 euros per hour and have them live in chicken coops as they were in competition in the nineteenth century of Dickens. The unfair competition and displacement of Dutch workers and small business is intolerable. Therefore we shouldn't open the borders further, but set limits instead."

Setting limits. Acknowledging limits. That is the great divide. In the past those limits have been perceived to be economic by those with the sense to perceive them. Now, some on the left are beginning to realize that the more unforgiving and immutable limits are set by nature. Former Labor Premier of  NSW , Bob Carr, and his fellow Laborite retired veteran MP Barry Cohen joined environmental leaders Tim Flannery and Ian Lowe in exposing the myth of Australia as a big empty land begging to be filled up with people. Said Carr, "our rivers, our soils, our vegetation, won't allow that to happen except at enormous cost to us and those who follow us." Carr and Cohen call for severe immigration cut-backs and a population policy put in place.

In Klein's Canada, meanwhile, the phrase "carrying capacity" is as unknown in the socialist lexicon as it is the corporate. Biologists and ecologists might as well be speaking ancient Aramaic to leftists to make them understand that their human rights agenda cannot be built on an environment that will not sustain it. Canada cannot become the soup kitchen to tens of millions of refugees, nor can vital biodiversity services coexist with a population of 50 million Canadians. In economic jargon, its called "diseconomies of scale". In the language of real science, its called a "limiting factor".

This essay began with two questions from Andy Kerr. It will end with six or seven of mine.

Why? Why has opposition to a policy of mass immigration, a policy that drives down the wages of marginal workers, middle-income workers and professional workers been characterized and vilified as "right-wing" and "reactionary". Why has earlier socialist and trade union understanding of the negative consequences of this policy been overtaken by a "love thy neighbor" zeitgeist of the post-war era? Why is the "Left" on the same side as the "Right": the same side as Microsoft, ADM, real estate developers and cheap labor employers?

It is time to challenge this labeling and to challenge those who use it to prevent thoughtful discussion. The question that needs to be posed today is not the conventional one of "is it Left or is it Right?", but rather: do we accept that there are Limits, or do we continue to persist in the fantasy that this country, and others, are a massive treasure trove of boundless resources --waiting to be unlocked by an endless number of people who can exploit them without ecological consequences?

History shows, sadly, that the latter delusion is shared equally among the devotees of Adam Smith, the Communist Manifesto and its derivatives.   ------end

Selected commentaries (actually: the first four --in order) which followed the above essay:

* What utter balderdash
Submitted by Marilyn Shepherd on December 19, 2007

I am hard pressed to work out just what it is people like this are ranting about when they issue one of these anti-immigration diatribes.

Canada is an enormously vast country with a population of just 37 million, America is the richest country on earth with a population of 300 million and not enough people to do the work.

Australia is a vast nation of 21 million and despite what many might think Howard upped the migration program to the highest level since the second world war.

We all need to get over this bullshit of borders and nation states. No-one ever said that person A had to stay in country A forever just because he was born there did they?

Before last century people moved without permission, without documents and without carrying on like pork chops against the next lot of people who did the same thing.

How the hell do the colonial British outposts like Canada, the US and us got settled? Did the British ask permission to settle, kill the natives, steal the land and the children?

No. Now it is time to grow up. If people are starving to death in Africa they have a right to move to a place where they can work and live in dignity.

If that means open borders all over the world then so be it because we have open borders for tourists and not one person whines about them.

Here the only immigration issue ever discussed is the few refugees who arrive and they have been conflated into a flood of terrorist queue jumping illegals instead of a mere 15,000 people in nearly 20 years for which we had to waste $3 billion locking up.

* bourgeoisphobe
Submitted by Eliot Ramsey on December 19, 2007

Perhaps the psychological roots to the 'progressive' infatuation with immigration, invariably in their rhetoric equated with 'multiculturalism', are anchored in the Romantic idealization of the exotic 'Other' as being representative of non-Western, pre-industrial Arcadia?

Immigration is 'good' because 'non western' people are morally pristine, having not yet been contaminated by bourgeois western ideas. They're 'better' than the humdrum, day-to-day garden variety of human we're all used to.

It's not so much Marx behind it all as Rousseau.

Peter Gay's books 'Culture Wars' shows quite nicely how Bohemia rejoiced in the role of 'bourgeois-phobe' and how important this was to its self esteem.

Exulting in the exotic was part of the pose. That's not going to change.

* Canada's Pauline Hanson?
Submitted by Gareth Eastwood on December 19, 2007

If you like this kind of isolationist, anti-immigrant garbage, try out Tim's blog. I've taken the liberty of identifying some of the numerous holes in Tim's piece.

Re "To those who support generous immigration, I ask you this: Why are you are on the same side as ---."

I support open borders, this doesn't put me on the same "side" as anyone. This isn't a team game with two opposing sides.

Re "historically the first beneficiaries of mass immigration to North America, and several other localities, have been cheap labor employers."

Rubbish, the nation as a whole and the migrants themselves are also obvious beneficiaries. How can nations of migrants like Australia, Canada and the US be so well off if migration only benefits employers?

Re "Result: depressed wages and lost jobs for Americans."

This is one of the biggest falsehoods perpetrated by the anti-immigration clan. Said Americans (or Canadians) will lose their jobs and depress their wages no matter where the workers are located. If the workers can't move, the jobs do, it's called off-shoring. If you can't get a job or earn a sufficient wage, stop blaming others and skill up. The said Americans (or Canadians) even at minimum wage earn an hourly rate far superior to the average daily rate in the developing world, your American (or Canadian) job is not sustainable in that situation, you're going to lose it either way. It's called competition, Americans are all for it when it suits them.

Re "Presumably a radically downward adjustment in consumption habits and greener technology will compensate for all the extra millions who would swarm in."

Maybe the developed world should stay poor so that Canada and the US don't have to bother themselves with adjusting their consumption habits and developing greener technology? I think the Indian and Chinese natives are going to wealth up no matter what country they're residing in. Closing borders to migrants is going have bugger all impact on slowing climate change.

Re "tens of millions of people from all levels, including scientists and workers, would be pouring into this country."

Just like the US in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Just like all the people (natives excepted) that currently populate Ralph's country.

Re "On the one hand, you have large multi-nationals trying to shut down plants in America, move to China and on the other hand you have the service industry bringing in lower wage workers from abroad. The result is the same: the middle class gets shrunk and wages go down."

So do you think blocking migrants is going to make said multi-nationals more likely or less likely to 'move to China'? Pretty obvious answer I think. It's a see-saw; you push down one side, the other goes up. How about working on something that will actually create sustainable wealth in the middle class? Working on increasing productivity would be an example.

I guess it's pretty safe to assume that Tim Murray is unconcerned about the well being of the third world's poor. He seems very much the Canadian nationalist; his views have a lot in common with Pauline's One Nation. Have a read of his "Threat of climate change refugees" post if you don't believe me.

The fantasy that Mr. Murray is perpetrating is that his Canadian homeland can remain wealthy while isolating itself from the rest of the world.

* It certainly gets them upset, doesn't it?
Submitted by Eliot Ramsey on December 19, 2007

Marilyn Shepherd says: "Australia is a vast nation of 21 million and despite what many might think Howard upped the migration program to the highest level since the second world war."

Gareth Eastwood says: "Rubbish, the nation as a whole and the migrants themselves are also obvious beneficiaries. How can nations of migrants like Australia, Canada and the US be so well off if migration only benefits employers?"

These are the top ten countries for per capita income in the world in order:

    * Luxembourg
    * Norway
    * Iceland
    * Switzerland
    * Ireland
    * Denmark
    * Qatar
    * United States
    * Sweden
    * Netherlands

Apart from the USA, all of these countries have tiny populations.

One other contender for a nation with a singularly successful economy would be Japan, a country with no immigration whatsoever. None.

Now have a look at this item about Harry Triguboff, the boss of the Meriton construction corporation, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:

    The views of the Meriton boss, Australia's biggest property developer, are likely to outrage conservationists - particularly his declaration that Sydney has "too many forests and parks".

    "You go north and we have all these reserves and you go south and you have all the reserves, and they are the best part of the coast. That is crazy. We should be building on this area," he said.

    "If they want to see trees, they can go to Katoomba, there are plenty of trees there."

    In an interview with the Herald, Mr. Triguboff said there was too much focus by the Prime Minister, John Howard, and others on land releases on Sydney's outskirts, and that too much land was locked up in national parks and reserves.

    He also called for a big increase in immigration, saying the population of Sydney should be 20 million by 2050, with the population of Australia 150 million.

That would get our 'vast nation' to just under half the population of the USA.

And you can just tell that Harry wants this because he loves cultural diversity and environmental balance, can't you?

So why do people who oppose over-development, and fret about resource depletion, and who hate urban sprawl and pollution, and who rail against globalization and the exploitation of cheap labor absolutely obsess over the 'virtues' of big populations? Because 'migration' equals 'multiculturalism' equals 'non western' equals 'good'.

If you think big populations are the formula for social cohesion and prosperity, you might want to start thinking about places like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Bangladesh and China. Because they've got population in spades.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A voice from the past:

Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers, become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot.   ---J.S. Mill - Of the Stationary State - 1848

Time Capsule Tiles
Cover Letter
revised: 7/10/2009

Dear TCT Caretaker: Thank you accepting a set of time capsule tiles. The backs are blank so you can add your own entries, for which ordinary pencil is best. Penciled text will hold up as long as the tile isn't badly soiled, so take care how you seal these tiles up.

If you include the latitude and longitude of where you bury them --and the date, it might be of some use within the next 50,000 years, even if those numbers are initially meaningless to the finders.

A coat of exterior spray varnish over your text might peel your words away when it eventually decays and falls off. The best ways I can think of to protect your own penciled-in contributions is to either insure that the tiles stay dry and above ground/water, or place your tiles inside of a metal canister made of bronze, lead, stainless steel or aluminum.  The first two can be easily soldered shut to seal them, while the other two can be brazed or welded by someone experienced in such work. However: for that much effort, it might be easier to just make your own ceramic tiles. See *here* for DIY tile making advice.

Until 2009 I'd been suggesting the use of glass wool (fiber glass insulation) for wrapping and mechanically protecting ceramic tiles. Of course I also advised wearing gloves and a breathing mask, especially for separating out the bats into thin layers. Sorry: I just didn't think about how I was sending something into a future when people might not know that glass wool is mildly hazardous.
So instead, let's use copper mesh. It's not as good, acids can eat it up, but maybe the tiles will be spaced by soil and detritus by that time.  Just unroll a standard copper scrubber pad until it's a sleeve, then cut it apart so you've got a sheet of copper mesh. Trim out squares to place between the tiles and a short section of sleeve to go around the stack. Finally, bind up the tile package snugly together with THHN/THWN insulated 12 or 14 gauge electrical wire --which will also decay, but probably after your bundle is well consolidated in its burial placed.

Our tiles have text and graphics that are simply impressions: no fired underglaze coloring/ink and no overglaze finish is used. We're no longer going for that "dirty look" (photo),  which was achieved by rubbing silted mud into the text impressions to give them some contrast, and later with brown paint. They're now shipped natural --and we think they look better, but feel free to fill in the text impressions. (They'll look more like the photo in 10,000 years either way.)

Truth be known, I'm not much of a tile artist! Accordingly, I'm inviting others to get involved with similar projects of their own, turning out tiles beautiful enough that finders would surely consider them worth keeping and preserving, even if they couldn't read the text.

This sort of project (not necessarily as represented by our humble efforts) is too important for just one couple to be doing it, especially with my limited personal resources and skills, so consider making your own tiles --or some other durable object.

There are many ways to make your own archival object, especially if you own or have access to a kiln and ceramics materials, or someone offers ceramics classes in your area. It could be something so simple as typing (with an old mechanical/electric typewriter) --your contribution onto heavy duty aluminum foil (with the typewriter ribbon off ["stencil mode"] using the heaviest setting). Don't use anything valuable like gold foil.

A big reason we chose ceramics is that our tiles have no inherent value and are too small for construction (which was the fate of so many beautiful outer stones on what was once the glistening white great pyramids of Egypt).

The worst hazards to your TCTs are that:

1) They'll never be found by intelligent, sentient creatures. 2) The finders will incompetently lose or damage them. (Many pages of the Coptic Bible trove were used to start fires in a cook stove.) 3) Fundamentalist religionists will decide that they're "works of the devil" (like what happened to the Library of Alexandria, most of the pre-Columbian Aztec codices, nearly all Gnostic writings, much of the culture/s which invented writing, plus other vanished luminaries and societies of the past which we'll never know about). 4) Some well intentioned society will put them in a museum --which will get looted in short order. (Witness: the utter contempt of the U.S. armed forces and Bush administration officials for protecting museums and their priceless antiquities in Baghdad.)

Perhaps the best outcome is that your tiles will be found by educated common people --who will be delighted to know we existed, but who already hold the social/spiritual messages of these tiles in their hearts --out of their own cultural experiences and understandings. The memory of us would then find a warm new home. If not, we can only hope that their culture would still be in its formative stages, such that our tiles would become a catalyst of positive discovery and cultural development.

There are fine and traditional alternatives to interment --like: simple "show and tell", such that the tiles' contents becomes preserved in living memory --and passing them down to subsequent generations, as will be the mode of safekeeping for several of "Long Now's" $25,000 Rosetta micro-disks that will be given to tribal entities. (See their project, run out of Stanford University:

If you opt for burial, a concrete cap, or interment in a cliff face; then place a "clue" --as to the existence of a tile set. It shouldn't be so easily found that kids and animals would soon get at it, but it should be apparent to the discerning eye, a survey, or if anyone is digging/excavating in the area. We've thought of:

* A vertical length of attached bronze or brass wire (ours are topped with a very durable US coinage Nickel) --which terminates within a few inches of the surface.

* A Vertical ceramic rod or line of ceramic beads (noticeable, interesting to recover all of its fragments, extremely long lasting)

* Some type of legal/safe radiation or radio frequency emitter (which depends on the tiles being found by an advanced civilization --so it might already be too late for a social-spiritual message to do them any good?)

* An earthen "corner reflector", either for ground penetrating radar or a seismic survey --which would need to be a very heavy item. (Again: this depends on your tiles being found by a technologically advanced civilization.)

* A mechanically, electromagnetically, or atomically resonant device of some kind --which would act like an emitter by giving a good return  when scanned --possibly indicating a valuable mineral. (Advanced civilization --etc.)

* Some kind of a durable substance which would slowly release an odor attractive to dogs --hopefully: dogs being kept and run by intelligent beings. (A race of intelligent dogs themselves :-)  --who inherit a sort of Gary Larson style "Far Side" Earth?)

* A natural attraction for archaeologists are refuse piles, dumps, and landfills. It follows that if you just throw your new tile set straight into your curbside trash pick up, then your city's trash hauler will bury it in a good spot.

* At the geometric/natural center of some huge but abandoned military emplacement --like old coastal gun battery foundations, an existing archaeological site or monument (but don't damage anything!).

* Inside someone else's substantial time capsule project (with permission --"of course"-- but maybe a "stow-away" object tile would be quite a kick for future finders to discover :-)))

* Inside a huge, abandoned piece of junk --which will one day be considered a rare historic/cultural artifact.

If, like us, you've chosen simple burial; here are some considerations:

* If you live near the coast and your property is less than 90 feet above mean sea level, there's a chance that the soil you bury your tiles in will get washed away by a tsunami.

* If your property is less than 40(?) feet above MSL, it's subject to inundation when the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melt (not long off now, according to some experts). Eventually, of course, the waters will recede. Perhaps your tiles will be all the more secure for having been submerged in the interim --and likely to be dug up when your coastal area gets redeveloped --by rich fools who build on beach sand.

* You want to provide some kind of a "clue" that the tile set is where you buried it (and see other comments).

* If the area you live in freezes, digging down 3 feet should minimize destruction from freeze-thaw cycles. Otherwise, something shallower is preferable, since "the ages" are going to add soil depth anyway --so consider a heavy cap of insulating (air bubble mix) concrete.

How will finders know how old the tiles are? That doesn't matter a whole lot and your tiles might be all the more appealing for it remaining a mystery. What's important about these tiles is their cultural content. The finders will have their own means to determine age and there'll probably be lots of remnant cultural artifacts from which to piece it together what "Year 2007" means --should you write that on the back of a tile.

Clues: * A big "rock". There's an interesting Minnesota story about a big rock. It sat alongside a road for decades --and everyone thought it had been there forever --or at least since the last glaciation. One day the road had to be widened. Being too large to push or haul it away, a crew was assigned to drill and blast the rock --but that didn't happen. As soon as they put a hammer drill to it the bit went right through --a fake rock! Many years earlier --no one knows who or when, someone built that rock out of steel rods, wire mesh, and a covering of dark toned cement. There was nothing inside. It must have been done as a very private joke. One might similarly "disguise" a tile placement in plain site --perhaps in an out-of-the-way part of a big city urban park. (Just rent a big truck, dress up like city workers, and "deliver" it.)

* Treasure hunt clue:  What if you were turning over dirt and found an ancient coin? What are the chances you'd even notice the dirt encrusted old thing? But: what if it had a stout piece of wire attached:

--which went deeper into the soil --and was anchored to something?

You'd dig deeper --and probably with some care.

U.S. nickels are made of pretty good stuff: solid 25% nickel plus 75% copper "Cupro-nickel" alloy.  Similar alloys are used for maritime fittings and I read that as coinage, the metal is balanced so as not to corrode in salt water. I measured for a potential difference between common bronze 1/16" brazing rod and a handful of nickels in salty water, finding one year and mint which balanced almost exactly --but there was quite a bit of variation --even between different nickels: as much as 200 millivolts. Two nickels of the same year, but of different mints, balanced closely. I concluded that they'd not react with a brazing rod/wire tether any more than with each other.

Best lay in your supply of nickels now. The value of their metal is approaching 10 cents, so they'll start disappearing. (In December of 2006 it became illegal to melt them down --pennies too.)

The Messages of Our Tiles
 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

* We've changed our tiles many times. The main reason for that graphic on the first greeting tile (now) is to act as a recognizable "hook" and starting point for deciphering the text, assuming that English will one day become an ancient dead language --or very hard to read, like "Olde English" is today. The set mainly seeks to stand in a state of mutual grace and communication with those who find it.

* The current set consists of seven small tiles measuring about 2.5 x 3.5 inches which have been directly fired to maturity (cone #6, 3% porosity for the tiles made from Georgies' [brand] Salmon White clay.)

** Missing from our set is a tile warning against nuclear weapons and energy generation. We've yet to figure out how to include an understandable graphic, so we'll fall back on a simple text message.

Tile #1:

Tile #2:

Tiles #3 & #4:

Advice from the Georgia Guidestones

1) Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 and in perpetual balance with nature.

2) Guide reproduction wisely, improving fitness and diversity.

3) Unite humanity with a living new language.

4) Rule passion, faith, tradition, and all things with tempered reason.

5) Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.

6) Let all nations rule internally, resolving external disputes with a world court.

7) Avoid petty laws and useless officials.

8) Balance personal rights with social duties.

9) Prize truth, beauty, love, and seeking harmony with the Infinite.

10) Be not a cancer on the Earth.  Leave room for nature. / Leave room for nature.

Tile #5:

* We are all caught up in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. (Martin Luther King)

* To speak of "The Individual", apart from his social roots and involvements, is as meaningless as to speak of a society that contains no people or institutions. (Bookchin)

* Without Love, I am nothing.
([paraphrase of] 1Corinthians13:1-8)

Tile #6:

Only when, in addition to just institutions,
the increase of mankind shall be under the
deliberate guidance of judicious foresight,
can the conquests made from the powers
of nature by the intellect and energy of
scientific discoverers, become the common
property of the species, and the means of
improving and elevating the universal lot.
J.S. Mill - Of the Stationary State - 1848

Tile #7 (produced with sidewise text):

This couple is based on that familiar pair who grace the plaque attached
to NASA's 1968 Pioneer-10 space probe --except that ours are smiling,
the woman also waves her hand, and their hands are clasped. We also
decided to comfortably clothe them, in the likelihood that they'll be
found during a time of body and erotic repression (like we've generally had for
thousands of years and still have). The finders won't then have to struggle with that issue
--instead of considering our messages --which might be deemed "works of the Devil"
(as the "Guide Stones" are widely considered today) --and be struggle enough for them.

Bon voyage to your TCT bundle, and fare thee well in our all too brief lives  {{{hugs}}}

Craig & Peggy

In the seventh century B.C. Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, wrote: I had monuments made of bronze, lapis lazuli, alabaster and white limestone and inscriptions of baked clay and I deposited them in the foundations and left them for future times.

Making Tiles
Our earlier tiles had a "primitive" look, which was at first due to their being rubbed with local mud, but was later produced with brown water-base deck paint (for more uniformity).  We've finally decided that the tiles are more genuine, will be just as readable, look better without the paint and are more in the tradition of the ancient tablets we're saluting. The most recent batch of 30 sets (7 tiles each) came out well formed and natural "salmon white".

* Concerning that couple you see in the background of this web page, our first designs for the tiles were expansive. The greeting tile was going to be two-sided and in strong relief, featuring just such a twosome waving and looking out from the front, and very much the behind view you see here --on the other side. (The art work is from a Dover clip art book of old, once private, book plates.) Instead, our final tile shows a modestly clothed couple: "creatures of words", with hands raised in a wave of greeting.

We like to think of our tiles as being in the tradition of Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets:

This next sample (chiseled into stone, actually):
--is an early "Rosetta Stone" with parallel Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian edicts.

The actual Rosetta Stone, which tumbled us to Hieroglyphics, also had parallel texts in three languages:

Stanford University, the "Long Now Foundation", and the Rosetta Project are producing a similar item, but vastly more encompassing and in microscopic fonts on a photo-etched disk:

--here seen in its double-lensed containment. The spiraling text "leads you in" to the realization that you want to use a microscope (100x to 500x) --directions for the construction of which are included (in case your civilization has yet to invent that item). The fine print contains either the beginning chapters of the Book of Genesis or the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 2500 languages, most of which were otherwise expected to vanish from our cultural memory over the next 100 years --plus much other literature and documentation in its 15,000 pages and images. This disk is just the physical aspect a far larger languages archiving project at Stanford.

In November of 2002 A prototype disk was attached to the Rosetta space probe, which has recently (September of 2016) landed upon Comet 67p --where it will spend thousands of years in a stable orbit around the Sun.

The first production disk was scheduled to be interred high on/in a mountain along with Long Now's giant ceramic(?) analogue clock --which might "tick" but once a year and "cuckoo" each 1000 years (per co-designer Danny Hillis' original essay on the project). (They made an earlier clock: "Prototype 1", which ticks each 30 seconds and is now installed in a London Museum.)

* After deciding that making tiles flat and smooth enough to take a good ink impression is just too time consuming, I had to figure out how to push our stamps into the moist clay and make actual impressions. The good people at Georgies ( told me the secret of making clean rubber stamp impressions: use a little little WD-40 for the release agent, but I found that "Pam" spray and brushed olive oil worked as well --and safer.

* There's a border around the rubber stamps I'm using to make impressions in the soft clay --per:

--which goes a long way toward corralling and preventing the clay impression from spreading as I force it down on the stamp (and you want to gently/slightly rock the stamp fore-to-aft).

* If you plan to work with a plaster mold, oil release agents aren't a good idea since they interfere with water absorption from clay to plaster (as the clay body shrinks slightly, effecting a complete release), so use "Murphy's Soap" instead. It's my guess that most release agents won't affect the subsequent application of glazes to your tiles since they burn off when you do the bisque kilning (before applying glazes). (We don't use glazes.)

The culinary release oils I've used haven't interfered with reclaiming scraps of clay, if well kneaded together --and the press helps with that as well.

Looking down inside the jaws of my press you see the fixed metal face at left and the removable metal face at right. The lower lip and upper rolled handle make it easy to lift out a freshly pressed tile. That hole in the piston block is for pulling it back with your finger. After making hundreds of tiles, I've only had to clean the press once.

The object at upper left is one of my rubber stamps. Although they drop nicely down into the press and I'd hoped to make the impressions this way (right after forming the flat tile) it doesn't work. Whenever the fresh clay tile is pressed, even lightly when making impressions, displaced clay has to flow and that means the whole tile has to flow. In this press, a closely fitting tile has only one way to flow: up. As a result, the upper impressions end up getting illegibly extruded. I tried it again with a bordered stamp, then tried using a separate open press such that the clay could move in all directions, but nothing worked.

* The only method which works for me is to hand press the stamp down with a slight rocking motion. You have to go by feel and by watching the slight displacement of the clay to do it --without over-doing it. I rate this step as being moderately difficult to master. Going to Georgies (brand) "Salmon White", which is very fine and quite soft, has made all of the steps easier. I press the stamp with my fingers now, instead of placing much of my body weight onto the stamp via the palms of my hands.

Again: I use a slight rocking motion when pressing down --being very careful not to rotate or lift the stamp. You want to make a fairly light impression, lest a standard rubber stamp's deeper recesses become the most prominent (highest relief) features of the tile --which are neither attractive nor relevant.

Again: ordering your stamps with a border around the edge helps prevent surface/impression flow as the clay gets displaced. Another pointer is to make the stamps with at least as much blank area as text and image area, which provides more non-extruding escape paths for displaced clay.

* Again: we're no longer shipping these tiles. You are encouraged to make your own.

Advantages of the current method:

* With no glazing and no glaze problems, our tiles should end up being more archival.

* We like the traditional "clay tablet" look.

* Text impressions will last a lot longer than skin-deep, underglaze fired "ink".

* We need no longer concern ourselves as to whether or not these new tiles will dry flat. I just leave them set out face up until they're dry enough for kiln firing, never turning them. (NOTE: they must not be stacked in the kiln). Only one tile out of hundreds has seriously curled.

Here's my home-made tile press in use.

Note the hook which slides around and under my small heavy duty work bench. The press would otherwise lift up in back when pressing hard. Construction is of ordinary pine wood and dry wall screws. Only the fulcrum block in the back (#1 in the photo below) is (wood) glued in place. The piston is a short section of 4x4 lumber which I've trued and reduced to 3-1/4" square. (It's hard to get wood that isn't warped. I used a treated 4x4, which seemed to be better stuff.)

The upright lever stick is 19-1/2" long and it pushes against a metal piece on the piston (#3 below) placed about 1-1/2" up on the back of the piston, so the lever's advantage is 12-to-1. I found that with some coarse old "sculpture clay" a force of 35 pounds was required to press out clay over the entire 3-1/4" square area (about 10-1/2 square inches), which works out to 40 pounds per square inch. The more recent "Salmon White" clay is much softer, but still requires that I use this press.

That short piece on top, held down by 4 screws, is shimmed for a close fit to the piston, so that it travels straight and true. Of course, I took care that the piston's press face mates flatly/squarely against the anvil block that it pushes against.

1) Fulcrum block

2) 1 x 3/4 inch leverage adjustment block.

3) Two "U" sections to define the push point on the piston block.

4) The piston block fits closely..

2/15/07 update: Simplified Methods

I now begin by simply tearing off a hand-sized (or as might be your own requirements) chunk of clay:

--being careful to break it off cleanly in one piece without un-necessary fractures. Then I compact it into a smooth intact ball:
--which I roll out into a cylindrical slug.

Whether you work with the block of clay as it comes from your dealer, or with cut-off chunks, keep the clay sealed up to prevent needless drying.

NOTE: I've stopped using plastic bags for clay that I work with/from --too messy and results in dried flecks of clay getting into the mix. I now use a simple, square, 7 quart plastic container (holds 25 pounds of clay) which has a snug fitting cover.

* Before pressing out the slug into a tile, lightly spray the interior of the press jaw area with cooking oil--

--or simply brush on a little olive/whatever oil,
--and drop the slug in:
Press out the slug until it fills out the tile forming chamber and extrudes out the top:
Let the clay extrude until the piston reaches your thickness mark --which isn't critical, but you don't want to go thinner than 1/4". I try for about 3/8 of an inch, mostly to stretch out my supply of clay.

Thanks to the lower lip on the piston plate, lifting out the pressed tile is easy:

After removing any squished out clay, separate the tile from the plate (bending it only as necessary):
--spray or brush the plate with oil:
--place the tile back on it (best side up), and lightly spray/brush oil on the tile:
Center the rubber stamp on the clay tile and deftly press down with a slight fore-aft rocking motion (don't turn or shift the stamp) until you see a little clay displacement and feel an increase in resistance (displaced clay hits the stamp's recesses).
This is something you have to learn to do by how it feels. Some of your stamps will require more pressure than others to make a good impression. Ideally, your stamp would be on a somewhat rounded wooden backing (like a long "ledger stamp") --which would be rocked (once) over the clay, in a similar fashion to rolling an ancient cylinder seal over a clay tablet. By first pressing down on the front (thumbs in photo) of a flat stamp and compressing the clay a bit, then rolling your applied pressure toward the back, the front lifts just enough so as not to drag its impressions as the stamp crawls. Instead of a rounded stamp, you end up with a slightly rounded tile.

Carefully lift off the stamp:

--and remove excess clay with a scribe or long needle. Reuse your scraps (well kneaded together) as soon as you've accumulated enough of them to make a tile.
Be careful to not pull and distort the impression when you trim the tile.

Use excess clay as a handle:

--until it's all gone. After trimming, gently run your finger along and smooth any rough edges.

Finally, slide the new tile off onto your sheet rock drying shelves:

--where it will slowly dry --until white, hard, and it feels "bone dry" to your touch.

Bone Dry:  Other problems having been solved, the biggest became the drying time. When we had our own kiln I'd force dry a batch of tiles by doing a several hours long bake-out with the temperature slowly crawling through the boiling point of water (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Now that I'm taking my tiles in to be commercially kilned, however, it behooves me to deliver them adequately "bone dry". That's the point at which little coolness is felt when you touch a room temperature tile, and maybe your fingers end up with a little clay dust on them.

To make a long story short, there's no such thing as complete bone dryness here on the coast of Oregon, so one simply "bakes out" a batch of tiles in the kiln, slowly raising the temperature through the boiling point of water.

High Fire/Low fire: --and in between. It seems reasonable that the highest fired, most vitrified ceramic objects would be the most durable --the most archival, but "cone 10" (2380o Fahrenheit) temperatures are near (or beyond) the limits of affordable kilns and take some while to completely fire. Given the best philosophy of time capsuling: "many copies, keep safe", volume is as important as durability.

So just how durable is a "low fire" ceramic object --and isn't that the kind of artifact that archaeologists find when they do a "dig"?

Well vitrified ceramics, called stoneware, are usually associated with cone 9 to 10 firing, but clay bodies can now be purchased with a "mature" firing point as low as cone #1. "Mid fire" at cone #6 has become standard.

* Although I now have my tiles fired en mass, until recently I had a fine minimalist kiln: a 115 volt at 15 Amp Olympic HB-89T --which uses a normal electrical plug and outlet (but you'd want to run a separate, dedicated circuit for it). I used it to work through all my embarrassing mistakes and misconceptions about ceramics --in the privacy of our own home :-)

It was equipped with a traditional, mechanical "Kiln Sitter" auto shut off plus a timer shut off --instead of the newer type electronic/programable controller. I cycled it through scores of firings and I was very happy with it. You can buy a similar item from:

--which is probably your most flexible supplier, or you can get the HB-89T itself from:


--where we got ours. (Big Ceramic communicates best via e-mail. They like having the time that allows to give you a considered response. Click "contact" at their web site.)

{2015 note: Later on we decided it's much saner to have our tiles fired for us, than to risk fire, noxious fumes, and invalidating our home insurance. You really need a separate, isolated shed on your property to run a kiln and everything should be up to building and electrical codes. Ask your insurance agent for sure.}

It's a good idea to get all the shelves you want with the initial kiln order (especially if it comes from BCS). For making tiles, I stacked 5 shelves 6x6 inch (1/2" thick --suitable for up to cone #6) --thus: three 1/2" posts off the floor, full size shelf, 1" posts, full shelf, 1" posts, full shelf, 1" posts, full shelf, 1" posts, half shelf (and I had to cut a shelf to half size myself).

The reason for that half shelf was so that there'd still be enough head room for a standard size Orton cone (with which one visually judges the kiln's temperature) if it's placed on the exposed portion of shelf #4. Each shelf, including the half shelf, held two of the new type tiles (2.5 x 3.5 inches).

* You want to use shelves that are no closer than one inch to the walls, particularly when adjacent a heating coil (and avoid that if you can). Big Ceramic sold me 7" shelves for my 8" square kiln interior, but now I have a full set of 6" shelves (that I had to cut down myself).

* Running electrical kilns only to cone #6 is somewhat forgiving and it seems we can get the results we (time capsulers) need at that temperature.

Again: my kiln measured 8" square by barely 9" tall inside. You'd think that would be large enough to make 6 inch square tiles --but no. With standard post supports and shelves, I don't see how you could make a set of cone 6 fired tiles larger than 4-1/2"square with this puppy --since they have to sit flat on a shelf for the final glaze firing. (You can stack them up to 3 high on top of each other for bisque firing).  Low fire tiles (cone 06 to 04) can be stacked up with corner supports, so one could go up to 6" square on those, but being less than fully vitrified and at 10% porosity (10% or more water absorption by weight), they might not last for geological periods of time.

* The new sets will consist of 6 or 7 tiles with blank backs --available for additional contributions by the caretakers of each set.

* Again, all of the earlier production that I've shipped  will be replaced. (We need $5 [USA bank check only] for Priority or First Class Mail and a trace number.)

Notes: * The tiles must not be stacked when firing to cone #6. Stacking is only for bisque firing, in preparation for glazes. Our tiles are straight fired to cone 6 --no glazes.

* The shelves and floor of the kiln should be painted with "kiln wash", a flake-off-able surface that will stop molten drips from sticking to and ruining the shelves and blocks. Although kiln wash was perfectly satisfactory in my experience, a ceramics expert has suggested to me that the product "ITC-100-HT" is much better than standard kiln wash --and that you want to apply and use that from the first day you set up and run your new kiln.

    ** Help is as near as your local/regional ceramics supplier. Often the advice you get from practicing vending ceramists is worth more than the products you order --or don't order, as has happened several times now when someone at the store suggested I was making a mistake. Here in Oregon, you want a relationship with (also clay and glazes from) Georgies (stores in Portland and Eugene) at:

--with whom you'll get more traction person-to-person by calling: 1-800-999-CLAYs than via e-mail.

Another helpful and friendly voice/source has been the Continental Clay Company in Minnesota at:

--where I bought my accurate pyrometer, a set of AMACo underglazes, and a variety of their affordable in-house made glazes that can be used from cone 06 to cone 6.

    * Again: and having now gone the route of setting up a kiln room (and you'll do better/safer with a "kiln house" --a building well separated from your home --perhaps just 4 laid-up concrete block walls), I strongly advise that you consider taking another route --at least initially: ceramics classes. If you live in a town of any consequence, it's very likely that someone has set up shop to teach and guide your efforts, kiln your goods, and/or your community college has a well equipped program of ceramics education. (Originally, this wasn't an option for us since our foster care work has kept us fairly homebound.)

Should you wish to continue with your private kilning and education, then do yourself the favor of getting a copy of Frank Giorgini's beautiful: "Handmade Tiles". If you have any feeling for arts and crafts, expect to be strongly affected by perusing this book and seeing what can be made out of clay by skilled and caring hands. Although our tiles are go-the-distance utilitarian, if you have the talent and inclination, consider turning out tiles which any future finder would keep and treasure on the basis of looks alone.

I'll be emphasizing important items that Giorgini covers, but will otherwise only detail my own variations of what's in that book --and what's peculiar to this archival project.

Another book: "Clay" by Suzanne Staubach, is full of lore about ceramics, including ancient clay tablets, the libraries and repositories they were found in, how and why they were made, and in particular: what kind of kilning they were treated to that they endured for up to 5000 years. The answer: none! At best, some of these sun dried tablets were caught in accidental or war caused fires. Archaeologists will sometimes lightly fire them in field labs for the sake of preservation, but they otherwise reach us as simply dried pieces of clay.

One would then expect that our modern, made-to-last, fired-to-maturity/vitrification tiles will surely stand the test of time. The problem with their survival then becomes a matter of them "sinking" ever lower into the Earth as glaciation (10,000 years?), sedimentation, alluvial sand, and the "carbon cycle" deposits layers above the original place of interment. Eventually the Earth's "rock cycle" (and subduction here on the west coast) will also drag our tiles down.

* Again: when the tiles passed from "leather hard" to stiff, but were still far from being "bone dry", I "baked them out" in the kiln for 4 to 6 hours --lid propped open 2.5 inches and on lowest heat (I have an infinitely variable temp control). If it tries to pass through 200 degrees Fahrenheit before 4 hours pass, direct a gentle fan at the kiln (so as not to stir up kiln/room dust --or more than your exhaust hood can remove).

Then go to a minimally propped open lid (1 inch or so) and enough heat to reach 250 to 300 degrees. Next fire for half an hour or more on medium heat to 500 or more degrees, close the lid and switch to high heat. At that point I fired directly to cone #6 (no bisque or glaze firings), which required 3 to 4 hours with a full kiln.

After that let the kiln cool with its lid closed --over night, until the temperature is less than 200 degrees, at which point you can prop the lid an inch or two and wait another 2 hours. When in a hurry, I direct a fan at the kiln, getting out of the kiln room whilst the exhaust hood removes any stirred up dust.

* I purchased my rubber stamps from:

I've added a column of centigrade equivalents to Olympic Kiln's (Haugen Manufacturing's) cone chart, which might come in handy for references that you find on the Internet.

Medium Firing:

- Have tiles and furniture in place, kiln sitter probe coated, & cones set (cones #6). I placed my pyrometer probe into the kiln for the whole run time.

- Start the evacuation hood and bake with the kiln lid propped 2 inches open on the lowest heat for 4 to 6 hours (for a slow "bake out", assuming your tiles were not "bone dry") --to about 200F, then the lower lid to 1 inch and go to 300F at medium-low heat (#2 setting on my kiln).

- Turn heat up to 4.5 (middle setting) and bake another half hour or so to 500F to 600F.

- Close the lid and switch to high heat, setting the kiln timer to the anticipated firing time (about 4 hours for me, but find out for sure how fast your kiln goes up).

- Estimate completion, setting a bell timer 1/2 hour sooner and the kiln timer 1/2 hour longer.

- When the temperature reaches ^6 (2232F) (you can use a ^5 (2185F) warning cone --I didn't), be sure the kiln sitter (or other control) turns your kiln off --or do it manually.

Note: the top peep hole is encumbered with my pyro probe, but good practice is to bore a separate hole for it if you plan to leave it in. You can, of course, poke it in and out, but I think that's harder on both the probe and the peep hole. To monitor the cone's fall, remove it when the reading gets close to the finish temperature.

* I feel that a single #6 cone gives plenty of warning as it slowly falls (and in case you doubt your pyrometer).

- Cool over night to 200F, then prop the lid and cool for 2 more hours before opening.

Ready To Fire
5/7/05 update: That's our last batch of 3x6 tiles in the above photo. The kiln is maxed out with that top most half shelf, leaving room for the witness cone (standing up) and ample room for the Kiln-Sitter ("junior") cone. These tiles await the cone #6 over glaze run.

The Next Morning

These photos were taken when I was using underglaze ink stamping --instead of inkless impressions.

* I re-gauged the Kiln Sitter after over 35 firings and found its setting not to have altered in the slightest. It trips within a few minutes of a downed standard cone and it's often a "photo finish".

The kiln chamber still looks pretty good after 100 firings with just one crack opening up a bit near the top --close to a heating element.

Wrapping the tiles:

* I was placing thin "bats" of fiberglass insulation (separated from standard rolled wall insulation) into gallon Zip Lock plastic freezer bags for our own burials, then folding the bags around my small tiles --but I've since decided that sending this hazardous material into the future was a bad idea. The are now wrapped (for mechanical cushioning) with an undone "chore girl" expanded copper sponge. (I imagine that after a few decades the tiles will be protected by compacted/consolidated soil.)

* We no longer ship tiles to others, but we do encourage others to make their own --or to at least buy and legend the backs of commercial tiles (perhaps pretty and colorful) using ordinary pencil (then good protective wrapping).

The bundle should be tied together with durable copper electrical wire. While brass or bronze would be best, it's really hard to work with (in substantial gauges), so we use common #12 gauge copper TFNN electrical wire. That probably won't go the distance (thousands of years), but I think it unlikely that the tiles would become disassociated, once buried in stable area.

You might want to leave a length of that copper or brazing wire sticking up toward the surface, perhaps topped with a Jefferson nickel (made of durable "cupro-nickel") --as a teaser to encourage folks to dig deeper.

Horsemen of the apocalypse
--bearing down upon us.

(I'm hiding this dreadful stuff at the bottom of my page.)

For 6 years there's been a horrendous release of radionuclides from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Even so, this might only be a minor player in on-going and _anticipated_ events of planet Earth.

* To some geologists, the geological record indicates we're headed toward a significant, 26 million year extinction event. Past (bad enough) events have had declining peaks (percentages of the Earth's species destroyed), followed by a boomer of an episode. This could be volcanic in nature or be due to significant meteor impacts.

* There's good evidence for the repeating nature of "super volcanos", of which there are several around the world. In these parts (the pacific northwest of the United States), Yellowstone is the one to watch --which is now overdue. Its caldera measures 8x32 miles and has the potential to initiate years of winter on Earth.

* The "Sixth Extinction" is that of our on-going "Holocene" era --the past 10,000 years of civilization, to which overpopulation (3x sustainable level now), volatized carbon and radioactive wastes have been signal contributions.

Some say that measuring our impact upon the extinction of known species (27,000 per year, or 3 per hour) exaggerates our effect (relative to past extinctions) since so many that are now being counted (subtracted, rather) --would not have been visible in the geological record (due to their perishable nature, lack of fossilized remains or ephemeral appearance).

* Human augmented Global warming is real (in my humble opinion) and might (might) be all that stands between us and an otherwise impending ice age. On the other hand, it could touch off the next ice age.

* No doubt I've missed other concerns --like anti-biotic resistant pathogens wiping us out, or World War Three. (Hillary Clinton seemed so intent on goading the Russian bear.)


* The upshot of all this: even without these known threats, precious life (people and the biosphere), human culture, and our long historical struggle to arrive at this point --needs to be "backed up" --as best we can. I'd like to see many more Voyager deep space probes, flagged caches of records placed on the Moon and the outer planets, our biological spore sent into deep space (which might have been our own cosmogenesis, re: "panspermia").

(for now)