Nettles are the fibre of the landless

Nettles for Textile is a website dedicated to all things nettle related, especially the sharing of skills and techniques that will help to best utilise this incredible resource for local textile production. There’s also a great selection of references on the historical use of nettles.

Ecosystem Services Estimation Experiment

This post has been converted into a Low-tech Magazine article.

From Disnovation.org:

“The Farm” experiment consists of one square meter of wheat cultivated completely artificially in a closed environment where all inputs are controlled and measured (water, light, nutrients…). This protocol allows to estimate the orders of magnitude of material and energy flows otherwise provided by ecosystems on arable land. The aim is thus to hyper-visibilize the immense scale of ecosystem contributions, an implicit affluence, fundamental to all human and non-human processes, which is invisibilized by convention in neo-classical economics.

The experiment seeks to demonstrate a fundamental and paradoxical challenge to the proposal from agro-industries to provide for the nutritional needs of large urban populations, through grow houses and other artificially controlled environments. This 1 square meter experiment makes manifest the vast technical infrastructure and energy flows required to grow a staple food such as wheat in an artificial environment. In today’s economy it is profitable to artificially produce agricultural products with high water content such as leafy greens and tomatoes.

However, from a systemic understanding, this apparent profitability and efficiency of the current system relies on the availability of cheap fossil energy, unaccounted-for resource extraction and pollution all over the globe, incurred in subordinate processes from mining and electronics manufacture, to international freight. The present experiment seeks to reveal the numerous layers of invisibilized interdependencies, and to provide a speculative reference reckoning of the incalculable ecosystem services at play in conventional agriculture.

The life support for 1 m2 of wheat cultivated completely artificially in a closed environment is 2,577 kWh of electricity and 394 litres of water per year — excluding the embodied resources of the infrastructure. The harvest is 1 small bread for a cost of 345 euro, four times per year.

See & read more: The Farm.

Post Growth Toolkit

Post Growth Toolkit [The Game] is an invitation to reprogram ourselves out of the economic growth orthodoxy. It proposes to literally reshuffle our world-views through a compilation of stories, concepts and tactics in order to stimulate new modes of understanding in the context of current environmental crises. It takes the form of a tactical card game inviting players to explore a number of key notions to facilitate collective debate.

Landlord Tech Watch

Is your building management moving online? Have new cameras been installed in your home or neighborhood? Is your landlord using new payment, notification, or screening systems? Has access to your building changed? For instance, you no longer have a standard key? If so, then you might have Landlord Tech in your building!

Landlord Tech, what the real estate industry describes as residential property technology, is leading to new forms of housing injustice. Property technology, or “proptech,” has grown dramatically since 2008, and applies to residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, effectively merging the real estate, technology, and finance industries.

By employing digital surveillance, data collection, data accumulation, artificial intelligence, dashboards, and platform real estate in tenant housing and neighborhoods, Landlord Tech increases the power of landlords while disempowering tenants and those seeking shelter.

By Landlord Tech, we mean technical products and platforms that have facilitated the merging of the technology and real estate industries in novel ways, particularly as they impact tenant housing. Our research has led to two major categories of what we are calling Landlord Tech: surveillance and speculation, both of which are tied up in gentrification.

Read more: Landlord Tech.

Image: Erik Henningsen’s painting Eviction held by the National Gallery of Denmark, 1892.

The Development Hoax

The promise of conventional development is that by following in the footsteps of the “developed” countries of the world, the “underdeveloped” countries can become rich and comfortable too. Poverty will be eliminated, and the problems of overpopulation and environmental degradation will be solved.

This argument, reasonable as it may seem at first glance, in fact contains an inherent flaw, even deception. The fact is that the developed nations are consuming essential industrial resources in such a way and at such rate that it is impossible for underdeveloped areas of the world to follow in their footsteps. When one-third of the world’s population consumes two-thirds of the world’s resources, and then in effect turns around and tells the others to do as they do, it is little short of a hoax.

Development is all too often a euphemism for exploitation, a new colonialism. The forces of development and modernization have pulled most people away from a sure subsistence and got them to chase after an illusion, only to fall flat on their faces, materially impoverished and psychologically disoriented. A majority are turned into slum dwellers — having left the land and their local economy to end up in the shadow of an urban dream that can never be realized.

Quoted from: Ancient Futures, Helena Norberg-Hodge, 2016 (first print 1991).

The Galaksija: Socialism’s DIY Computer

The Galaksija computer was a craze in 1980s Yugoslavia, inspiring thousands of people to build versions in their own homes. The idea behind them was simple – to make technology available to everyone. Free play was implicitly encouraged: the sharing, collaboration, manipulation, and proliferation of software was built into Galaksija’s very operation.

A computing enthusiast since 1979, Zoran Modli caught wind of Galaksija after the publication of Computers in Your Home. As host and DJ of Ventilator 202—a renowned New Wave radio show on Serbia’s Radio Beograd 202—Modli was something of a minor celebrity in Yugoslavia. Because all the day’s computers, including Galaksija, ran their programs on cassette, Regasek thought Modli might broadcast programs over the airwaves as audio during his show. The idea was that listeners could tape the programs off their receivers as they were broadcast, then load them into their personal machines.

An overnight sensation, this DJing practice quickly became a staple on Modli’s show. In the ensuing months, Ventilator 202 broadcast hundreds of computer programs. During the hour, Modli would announce when the segment was approaching, signaling to his listeners that it was time for them to fetch their equipment, cue up a tape, and get ready to hit record. In the case of games, users would “download” the programs off the radio and alter them—inserting their own levels, challenges, and characters—then send them back to Modli for retransmission. In effect, this was file transfer well before the advent of the World Wide Web, a pre-internet pirating protocol.

Read more: Socialism’s DIY Computer, Michael Eby, Tribune, July 2020. Thanks to m.