Ugo Bardi on Depletion and What We Leave Behind

Ugo Bardi has a lovely article about both peak oil and intergenerationalism:

I sort out again my old watch, "You see, this old watch is still working, more than 70 years after it was made. Whenever I look at it, I feel a kind of kinship to the man who had left it to me. I am grateful to him because he left me something that still works, that I can use and that I like. And I think he may be happy, too, if he looks at us from above, that his old watch is still appreciated by someone in this world". I pause for a moment to look upwards, as if I were seeing the ghost of the old Swiss man. The people in the audience do the same. There is only the roof of the church, up there, but - who knows? - maybe the owner of the watch is really watching us from above.

I continue. "Now, for myself I think I would like to do something similar - to leave to those who will come after me something that they may use, that will be useful to them. I would like to leave something that lasts a long time and that doesn't need precious resources that can't be replaced. Something 'sustainable' as people say. Of course, I am not saying that we should go back to this old way of making watches - although, who knows? - But, surely, there are things that we can make which are sustainable and that will last a long time. Think of a wind turbine; you have surely seen them. They are big mechanical things, mostly made out of steel; like this watch. If they are well kept and maintained, turbines they can last many decades, like this watch, and why not a century or more? And they can produce good energy for all that time. That is true not just for wind turbine. Solar plants can last a long time and you can insulate your home in such a way that it doesn't need much energy to heat or cool. If you do that, I am sure that the people who'll live in it after you will be happy about what you did. There are many big things that you can do if you are rich and many small things that you can do even if you are not rich.

It is a lovely piece and well worth reading the whole thing.

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Lovely piece! It captures so much of how I feel about things.

This is why I saved the old wind-up 'annniversary clock' that my mother didn't want anymore. Not only does it remind me of my family history, but it will run for a whole year if you just wind the key around and around. And, it's beautiful.

It's also why I work so hard to build the infrastructure for the farm - sure, it'll always need to be maintained and kept up, but building it the first time is the big investment of time and resources, and leaving workable infrastructure, built on a human scale, is my gift to those who come after me.

I guess I'd better get back out to the Battle of the Quackgrass - clearing the garden of the stuff is a three or four year project (with ongoing maintenance after that, to be sure, but at the moment the stuff grows knee high in 2/3 of the place if you turn your back for a few days).

I read the Ugo Bardi piece and he spoke very well indeed. The trick really will be trying to combine the intelligence and the sensitivity to the land of the old ways (what Wendell Berry is always talking about) with modern technology: using "high-tech" in the service of low-tech (non-industrial) methods.

As for quack grass, AJC, I turn my back for an instant and it's all over the place. "Clearing the garden" you say? How on earth do you do that?

Dennis, I clear the garden of quack grass with a hand held mattock, on my hands and knees! I have a big heavy hoe, too, which I use to attack the stuff after I've gotten the thick matts out of the way.

Once an area is mostly cleared, I cover it with landscape fabric and mulch with straw, then keep the little seedlings picked/pulled/yanked out of the black dirt around the growing garden plants.

It's a long, slow process, and I'm not at all sure yet how it will turn out in the long run!