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Jason Alexander

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since May 28, 2014
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Recent posts by Jason Alexander

Aloha Su Ba,

I am glad to hear that you are enjoying a good life in Hawaii. I agree that the idea of sharing a bounty still exists, in some aspects of Hawaiian culture - but this same idea/mechanism exists in nearly all tropical cultures. In warm climates, amassing a store of capital is pointless - the capital is food, and it will rot. There is always food around ready to harvest in warm climates, and so no need to store it anyway. This is arguably the reason why Europeans were so successful at colonizing the rest of the world - the ability to preserve, store, and protect food/fuel for future use was a prerequisite for survival - without these skills it would have been impossible to make it through the harsh Winters. The storage of excess (along with war and appropriation of resources)led to the ability to finance the expeditions that eventually colonized most of the world - and the switch from the barter economy to the gold/silver economy (coupled with the influx of billions of dollars of slave-mined precious metals from South America) led to the development of capitallism.

Similar things were going on in (some) warmer regions of the world - as population density created more pressure and impact on the land and society, Polynesians desperately took to the voyaging canoes and spread out across the Pacific Islands. (The 'menehune' arrived in Hawaii approx. 600-700 AD, and the Tahitians 400 years later). But the islands are small in size/number and too far from anything else to be connected by trade routes - so the development of a capital-based economy stopped there. Sure, people shared within their circles - but were still taxed by the Ali'i for anything that would store well (Dog teeth,fine lauhala, red feathers, kahelelanai shells, etc.), in exchange for protection from the various chiefs who continuously battled for control of the resources. The idea of the Hawaiians living in a paradaisical society of abundance and sharing is largely a myth - a romanticism of how things 'used to be' before the arrival of Cook and the rest of the haoles. In reality, the Hawaiians were never truly united. Murder and cannibalism was widespread. (Hawaiian history conveniently forgets that when Kamehameha 'united' the islands, he was backed by US marines with an agenda of their own - divide and conquer). As the marine warships waited in Kahului harbor, Kamehameha (Hawaii) and his warriors backed Kalanikapule (Maui) and his army into I'ao valley and slaughtered every last one of them. The river ran red with blood for three days, supposedly. And so the islands were 'united' lol...

I have shared in the akule harvest, when they move into the shallows to spawn and the elders of the community can see/sense them beneath the water - amazing indeed from an East Coast rat race perspective. I have hunted feral pigs and shared in the ensuing feast. I have been welcomed in by many kama'aina, and shown the true nature of aloha. At the same time, i've been assaulted for being haole, run off the road on my bicycle countless times (for the same reason), been robbed/burgled several times. But life in Hawaii is essentially a soft existence - although most of Hawaiian culture has been lost through systematic oppression (first by the Ali'i and the sandalwood trade, later by the haoles) - since statehood life has been relatively easy. If there are no fish to catch, there's always the EBT card lol...

It's funny how you say you escaped - escapism being such a huge part of the American mentality. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill. Go West, young man...Love it or leave it. But escapism has led to the self-destruction of the US, and puts even more pressure importance on the rat race. (You worked like a rat to earn money, to get out of the rat race.... go figure) To escape is a sign of success in the US, where in many places (Hawaii being an exception), the thought of 'anywhere is better than here' is commonplace. To retire early, move to a 'better place', preferably without having had to do any hard work, that's the new American dream. There is little sense of identity, little sense of community. Sure, some hippies / permaculturalists do all they can to foster a sense of community and place - but they have to escape from the mainstream just to maintain sanity and dignity. It's a reactionary measure. Escapism almost defines us as Americans, from the Pilgrims to modern times.

Of course, I'm guilty of it as well. (although i moved to hawaii with only an airline ticket and $400 - there's no need to buy into the rat race in order to escape from it)
After 8 years there, never leaving the islands, I decided to go travelling for a while. And now i've escaped from the US entirely, and being away from there for so long really lets one put it all in perspective.

Anyway, rant over. Just my 2 puka shells.

Aloha nui loa,


Chris Badgett wrote:At the end of the day consumers of said value can speak their mind and/or vote with their wallet or not.

Voting with your wallet is inherently capitalist - those with the fattest wallets have the most votes. An entirely undemocratic idea, unless everyone earns the same amount.

Su Ba wrote:
The Hawaiian culture had aspects of gifting that still persist to this day.

Tell me more lol. Traditional Hawaiian culture didn't have even the slighest inkling of the idea of private ownership. (Although the use of certain things was restricted only to the royalty). What still persists to this day that is any more interesting than a bunch of permaculturalists sharing chickens?

No offense, but it is easy to not have any beef with capitalism when you live in the cradle of comfort. If you think that you don't, try Haiti. Great weather there, beaches, can grow lots of delicious tropical stuff, no need to heat the house. A permaculturalist's dream!
[quote=paul wheaton

My feeble understanding of capitalism is that I can work super hard for a year, save up all my money and then live without working for several years. That's probably not what capitalism really is, but .... I guess for the most part I don't give a shit.

And when people try to tell me that capitalism is bad, I kinda get the impression that what they are really saying is that other people have stuff that they want. And rather than work to get that stuff, they want to simply have that stuff without all that work. I'm not sure why I get this impression. Probably that stupid thing again.

Working hard for a year and then taking several years off - that is merely an indicator of your (and my) priveledged position in this capitalist world ( being born into a wealthy country/society).

When people say that capitalism is bad, because they work 80 hours a week doing labor and can't afford medicine for their dying children, while fat Americans( not necessarily you - i have no idea lol, but in general) can work that much and can take a few years off - that is a far cry from wanting to have stuff but not wanting to do the work.

A few years ago I rode my bicycle from Alaska to Argentina, passing through some of the poorest areas in the Western hemisphere, and staying in remote poverty stricken towns/ villages and camping. The people would ask how I was able to do such a trip. I explained how I worked 70-80 hours a week for several years and saved all my money, and then try to spend as little as possible along the way. I soon realized that most of the poor people I was talking to worked that much as well, and never had any savings at the end. Just survival. That's captalism to me.There can't be rich people without poor people - and no matter how poor you think you are, if you are reading this you are likely one of the rich ( in the global picture).

Thanks for your response, Big Al!

I see your point, but in minergie standard houses the air handling equipment already exists and is pretty much standard. I know most 'permie' types out there are against the use of electrical switches/fans/etc. - as they only seem to overcomplicate the system, and for most applications I would have to agree. But not when trying to plan out a super tight-sealed modern energy efficient home that is viable in the mainstream. Most 'zero-energy' homes ( in cold climates, that is) are incredibly tightly sealed, and use ground source heat pumps as a thermal energy supply. In my mind, the financial costs and impacts of the complex system may potentially outweigh the benefits, when compared to a RMH. ( over 50,000 franks, $55,000 US - for the installation of a geothermal heat pump in a one-family house).

I'll check out the books you mentioned - thanks again!
5 years ago
Hi. I'm, new to but have been a long time lurker and permaculture enthusiast (sort of.. i like the ideas but not the trademarked permaculture name, and the scarcity of sites that can generate an income using the ideas, without selling permaculture workshops. Besides, nothing is permanent lol)

Anyway, have you ever grown or eaten lamb's lettuce (Valerianella locusta)? Check it out on wikipedia...

I live in Switzerland. It is a common salad green here( also in Germany, maybe in Austria, etc.), and it's delicious. Dark green, nutty flavor, crisp texture.

Best of all, it's extremely cold hardy. As in, you can harvest it from under the snow.

I studied ecological horticulture in CA, have had plenty of exposure to permaculture in many different coountries, but had never even heard of this plant until I moved here and it appeared on my salad plate.

If anyone's interested but can't find seed for whatever rerason, send me a message and i'll send you some (sorr, you pay for the pack of seed and postage - at actual cost. no profit on my part, just want to get this great underutlized plant out there!)


5 years ago
Ive just recently come upon the idea of rocket mass heaters, and as I was reading about it all the first thing that popped into my head was that the air intake should supply outside air. Secondly, the intake should have a check valve to prevent reverse air flow, as well as the end of the outlet pipe (chimney), to prevent cold air from entering into the system while not being used.

To prevent having to go outside to feed the stove, an access door could be placed inside,(with glass window to see the firebox) and the wood would alrerady be preheated to room temp.

Why should this not be done?

The comments about it being healthy to bring in cold air from outside are moot - in any case, heat is being lost and efficiency sacrificed.

I agree that fresh outside air is healthy, but in modern low (or zero) energy home design, this is already addressed by a regulatory air system.

I live in Switzerland - the standards for energy efficiency here are fairly high (highest in the world), and Swiss Minergie standards (above and beyond so-called 'energy star') call for a very tight envelope of the living area. External air infiltration is avoided at all costs.

The arguments i've seen against using outside air to fire the RMH seem valid - but are moot points in overall analysis of the heating system. Most of them seem based on inexperience (with using outside air), bad system design, or personal preference.

In this country, the idea of a thermal mass heater is commonplace. Nearly all old farmhouses have what is called a 'Swedish Oven' to heat the main living area - a tile covered heat sink on the back side of an enclosed wood stove. It therefore seems potentially easy (culturally) to incorporate RMH's into modern low-energy home design, but not with using inside air.

Beyond that, most Swiss do live in shared housing/apartment buildings, many of them burning wood and or wood pellets. Incorporating a modern RMH/Swedish oven into new or retrofit apartment construction would be wonderful - warmer, more comfortable for the residents and easier on the environment.

Please, can somebody explain why it would be bad to use an outside air source? In regards to the efficiency of the system - human health and fresg air aside?

I'm envisioning applications for mainstream use, and not some backwoods unscientific DIY pursuit. Those are great, wonderful i think - but this simple technology could be much more far-reaching and beneficial for the environment (use less wood, that is) if taken from the woods to the mainstream.
5 years ago