Do we live on principal or interest? Do we take what we want or do we take what is offered? Wanting describes western culture and receiving describes indigenous cultures. The indigenous women of the Peruvian Amazon, mentioned in the last several newsletters, receive the bounty of the forest by lightly harvesting its abundance for their nutritional and financial sustenance. They consider the forest to be a generous benefactor, which they revere and protect, so it may sustain them indefinitely. They live with a sense of abundance, cooperation, and infinite time.
The prevailing western mindset is to take as much as possible as soon as possible before someone else does. This is living with a sense of scarcity of wealth and time. Such sense has led to gross statements of greed, like relentless harvesting and cultural annihilation. This is a competitive ethic, centered around the measurement of wealth.
The difference in these philosophies can be reflected in how one regards assets. If a tree is harvested with which to build a house, principal is being expended, as that tree will never bear fruit again. If only the nuts from the tree are harvested, from which to provide income, the tree will bear fruit indefinitely, providing interest. Sometimes it is prudent to harvest principal to build a house, but if one continually takes down trees, there eventually is no forest left to provide nuts or houses.
Our western culture constantly invades principal, through incessant deforestation, overfishing, burning of fossil fuels, and cultural annihilation. These activities reduce biodiversity, which is the cornerstone of the natural capital of the planet, which is the cornerstone of all wealth, including ours. If we could live on interest, as do indigenous tribes, the western civilization would secure a more promising future.
One of the problems in this challenge is our economic system has not known how to value services provided by ecosystems. It has taken them for granted, assigning zero value to their role. That is changing fortunately. I am finishing an excellent book on the topic, entitled Endangered Economics, How The Neglect of Nature Threatens our Prosperity, by Geoffrey Heal. Professor Heal teaches at Columbia University, and writes very clearly about the growing trend and need to place monetary value on biodiversity, so we can sustain ourselves into the future. He refers us to www.ecosystemmarketplace.com as a reference for this activity. His work provides hope that we might begin living on interest rather than principal. His intent is that institutions involved with investment and development will start employing valuations of natural capital on all decisions made.
Here Jacob, Kathy, and their team have collected by hand wool grass from our wetlands. These seeds will go into a mix that we will spread in December and January in Phase III of our wetland development. This seed bank has been here for thousands of years. Collecting the seeds and spreading them onto our expanded footprint feels like a sacred and natural act.
Below is great blue lobelia, one of the numerous striking wetland flowers repopulating itself as we expand.
The longer I work with this farm, now over 50 years, the more I realize its work entails managing water rather than land. (My good wife thinks a 50-year learning curve for most men is about normal...) We have three wells and one spring from which we draw water and distribute it through 30,000 feet of two-inch water line. We have systematically laid 4 inch perforated tile lines three feet deep on four hundred acres, and we are now engaged in blocking the same tile lines on 200 acres, so water will be retained rather than expelled. And we have recently dug two shallow ponds for waterfowl. We are always moving water one way or another.
Our latest venture along these lines is to redirect part of a perennial stream into one of our new duck ponds. We observed that the stream enters our property at an elevation five feet higher than the pond. So we dug a trench and placed a six-inch non-perforated pipeline in it with a cutoff valve at the inlet, running from the stream to the pond. Gravity has taken hold, and the pond is now gradually filling up! The overflow from the pond will end up back in the stream from which it came, just about 1,000 feet downstream. We will do more of this, as we explore differences in elevation.
We held our last formal agricultural farm tour several weekends ago. Twenty five people showed up, the weather was brilliant, the food was good, and spirits were high. We toured wetlands and pastures, reviewing the past and anticipating the future. We so appreciated the support and interest from all who attended.
The current vision for the future is to build a "welcome center" for the wetlands through which tours will be conducted. In the center will reside our commercial kitchen and a farm store, providing product for visitors, bringing the public to us more than our having to go to it. This will take two to three years to come to pass. In the meantime, we will continue to invest in upgrading fencing on 250 acres of pasture. The right persons will eventually show up to take over production of grassfed meats.
One of the most important parts of this newsletter is the opportunity to share with you the Annual Report from Conservation International. It is a brilliant and hopeful work, summarizing the steps necessary to bring our planet back into ecological equilibrium. The clarity and breadth of the presentation is breathtaking. If you have time, it is worth perusing. (Try searching for this: exponential-roadmap-for-natural-climate-solutions.pdf)
It calls for three tracks of strategy: Protection, Management, and Restoration. This is nature's strategy, and we have the privilege at our farm of already being invested in management and restoration, and will continue with those commitments.
Turkey wings below are being strategically transformed into turkey stock for Thanksgiving Day.
We bow before nature's strategy.