American Anti-culture: A lament

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Published on Epiphany Now on June 22, 2015

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Every Friday I drive up the mountain to intern with Keiji Oshima. He's teaching me about bamboo. Some days the lesson is to sit in a Sasa Veitchi patch and pull weeds, and on others it's learning the art of splitting bamboo for the purposes of weaving it into baskets. I'm learning how to farm bamboo for the health of the grove. The goal is to produce quality bamboo canes for craft and the table. Bamboo is a way of life that creates a culture. In the United States we don't have a culture, and I'm pretty sure we don't want one. There are houses that are lived in on this Earth that are made up entirely of bamboo. That means you can literally live in bamboo, and you can eat it with utensils made of it while you sit in a bamboo chair at a bamboo table in a bamboo house…bamboo! You can do all of that with wood as well, but wood can't grow 47 inches in 24 hours like Phyllostachy Edulis (moso) can, and good luck trying to eat wood. Bamboo has the highest protein count of any vegetable, but this is not an essay about bamboo, it's more a lament about the sucking void of an anti-culture that I live in. Quite simply this is therapy for me. Read on at your own emotional risk because I've got no warm fuzzies for you about the future.


In my yard I have a diverse array of food growing: apple, peach, cherry, black locust, hazelnut, pomegranate, bamboo, grapevine, black berry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, corn, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, gourds, all manner of cucurbit, peas, beans, herbs, chickens, and others. Diversity is my main tactic. There's also swales, hugelkulture, key hole gardens, cob, and vernal pools. I've done the best job I can designing and installing permaculture into this yard. I don't even like calling it a yard any longer because that word doesn't honor the sweat, blood, thought, emotion, and intentionality I've put into the food forest that is my "yard." A yard is something that is terrorized by mechanical tyranny and synthetic chemicals every other week. The goal of this anti-culture way of thinking is to somehow control nature, to keep it in straight lines and caged in a delusion of the collective human mind. We have dominion over a collapsing way of life contained in a biosphere that is becoming hostile to life. I'm not going to now launch into a list of all the problems our world is facing right now. This would be a good point in the essay to do so, but there are plenty of blogs in the doomosphere that can supply that list for you. The list of food growing in my "yard" is the only list you'll find in this particular rant.
The great irony of my life is that when I'm not permaculturing in my yard I'm riding a lawn mower and operating a weed eather, and yes I even spray round up from time to time. Nobody wants to pay me for my permaculture knowledge in this anti-culture, but they will gladly pay me to keep nature in line in their yards. All of that food growing in my yard and I still shop at costco. Regardless of my hyperactive distaste of hypocrisy it seems I'm unable to help myself from participating in it. Why do I buy and spray Monsanto round up and shop at Costco? Because I live in an anti-culture. I get paid to spray round up, not plant fruit trees (or god forbid, bamboo), and I shop at Costco because it's the cheapest way to feed two young boys. I'm not operating under the fantasy that paying 30% more for "organic" food is going to make my boys much healthier or save anything from my species. The air we breath is toxic and there are over 200 synthetic chemicals in the human body, and I'm supposed to believe that shopping at the local organic box store is going to keep me and my family more healthy!
I go to work and sweat…a lot. It's very hot and humid in the American South. After each job I'll take my T-shirt off and wring out a couple hundred cc's of sweat. I'll drink over a gallon of water in a day and I might pee once. I work very hard for the money I make, and so decisions like shop at costco and save a lot of money, or shop at Organic Box Store and piss my money away like I do all that water I drink, aren't really decisions at all…just common sense. I've got more food growing in my yard than probably 99% of the average home owner and yet I'm still dependent on Costco to supply the bulk of my families calories. Permaculture doesn't work without real community, and it damn sure doesn't work in an American anti-culture. It requires whole communities of people to all be concerned with food, medicine, and material cultivation. My neighbor tills his "garden spot" and then applies petrochemicals to it, and down the road there are 1000's of peach trees all in a line that get sprayed copiously all of the time. Without those petrochemicals my neighbor, and that atrocity of a "peach orchard" down the road, would all learn the hard way what petroleum dependency has done to our anti-culture.
I'm being forced to make up a culture. I've had no initiation into adulthood, unless you count bombing Afghanistan from the bowels of an aircraft carrier for control of the worlds heroine and petroleum as an initiation. I have no elders to look up to. My father has forsaken me and my family on account of arrogant pride. My mother does the best that she can, but she's got no idea either really…well she's got Jesus at least. I have no grandparents left. My wife is even worse off. Her daddy put a 30 aught 6 in his mouth a year before I met her, and her mother is an out of control narcissists that does more harm than good wherever she goes. She has no surviving grandparents either, and what did the whole lot teach us about our world and how we should make our way in it? Our way of life is to consume for profit sake while terrorizing resource rich countries with weapons of mass destruction, and that pretty much sums up America and it's grand ordeals about inalienable rights and freedom. I suppose we have a culture of "lawn care." If you're reading this during the daytime and you listen hard enough I'm sure you can hear a small engine attempting to control nature somewhere (and this privilage American's kill brown people of culture with drones for). Could there be a better way to vent our collective frustration then to grow just grass that has got to be mowed every other week…and fueled by petroleum I might add. Henry Ford and his ilk knew what they were doing with the invention of carcentric suburbia. They were being industrious, which is the highest good as long as it supports profit.
What am I to tell my two young boys about the world and their place in it? The future has no place for them. If they're lucky there will at least be some good human supporting biospheres left when it's their turn to start making babies, that is if the nuclear industry hasn't finished the job of making us all sterile. That industry is definitely doing their level best to destroy all ocean life. For a long time I used permaculture as a blank screen on which to project my hopium. I resigned from a low paying career as a medic after a short stent on fukitol didn't resolve my cognizant dissonance. Dissonance which was resonating from existence in an anti-culture. I went on a permaculture crusade of hope. Three years later my permaculture business partner realizes that hugelkulture isn't going to save the world and threw in the towel. Not that I blame him. Our anti-culture requires us to make money, not to dream up ways to fix this mess.
I'm supposed to remain optimistic in the face of all of this bad news. I'm supposed to somehow realize that our anti-culture is collapsing around us in all the ways that count, but yet there's reason to rejoice! There is a large for profit prison industry in this country for cryin' out loud. What the fuck! People are literally making millions of dollars on non-violent drug addicts turned industrial prison complex for profit slaves. They were only drug addicts in the first place because there was no place for them in our anti-culture. Who can blame them? Yet now they make our military uniforms. I suppose at least we're using our own domestic slaves now rather than the rest of the worlds. There is even a very entertaining show about it on Netflix called "Orange is the New Black." My wife and I have watched all three seasons. In the last season the women of the prison make panties for a lingerie company. Most Americans watching probably have no idea that the show is depicting reality. At any rate we watch it to escape from reality. One of the most important prescriptions for life in an American anti-culture is the remedy of sitting on our fattening asses while eating food chemicals anesthetized on a television screen, beer, and fukitol. I'm supposed to be optimistic. I have a tendency to forget that.
There is one small silver lining in the fight for optimism and hopium. The SUN foundation, a 501c3 non-profit of which I'm the CFO (chief financial officer), has a chance at receiving one million dollars to design a "Sunstead." You can read all about what that is by going to and reading our prospectus. If anything can give me hope it's SUN. As you have no doubt deduced at this point I need some hopium. We all do, at least those of us with our eyes wide open. I hope that SUN can shine and help to create at least one answer to this mess we are in. Now I'm off with my truck and trailer full of nature tyranny dispensation so that I can make some money to buy some Costco food to feed my family. At least I did provide them some home grown Irish cobler taters and zucinni for dinner last night. I'll take the small victories. I suppose I'm more prepared for the future than 99% of the rest of the non-1% Americans. On another optimistic note…my state finally took the confederate flag off of the state capitol building today. I guess my state's no longer stuck in the mid 1800's intellectually any longer?

Timber, the Inconspicuous Welfare Queen

Off the keyboard of Allan Stromfeldt Christensen

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on January 15, 2015

Stacks and stacks and stacks (photo: Dtfoxfoto)

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A few weeks ago I had the fortunate opportunity to attend an excellent weekend bamboo course with Giant Grass on the outskirts of Melbourne. Along with a thorough overview of bamboo and its uses, a group of us spent a couple of days designing and then putting together a bamboo structure at an urban community garden.

On what was the first day of the course we were doing a bit of Q & A, and one of my fellow attendees had this to ask: “If I want to build a small structure, say 12 feet by 12 feet, is it going to cost less if I build it with bamboo or with timber?” When it was cordially pointed out that building with timber would cost less, her disappointment with the whole bamboo venture was readily obvious. Without missing a beat however our instructor then asked an excellent question in return: “Why do you want it to cost less?”

Granted, this woman was also interested in building a small structure for an urban community garden, which generally have few funds to work with. These issues can easily lead to the discussion of quality (which has copious variables) versus quantity (the desire to fork over the least amount of cash), but that’s not a tangent I want to touch here. machines! (photo: Vladvitek)

Our instructor did then point out that okay, if you grew, harvested, and cured your own bamboo – doable on a small scale – then sure, the bamboo structure could cost less. But not only were we in a massive city where that generally didn’t happen on any appreciable scale, but neither is bamboo grown in Australia on a scale for anything much beyond cutesy ornamentals and tomato plant stakes – and even those are often imported. In other words, bamboo doesn’t enjoy the economies of scale that wood does, and you can’t just go to your nearest big-box hardware store and pick up the bamboo equivalent of a 2×4, be it at a comparable price or even at all. And we’re talking Australia here, where the stuff can grow like weeds.

Although in the ensuing days my head was fired up with the newfound possibilities of bamboo, the notion of cheap wood stuck with me, and it was just a short time later when alarm bells went off as I recalled a book I’d actually finished a few days before the bamboo course: Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.

It’s recalled in the book how back in the day the common method of building with wood was post and beam. A rather conservative method of building, it often entailed getting your friends and neighbours together to give a helping hand to bring it all together (imagine an Amish barn raising).

Aligning the matchsticks (photo: Anton Foltin)

This all got superseded however with what we now sometimes call “balloon framing.” Balloon framing is easily recognizable as the common building method for suburban tract housing and which uses copious amounts of 2x4s and other machine-cut pieces of wood. With good reason, these are sometimes referred to as matchstick-houses (to which the big bad wolf might concur).

Pollan’s just a tad off though, for he states that “balloon framing is a product of the machine age: it would never have developed if not for the invention of the steam-powered sawmill (which ensured a ready supply of lumber of consistent dimensions).”

To be a bit picky, it’s not so much machines (such as a sawmill) that make “lumber of consistent dimensions” possible. Rather, it is the copious availability of fossil fuels that are able to power machines with such massive amounts of energy and that in turn allow for the ubiquity of balloon framing and other energy intensive, modern methods of building. In other words, and so long as you have the trees, a water-wheel powered sawmill could get you a bit of timber. Emphasis on could and a bit, because without the fossil fuels, no matter how many machines and sawmills you have, comparatively speaking, you aren’t going to be milling all that much wood.

To bring nails into the picture, prior to the early-19th century nails were hand forged, and so the way that we attach our slabs of wood together by wantonly blasting nails into them would have been utterly prohibitive. As Pollan then puts it, “It was the Industrial Revolution that, by turning nails into a cheap commodity and trees into lumber, prepared the ground for this radical new way of putting together a building.

More monster machines! (photos: Bright, Pietzko, Vladvitek, Dtfoxfoto)

In other words, without the availability of cheap fossil fuels, the ease and accessibility of these modern building methods would hardly exist. And speaking of wood, it doesn’t stop there.

To procure the massive amounts of fast-growing trees for all this requires huge monocultured forests, pesticides (and the planes to apply them with), and legions of teenagers and others to do the gruelling work of tree planting. To raze these “forests” – for clear-cutting is what you do when you grow trees in large-scale monocultural methods – requires a whole other slew of machines and fossil fuels to get the job done.

And by no means does it stop there. Once the trees have been harvested they still have to be loaded up, transported to the mill, milled, transported to a warehouse and/or store, sorted, then transported – yet again – to the worksite or to one’s house. All of which requires large amounts of fossil fuels to accomplish – wood is heavy.

Not to say that with constrained supplies of fossil fuels wood becomes a write-off. Certainly not. But I think it’s worth noting that even a very “green” and sweet-smelling thing such as wood is drenched in oil like much else nowadays, and its ubiquity if not accessibility wouldn’t be so care-free if it weren’t for the energy subsidy it gets from fossil fuels. In other words, modern timber is a welfare queen.

Slow wood? (photos: Wheeler, Pooler, Foto4you, Bright)

Will milled timber be around in our post-fossil fuel era? Obviously. That being said, it probably won’t come in “endless” shapes and sizes straight off the shelf as it does now, it will probably be used much closer to where it is grown than it is now, and, if selective and agroforestry practices can spread far and wide, it’ll probably be valued – and not just monetarily – more than it is now.

And in case you didn’t notice, these implications have significant ramifications on the rest of our current and conventional building methods, and what is essentially the modern artist’s and architect’s cult of novelty. But that’s fodder for another post. As will be the interesting applications of bamboo.

The Bamboo Monster

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

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Published on Epiphany Now on September 2, 2014

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On August 30th,  just after arriving home from a 14 day long intensive Permaculture Design Course, I was informed that South Carolina Environmental Control had been too my residence.  They were looking for Cannabis.  Apparently residents of this county are growing it in their gardens to hide it.  I’m not.  I’ve got kids, and I’m not stupid enough to grow cannabis where it’s illegal to do so.  Anyways, because bamboo is technically a grass, they have decided that I must keep it cut at 16 inches.  This is preposterous.  0.5 miles from my residence there is an established grove of Phyllostachys Spectabilis.  I have that same bamboo growing in my yard, along with others…all of which came from the ground in this county. 
Allow me to officially introduce myself. I, dear reader, am the Bamboo Monster. Now, before you get your panties in a wad and start calling me names, like my all time favorite Bamboo hater term, “Damnboo.” Please realize that I’m a nice monster. However, according to the Department of Homeland Security, I’m in fact the opposite. Just listen to the words of an anonymous chicken shit from the USDA:
“The so-called gardeners who plant this vile stuff in their yards claim that it makes a great privacy screen, while in actuality its an invasive weed that spreads to adjacent properties and wreaks havoc on entire communities. This law was enacted to send a clear message: If you want privacy, build a fence like a normal person!”
“Wreaks havoc on entire communities,” now that is just misguided at best. I mean I may have climbed up through your ventilation ducts in the middle of the night and chocked a bitch or two in my past, but I’m reformed. I promise. I’ve spent the last 40 years or so being damned by American anti-culture. Ever since the American government abandoned its intensive research of me in the late 60’s. I was fit to revolutionize the Earth for humanity. Personally I think I got tossed to the curb by American culture for the same reason that hemp got tossed. I’m just too damn useful to humans. The rotten money changers at the top of the human socioeconomic scheme just can’t figure out how to control me to monopolize on my usefulness. According to the above referenced article, I’m actually illegal to grow in the United States. However, you can buy six foot canes a half inch in diameter at lowes for 3 bucks a pop courtesy of China. Somehow that makes sense, but growing me in your yard for free doesn’t. You might be interested to hear what the illustrious Michael Chertoff, head of the DHS, had to say on the matter of befriending me:
“Privacy in America is a quaint, outdated concept. That’s why we support this legislation. The abolition of bamboo screening in the yards of America will make it much easier for people to see what their neighbors are up to. The passage of this law is one small victory in the larger war against terror.”
Did you know that from 1898 to 1975 the US Department of Agriculture introduced hundreds of my varieties to the states. The plan was to plant me widely as a commercially viable plant. Around 1960, the New Crops Branch of the USDA studied Phyllostachys bambusoides and loblolly pine to compare yields for pulp production. Then on July 1, 1965 the Department of Agriculture just stopped researching me. I was very confused by that because I’m much more virile than pine. Latter I found out that the government turned their back on me because loblolly pine business interests wanted them to. The same thing happened to hemp.
Contrary to what idiots may think, I am native to North America. I’m not an invasive weed, or a pest. For some reason Americans seem to think that I can defy the laws of nature. They think I will “take over” if you plant me. Well, yeah, I will take over if you don’t keep me in check. Let me tell you a little secret. I’ll throw this little nugget out there as a peace offering; I have an Achilles Heel. If you want to control me, all you have to do is dig a trench around me and fill it with sand. Then, twice a year, you take a spade and plunge it into the sand. When you find one of my rhizomes you cut it. It’s called root pruning (or rhizome pruning in my case), and it really is that easy. If you do that I won’t escape containment. Well, I may still find my way out by plunging down beneath your trench, but eventually, if I do that, I’ll send up a shoot and then you’ll know where I escaped. Then you just eat the shoot, or don’t, and pull the rhizome up and put me back into containment.
My growth habits are not a state secret, and I’m easy to contain if you just understand how I grow. Sure, once I get established as a healthy grove I’m just about impossible to get rid of, but then what’s wrong with being strong and powerful? I am stronger than steel and I’m capable of weathering hurricanes. Indigenous cultures know that when mother nature strikes via natural disasters I’m the safest place to seek refuge. I’ve been told that I have somewhere around 1400 uses for mankind. Why, kind reader, do Americans hate the most useful plant to them on the planet?!!!

Evidence of the Bamboo Monster

Off the keyboard  & cameras of Lucid Dreams & Gypsy Mama

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Published on Epiphany Now on August 3, 2014 & on SUN4Living on Aug 4, 2014

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Let me take you on a journey through a magical land inhabited by Pagans, Druids, Witches, and Bamboo Monsters.  It’s located in the Upstate of SC and is home to the SUN Foundation.  Ancient Earth Design  also resides in this location, as does the Fox Den and the Gypsy House.  Tribanns are to be found, as are treasures, gourds, and bamboo bones (I think they are the phalanges of the Bamboo Monster himself).  Legend and myth is unfolding here, and if one looks closely enough fairies can be spotted racing from earth mound to earth mound.  It all amounts to hope in a hopeless time.  In other words, beyond monetary value, and beyond business as usual.  For there is very little BAU to be found here.  It’s cordoned off and kept at bay by intentional magic.  As in the esoterically occult kind.  The kind that uses natural objects to weave meaning, purpose, and intentionality.  Join me on this journey.  Captured in one windy, unusually chilly, overcast and drizzily day after a storm had passed.


“Little Chicky” with his mother the broody hen. His only other sibling drowned in the water bowl on day two.


most of the flock


my favorite wild edible, Sorrel. Taste like lemon and it’s growing all over my yard probably due to the horse manure brought onto the land three years ago.


The front swale and berm. Most of my garden is behind it.


Phyllostachy Spectabils. This is a 2014 cane, or culm, showing spectabilis character with the twisting motion. It will also grow canes in a zig zag pattern from time to time.


the reddish looking canes were the original canes I transplanted. The yellow are 2014 canes.


spectabilis, gourds, and peppers on the front berm.


phyllostachy aurea “koi”. The other side of that cane is green. What you see is the south facing side. It changes color due to southern exposure, while the other side stays green.


see what I mean?


rooster spur pepper next to phyllostachy negra. No canes yet, just leaves and stems off the rhizome. Next spring I’ll get canes.


the tip of “bamboo island” with several peppers and Pseudosasa Japonica, or “Arrow Bamboo.” The Japanese use it to make arrow shafts due to the perfectly straight growth and perfect culm diameter.


Arrow up close


Bamboo Islands swale full of water after it rained the previous night.


Bamboo Island


Bamboo island as seen from my deck. In five years you won’t be able to see the trailer park.


Saint John’s Wort growing on a hugel bed amongst Lavender, gourds, tomatoes, blueberries, morning glories, and grass.


raspberries planted this spring.




a fuji apple tree guyed with some bamboo. Planted late spring 2014.


the hugel bed that Saint John is growing in.


Aji Crystal peppers. They have a citrus flavor with the heat of Jalapenos.


gourd central


one of my many bamboo trellises


one of my compost bins. I actually used this compost today for the planting of phyllostachy Vivax and Negra.


a maple I transplanted after it grew from underneath my deck. It grew through the deck and leafed out. The part I transplanted was the part that was beneath the deck.


Montmorency Cherry tree with Georgia Belle peach behind it. Both are growing in hugel.


Aji Crystal growing next to one of last years dried out gourds on a hugel bed.


Tomatoes, gourds, and peppers growing on a hugel bed.


cut this maple down on a job a few weeks ago. I used the entire maple for a hugel spiral. My foot is size 13 to give an idea of the size of that tree.


Front swale after a rain.


Zen’s leg in the swale


front swale with a black locust tree sapling I planted a couple of months ago growing at the edge. Black locust is very fast growing, it grows straight, makes rot resistant posts that will last 80 years plus in the ground as posts, and it’s blooms are edible. It would be the most valuable species of wood for the timber industry if it weren’t for a beetle that gets it at around year ten.


concord grapes growing amongst gourds next to a fuji apple tree.


our sacred fire pit


a message to the future about what us Druids did to television in the 21st century. Presumably that plastic cathode tv case will be there on that post when the post rots to the ground.


blueberries being “gourdtacked” as my wife likes to call what gourds do if you let them alone.


one of our hundred of gourds.


bamboo bones left by the Bamboo Monster. He lives here at the Fox Den and SUN HQ.


a lot of plant growth in my garden.


a bee on a gourd flower


a “golden” bamboo staff altered by the sun and my creativity.


The end of that bamboo staff after I stuck it in the soil of one of my hugel beds.


mushrooms love hugelkulture


Another type of mushroom. I use mulch I get for free at the dump. It’s got a wide diversity of different wood in it, therefore my garden has a pretty wide diversity of mushrooms.


more green in the garden


The Hugel Garden seen from my deck.


The front swale and berm of my hugel garden. The Gypsy House is seen in the background. The Gypsy House is actually where the SUN Foundation is physically located.


phyllostachy Aurea, AKA “Fish pole bamboo,” as well as “Golden”. It’s growing next to my house. I just planted it there a month ago.


the decorative nodal segments of Aurea. In Asia they use them for umbrella handles, as well as any other manner of craft you can imagine due to that type of growth. It’s amongst the most ornamental of any bamboo, and it’s ubiquitous in the south.


where most of the water goes on my property. The pond, which I still need to line. I’m going to use old blow up mattresses to line it. Then we’re getting ducks.


The new chicken shack I built from mostly salvaged wood and bamboo. I bought one sheet of plywood.




me, Lucid Dreams


my oldest boy, Ayden Zen, protecting his bamboo bones from the “ostrich,” apparently aunt Bee had just red him a book about ostriches. You can also use bamboo bones for divination. I do.


the reflection of spectabilis in the swale beneath the berm it’s planted in. If you watch and listen closely, you can see and hear the Bamboo Monster himself drinking the water from that swale.

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To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

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  • Our Finite World
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I am always amazed at how much more energy countries in cold climates use than those in warm climate [...]

I think every mother discovers each child she has is quite different, from an early age. A child who [...]

Oil has been very important to Mexico. But Pemex has not been providing enough profits for Mexico to [...]

when you move to a cold climate you have to steal energy from someone/thing else [...]

"Those of us who have stuck around and continue to visit this site do so I suspect, because the [...]

The author's gist seems to be that we should keep investing in shale because - all other condit [...]

Thanks for the article Steve. As usual, perfect - almost eldritch - timing. One question, what do yo [...]

What do you think of the author's reasoning? So the initial production rates from a well in the [...]

Here"s one: [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

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Technical Journals

Forest management based on sustainability and multifunctionality requires reliable and user-friendly [...]

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Although it comprises only 0.03% of total GHGs [...]

This study presents a method to investigate meteorological drought characteristics using multiple cl [...]

El Niño–Southern Oscillation strongly influences rainfall and temperature patterns in Eastern Austra [...]