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"sustainable" means "barely staying ahead of death"  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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The word sustainable is used a lot these days, but it doesn't really fit what I want to do. 

In the broad spectrum of all the things that can happen, there is:

1)  fast death

10)  medium speed death

100) slow death

1000)  death that is really, really slow

1416)  sustainable - barely avoiding death, but no more

2000)  _________

10,000)  _______

100,000)  ________

1,000,000) ________

I would like to find the words for the blanks. 

Growth?  Prosperity?

Any ideas?  Surely there are some excellent words and they just aren't popping into my head right now.

 
Brenda Groth
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well every living thing does spend it's entire life dying
 
Robert Ray
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I guess your right "sustainability +" is what I would want and whether that surplus was for bad seasonal performance or to acheive" propsperous sustainabilty" would depend on my excess production/labor.
Is your definition of sustainability subsistence farming?
Does it encompass land production capabilities and protection?
Does your definition mean global or local sustainability?
 
Fred Morgan
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I like the idea of banking, when the bank is my land. Used to be the meaning when you banked up something. When I do something sustainably, it means that I am saving in something that won't deflate overnight, my land, my water, my infrastructure.

An example, I see people cutting trees down in a field that weren't crowded. The trees could have continued to grow, getting larger, but they cut them down to put the money in the bank. Weird, very weird. Better off to let them keep growing until they out grew their space.

Instead of saving money in a bank, we are place our assets where they count, in our land.
 
Robert Ray
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Fred,
I agree and that is more of what I see as my definition of sustainable, proving the homestead. Increasing it's productivity while doing no-harm, kind of a Hypocratic land oath.
Trying to achieve maximum productivity without sucking the life out of it. Depending on what you have 100% self sufficiency is probably not attainable but 100% food production certanly could be for me at least.
 
                              
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Lets remember that sustainable and self sufficient are two different terms.

A practice is sustainable if it can be continued indefinitely without detriment to the environment or whatever system it is part of.

Now if you are expecting to be 100% self sufficient and sustainable at the same time, that could be a challenge, mainly because you have to define the boundaries of that self sufficient system and so far as I know, the enclosed bubble didn't quite work. 

Even some of the most primitive peoples were never completely self sufficient unto themselves, Trade goes back long before written or remembered history and probably back before language. 

Now what part of sustainable are we really talking about?  Most of the un-sustainable practices are going to kill millions.  To me, Sustainable means improving the planet we live on.  Step one stop using the flush toilet.  (Can't be sustainable or self sufficient if you turn useful nutrients and organic matter into a waste to be disposed of.)

Words for the blanks
Growing
Thriving
Abundance
Symbyosis
 
Leah Sattler
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TCLynx wrote:
Lets remember that sustainable and self sufficient are two different terms.

A practice is sustainable if it can be continued indefinitely without detriment to the environment or whatever system it is part of.




do we consider ourselves (and others) to be part of the enviroment just as the other flora and fauna? without detriment to the enviroment to me means without detriment to me also
 
paul wheaton
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How about "Environmentally Symbiotic Farming"?  Symbiotic seems to imply that it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

 
Robert Ray
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I guess we need a definition of what sustainable means to answer correctly .
Once the word sustainability is attached we have to determine what is being sustained. In my definition that would be food production for myself and protecting the piece of ground from contamination or detriment. The symbiosis TCLynx mentions.
Subsistence farming is just enough to survive. I want better than that in my loop.
Self sufficiency would encompass power production and energy independence.
Is an open meadow sustainable? I don't think the sustainable term comes into play until we add the human element in my definition at least.
 
                              
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The whole idea that "sustainable means barely staying ahead of death" is really a completely negative way of looking at all this.

I'm curious how that rating scale is meant to be used anyway.
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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I agree.  Who wants to be sustainable?  I like to consider my work
regenerative.
 
                              
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Sustainable is fine with me, and where needed regeneration yes.

I'm just wondering about equating sustainable with something as negative as "barely staying ahead of death"

Well, yea, the subject was probably more to draw people in for the discussion.

Regenerative is a good word to add to the list!
 
Leah Sattler
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with my sick humor I sorta get the "barely staying ahead of death" idea. when I look out at the world I see everything trying to eek out an existence. some things have developed strategies that are mutally beneficial to others, some things have a live and let die strategy. humans have both. in reality most everything has a bit of both. I don't see the static perfect circle of life that others do. I see a system that works and changes and evolves and adapts and some componants live and some die over the course of time.

I do prefer the premise of a 'symbiotic' approach. it leaves one with the sentiment that we are trying to fit in as best as possible, not destroy things for our own benefit.
 
Fred Morgan
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Of course, what "barely staying ahead of death" implies that the others are killing themselves and the land, perhaps slowly, but still doing it.

In reality, it is more like first pressing on the brakes, since your first years may not be sustainable, but you still have to eat! But, with time, you get your systems in place, and your knowledge and experience grows, and you can start reversing the trend, and actually improve your system.

And you all correct, your system is a local one, it depends on others, especially in water, air, etc.
 
Robert Ray
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Reducing impact would certainly be a component of my definition of sustainable. But I'm definitely not at zero yet since there is still trash being sent to a landfill.
When we talk about "barely staying ahead of death" would that be just the human element or the land as well?
 
 
Jennifer Smith
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I like prosperous. 

I like the idea Fred put out of banking in my land.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Give a person a fish, and the person might eat the fish.

Teach a group to fish, and they can eat fish for a lifetime.

Develop methods for your society to decide when not to fish, and how to hold to that decision, and collapses in the fish population might not cause famine.

Spread information on how cultures can hold their own against competitors inclined to over-fish, and fish could maintain a predator-prey relationship with us for the lifetime of our species.

Foster resilient systems that maintain a diversity of species and could outlive our own species, and people might stop asking "what shall we eat?" and "what shall we wear?" They will neither harm nor destroy, as the Earth will be full of knowledge as the waters cover the sea.
 
                                      
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Hey Paul
so what else could come after "sustainable - barely avoiding death, but no more"? in your hierarchy?

"Exessive consumption beyond your needs but accumulating excess anyway just in case?" perhaps?

We all die and nobody ever "avoids death" no matter how they live.
its about how we live in the interim and who we deprive of resources we feel we "have to consume" in order to be "comfertable (sic)"
We leave the world as naked as we entered. What is important is not what we have accumulated but what we have given in return for the  privilege of living.
Maybe you could insert into your hierarchy "sustainable - minimal consumption but maximum generosity"
 
Robert Ray
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Subsistence sustainable?
Consumptive sustainable?
Production sustainable?
Maximum sustainable production?
My little play on word "hypo" extremely low..."cratic... belief. Instead of Hippocratic failed I guess.
But it is my sustainable intent extremely low impact doing no harm with maximum output. If I lived in an apartment my maximun susainability would be dependent on whatever containers could produce. Does sustainable mean independence or does it mean low impact?
 
Matt Ferrall
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Good topic!One I ponder daily.It is unfortunate how everone jumps on a word regardless of reality.We all want to be hip but few seem interested in changing their lifestyle.I define this term prior to using it in a conversation.Sustainable food system=food system that uses less calories than it produces so that it could continue indefinantly with no loss.To me this would be the basis for a permanent culture.Native American production models are often(but not always)good examples of this.The European agrarian models are practically opposite.It is no accident that the natives left us an intact,rich,and well developed landscape desighned to tap the interest on these highly productive systems.It also is no coincidence that eurasians depleted their land with poor managment practices.Many of the reasons are social(civilization/capitalism ect..)but much of the problem lies in inherently unsustainable agrarian models.Anyone interested in the history of soil and civilization can find a ton of books looking into this.The middle east was once a lush paradise but research shows that the cultures that lived there turned it into a desert.
    The eurasian model only works because they outsourced the cost(white mans majic).If we break it all down caloricly we find barns,fences,greenhouses,running water,tractors ect... all take more calories to produce and use then they return.So why does it seem to work?Well it clearly was not working in the old world and the soil conditions there before the discovery of the new world are a testament to that.Rather than being forced to change,the new world offered the stored calories left by the natives for the taking.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Old growth trees were easily transformed into barns and fences that would only last 100yrs.Reasorces flowed into europe allowing their feilds a break.As they moved west,americans were never forced to change their habits because they could always move on after depleting the resouces.They would have had to deal with this at the west coast but oil came on the scene at that point and barns,fences and all the other crap could now be made out of metal and plastic using cheap oil.Cheap grains subsidised with cheap oil became available and that brings us to now.It is hard to quantify calories in manufactured items but Wes Jackson found that a tractor dedicated to biofuel production would not be able to create enough calories to create it and fuel it so it ran at a caloric loss.Most technology can be shown to do this.
  I love the idea of true sustainability.Few in the permaculture movement seem interested in such things and props seem to go to whoever is using lots of resouces(excavator,chipper!!!),presenting the most glamorous looking project(bullocks),or presenting grand #s(any one can get a million calories out of a back yard-just add 10million calories!).If we actually want permaculture to have any integrity to its name,I believe we should address these issues and start to look at food/resource production models that are trully sustainable.But until others in the movement step up to this integity,I will continue to frame the movement as sold out!
 
Matt Ferrall
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Of course,the more 'sold out'it is,the more members it will gain so it comes as no suprise that the movement is growing even as its integrity has been reduced to nothing.People in the first world are interested in any solution that does not involve any real change(eating different foods ect..)and as long as they can stay lazy at the top of the consumer pirymid they will continue to do so and the meaning of words like sustainable are just going to be forced to bend to "cultural needs"so they can feel good about themselves at the same time.Tragic!!!All we can do is pray that this civilization collapses and true sustainability will show itself at that time.
 
Robert Ray
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The caloric model sounds as if it should be more of a guage than many determinations of sustainability I have seen.
What about imported resources are you sustainable if you bring in compost from somewhere else?
 
 
Matt Ferrall
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The caloric model has its drawbacks too.Herbs and medicine are often grown at caloric loss.Compact florescents use less energy but toxify the planet with mercury.So there is more to life than calories.Quantifying the organic is problomatic but not quantifying has led us down this path so we could use some model I guess.
 
rose macaskie
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Joel hollijngsworth talks about sustainable fishing. I have heard enough to know a bit about Spainish fishermen, this is a fish loving country the fishermen are out to get as much as they can were they can and then i hear they are out being attacked by Somalian pirates and i think, "we fish African waters till they are nearly empty and then we complain if they try to steal a bit of money off us, our over using their resorsces with out paying them properly for them causes African deaths and lots of them, many more than the deaths caused by pirates". My synppathise are with the pirates, except that the money they steal apparently ends up in London. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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It was not the reflection that organic methods would be better for the soil though hardly economical that made me start to look for the faults in the farming here in Spain and preach the benefits of the organic, it was the discovery that the bareness here and indeed in all the mediterenean was not due to the climate as i saw lots of grass in one place in winter the testimony of pastures capacity to gegenerate after the summer drought. then when i saw what pastures could be i thought that this system is inefficient they woudl earn more and that much more with the organic system. It was the thought like sue munroes what idiot the farmers are to have such usuless crops when they coudl have so much more that made me want to talk of organic prcesses.
    there are hills here where it is not just that the soil is poor it is that they have lost the soil, are down to the rock. building up soils is just good farming practice letting them lose their organic matter and then baring them to the elements untill the soil gets carried off is just stupid, though when it is a centuries long tradition as it is here hard for those who have always lived with it to see.
      This is a hot country, organic matter means better absorption of rain somthing you can't acheive with chemicals,
      better absorption and retention of rain = crops that don't suffer very much from a dry spell in their growth period.
    It also means less irrigation.
    I am not a very tidy house wife, in the house i don't go crazy when things are out of place but as studier of farms  things out of place drive me crazy, that is too strong an expresion but it seems they drive me to do quite a lot of work in the academic sense and also an attempt to prove how to build up soils in my garden.
  Talking of builing up soils, as objects i left on the land fourteen years ago are now to be found about three inches down it is obviouse that soils  have built up on top of the ground , that worms have carried down the dead leaves and up the sand and clay particles  but another factor is, havn't they probably been also built up soil below the surface? Is not each layer of the cake probably a bit thicker so that, how much has been built up does not only have to do with how much soil there is no on top of that stone i put down as a stepping stone but how much as the soil under the stone thickened an dbecome top soil. I post a foto of hills whose soil is worn down to the rock. agri rose macaskie 
48-arce-41a.jpg
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Paul is right.  Sustainable is barely ahread of dying.  My question is, is that a bad thing?  The quest for "sustainable +" has us moving as a pretty brisk pace to certain collpase.  After driving out the hunter/gatherer lifestyle in favor of agriculture and it's had some mixed results, which have spawned things like the "Back to the Land" movement and even this Permaculture business.  I think "just ahead of death" is a fine place to be personally, it's what all living things EXCEPT human beings strive for.  Why improve on perfection?
 
Robert Ray
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If sustainable means "barely staying ahead of death"  that would fall into a subsistence definition.
Once man made a transition from hunter gatherer to agrigarian culture it created the ability  to increase the population with the that extra reliable food source.
Arts, science and technology developed along with that freedom created by the availability of food.
At what point in the timeline of man would you see this sustainable point?
Would sustainable be a lifestyle that modern medicine is available?
Would sustainable be having enough for trade for unobtainable items from your area?
Would sustainable include the availability of any modern convenience? Pumps for wells?
Cold storage for food?
Does sustainable mean current status quo?
We can't continue on the current economic model of finite resource exploitation. and just barely staying ahead of death might become the norm. Doing without is not something many are prepared to embrace.
With permaculture I see an effort to balance impact and and effort of repairative methods to live comfortably.

 
                                          
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Jared Diamond wrote a fantastic article on the transition to agrigarian culture and all it's promises.  I'll link it below.  I do agree with many of you points, however I cannot nessecarily say that just because I enjoy medicine, science, technology and art that it's a 'good' thing.

Would you need items unavailable in your area if you couldn't ship them?  Not if you were staying ahead of death.

Would your population expand beyond available food sources?  Doubtful, if you were 'sustainable' anyway.  And why store extra food, build a well, or create excess if you already have all your needs met?

What we know is that agriculture promises a life of leisure, and all it delivered was more people and a lower quality of life overall(read the article).  There is also the whole 'war' thing.

I love permaculture because I believe it tries to balance out the need for agriculture in a world that no longer supports gathering and hunting, without the problems we have faced using it to date.  Then again, in a perfect world we wouldn't need a system to relearn how to live within the world we evolved in to begin with.

"The Worst Mistake in History of the Human Race" by Jared Diamond
http://www.environnement.ens.fr/perso/claessen/agriculture/mistake_jared_diamond.pdf
 
Robert Ray
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Ther is no doubt that there are parts of art, technology and modern medicine that I could easily do without and in the case of some medical practices might be smarter to do without.

An excess of food production in some climates would allow one to stay in place,food storage for climactic reasons.  An excess in food production would allow one to ride out a bad seasonal performance of a garden.  So sutainability and the need for excess production depends on region and ability to  travel I would guess. Preperation for survival is not a bad thing. If I go out in the winter I wear warm clothes. Water access is how many people have been controlled by others.

War is another whole conversation along with religion and culture. And not isolated to food procurement.

A problem I see is if there is some catastrophe, where once upon a time the population could return to a hunter gatherer lifestyle it is not possible now.
I don't know that it is a process of relearning as much as developing and teaching a new lifestyle.
Sustainable would have to address population numbers. Who is going to impose that on a productive person/group. If I can support a sustainable family of 8 and a hunter gatherer can support a family of 4 who determines who is right? Now we get into that conflict phase.





 
                          
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here is a link to a 100 year old book about sustainability

www.appropedia.org/Three_Acres_and_Liberty

an interseting look at ways gone by

Bird
 
                                          
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And here we come to the sticky subject of population control.

I don't want to argue the who and where of it, but I will say that once upon a time population was controlled by food supply and lifestyle.  Agriculture made it possible to not have to move around to find food, and grow it in abundance.  Population increased in pace.

The thing that is known though is that though there were more people, those people were nessecary because disease rates were higher and substantially more labor was nessecary to grow everything that could otherwise be gathered by a smaller and more mobile group.

So was agriculture and the ensuing population explosion unavoidable?  Probably.  Be it for ease or for war SOMEONE was likely to discover and popularize farming.  Still it's likely that the hunter-gatherer model was truely sustainable.  It's a shame that even when hindsight is 20/20 there isn't much to do for it now.

And so we have permaculture!  YAY!
 
Matt Ferrall
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I dont go for the civilized vs hunter/gatherer dichotomy.Natives on the west coast are now considered to be advanced horticulturists and their system was not on the path toward annual agriculture(we dont have summer rain)They fully managed with intention in the landscape and it is now believed they sustained a dense population as well.Instead of exact immitation and `going back`,YES-we now have permaculture and about 10x the species to work with(civilizations gift to post civilization).Diversity is food security.Having a close relationship with your landscape is food security.Honing your manifesting skills through `prayer`is food security.What agrarians promote as food security is anything but and their lack of trust in the earth and eachother perpetuates the conditions that create the need to fear to begin with.
 
Robert Ray
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When you say "agrarians "are you saying monoculture large farms?
  I can't make that leap and say "prayer" is food security prayer should be a constant and not linked to just hard times. Unfortunately it seems to be the trigger for some that say they believe in a greater power.
I would trust and depend on the  land before I trusted government to provide. 
People can be controlled by food and water always unless they can provide it for themselves.
A food procurement view that supports developing a sustainable harvest through permaculture practices and opportunity harvesting through hunter/gathering methods is probably a good step towards attaining food security.
 
Matt Ferrall
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`agrarian`to me is a culture based on annual agriculture.Given that ag. is so unsustainable,the question many are asking is why convert to it in the first place?Its very true that you can control people with food and water.In Ghana a commission was formed by the white colonists to solve the `labor shortage`.Unfortunatly,the natives had no desire to do repetative menial tasks all day.So it became an explicit policy to dislocate and uproot people and sever their close relationships with their land base.Dislocated people are required to meet their needs through the economy and so need $.Instead of `working`2-4hrs a day to meet their needs,they can be forced to work 2x as much.The perpatrators of such a scheme would be rewarded with control over the population!.The final step is to convince the population(through supression of alternatives)that the means of control-agriculture-is all that is possible.
 
Matt Ferrall
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People who live off the land for generations develop a level of trust in their enviroment.If a person cannot trust their future within a landscape,then they feel fear.Then they take more than they need to survive and bill it to the future.They try to control every component in nature(power over)-agriculture. They ultimatly create a landscape that validates their fears.From ancient empires,through fudalism,colonization of the frontier,and finally moving for jobs ect..Annual agriculture remains largly the language of the displaced living in fear of an unknown future.Will we ever get back to a relationship with our enviroment that allows vulnerabilty and trust?These things take time and permaculture is a good start!merry christmass everybody
 
rose macaskie
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      It is true, fear has a lot of negative effects. People fear that if they share there will be less when really there will be more, share money and you empower others who will also produce so there will be more.   
        The same is true of knowledge the more people learning the more there is to pick up or if more people are talking about interesting things it is more likely that i will find myself in one of those conversations. I live with people who exclude other people from interesting conversations, they want to be exclusive and smart, the trouble is that in the end there are no interesting conversations everyone is being exclusive with them. so you have to turn to geoff lawton, holzer, mollison etc or the permaculture crew on the internet or just sink into complete stupidity among those who wont talk of anything except with a chosen one or two who definately aren't me.  agri rose macaskie.
 
Robert Ray
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Rose
is there a very big movement that  embraces permaculture/sustainability in Spain? Are farms mainly family run or are there big corporate farms as we see in some areas of the United States?
 
rose macaskie
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+çthe trouble with Spain is i have great trouble in getting them to take me seriously there is enough zenophobia to make it hard to be a foriegner and I am absolutely fed up with them
iif corpoation if like fqctory famring wha i undeerstood is that they don't exactly ownh the farms they buy the farmetell what to do and pay him so he earns enough to be really well off, they build big houses for livestock and give the feed and he looks after the live stock and they take the animals. So it can be sort of corporate and sort of not a family farm run for a corporation. On reading this again i have asked myself what the hell corporate means, i am imagining  it means belonging to big businesses. if it means working for smithfeilds and such i don't know how yIcould know thast  if the families hold onto their own land. Appparently this means that other farmers go out of business the farms farmed for smithfeilds bring down the prices so. one man with everything others with nothign a bd deal and i heard they want to bring this modfel to africa so there will be more meat their and less poeple able to buy it they will have lost their jobs.
  If they are doing this in africa a bet they are doing it in Spain.
      I think farming is mostly done in family farms. 
    In gredos the mountain region of Ávila, famouse for beef cattle, where i used to go a lot, the mothers live there with a bull or two, i would not be too sure the young or many of them got fattened up on the hills, it maybe that they go to places cow shds to get fattened, i haven't seen many bullocks or heifers there or even calves with their mums on the mountains but i am talking from memory of what i have seen, not because i know what they do. 
  In Guadalajara, were i go there is not much farming though things are begining to be cleared for wheat. Spain has a good climate for wheat, wet enough in all wheats growing season and dry in summer. There is a lot of forestry exploitation up there too, monoculture of pines,a pity a soil ruiner according to those who know.
  What was there, was a bit of hunting land and a handfull of poor shepherds who probably don't own any land. Lots of land was abandoned after the civil war when there was a lot of hunger and imigration. Guadalajara  the part i know was anyway was anyway one of the places with lowest population in europe i have been told. Now the european hand out have begun to makie the country side look a bit rich again in the country, in the towns they started to look rich a good while ago. and they are cutting down the scrub and trees of the heathlands that  i like so much.i am going to see the end of the situation room and correct this later. agri rose macaskie.
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Wow!,just a side note that in the google pop up ad at the end of this,they are offering a `BS` degree in sustainability.Honesty in marketing!
 
To do a great right, do a little wrong - shakepeare. twisted little ad:
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