Dreaming the Future 4; The Sea, the Sea

Whilst carrying out certain experimental archaeological manouevres in the West Cork countryside we have stumbled on a what we can only describe as a time portal. This has given us access to documents from the future, or perhaps from many possible futures, pertaining to this time. We have amassed a large body of work in this way. Some of these documents have already been published.

Several things are unclear about this.

We do not know whether we are dealing with one writer or several. We do not know if the whole body comes from the same time and place. It is hard to tell who the writers think they are talking to, people from their own time, or whether they are aware this document could fall into the hands of their ancestors. Some of us feel it was written specifically for us. One thing is obvious, most of these events relate to the time and place in which we are now living and as such it is worthy of study.

Sometimes the writer(s) seem to recount contradictory or conflicting events.. Do these words tell us of our future or only a potential future?

We call this body of work “Dreaming the Future”

This fragment seems particularly relevant to us right now. I thought I would share it with ye.

I want to tell you about our relationship with the sea……

…………We began a series of activities;

Firstly a social project researching our environment. Individuals, families and communities would pick an area close to their home and adopt it and begin a programme of information gathering that was compiled into a database through which we were able to gain a comprehensive picture of what was going on in our space and how certain activities were affecting it.

Of course for many people, it wasn’t enough to simply observe, folk wanted to be doing things and so, quite quickly, we developed a programme of ecological restoration. This is referred to elsewhere in the document. Ed. Among other things we started removing plastic and other waste from our environment, from rivers, streams, the sea shore and their surroundings.

After a while we were able to create maps of resource and waste flows in the environment. For example, we noticed how certain beaches, because of the patterns of ocean and coastal currents, tended to be where the plastic ended up. It made sense to concentrate on these beaches and so we began the long slow, impossible seeming task of removing this from our oceans and making it safe (or safer).

Some of this stuff, like nets, barrels, fishing crates and so on had a reuse value in horticulture, in building and in defence of the seas.

In this windy west we made great use out of big bits of net to hold things down like shed roofs and poly tunnels. More excitingly, we were able to make great floating booms that did service for many years in hindering the activities of certain vessels and their owners who persisted in trying to exploit the marine ecosystem.

As part of our research projects we kept tabs on activities in our part of the sea and over time, by forming alliances with fishermen, seaweed farmers, yacht owners and other responsible citizens in our own locality and all the way up the West Coast we had a fleet that was able to mobilise at short notice.

We developed such a capacity in this regard, that we could operate far out to sea and effectively take on the huge factory vessels and fossil fuel companies that had been over-exploiting the oceans for several generations.

 We removed their moral and economic justifications for operating and we  made it harder and more expensive, even impossible for them to carry on. Eventually many of them came to see our point of view and joined with us in building the restorative economy we now have. 


Photo sequence: Canoists surround and put to flight naval vessel being used to facilitate illegal fossil fuel extraction.

In time we were able to persuade the Irish navy as they were then, who had sadly put themselves on the wrong side of the issue in those decades over gas extraction and fishing rights, to join with us and act as true protectors of the oceans. That was around the time that national armies in a few brave countries were beginning to remodel themselves as vehicles for mass ecological restoration which was itself part of far reaching changes on the international stage.s2snavy3

There’s a very long set of stories behind that paragraph that we don’t have time for now. Ask me to tell you about the battle of Porcupine Basin one of these days!

But going back to the plastic.

This used to float around in the sea being abraded into smaller and smaller fragments which eventually ended up in organic digestive systems. s2snavy6This was a waste of resources and it took organic life a wee while to devise ways to handle all the persistent hydrocarbon molecules that humans had called into being.

In the long term we formed an alliance with various fungi that had the ability to dismantle hydrocarbon molecules and reintegrate them in the various natural cycles from which we had removed them. I hear that experiments are being done nowadays where people are actively inviting, as it were, these fungi to take up residence in their own bodies, sharing DNA and other resources and so on, transforming themselves into living recycling units, (which we all are anyway if you think about it.) They’re taking it up a level or two. Brave I call it, or crazy, each to their own anyway.


Plastic fragments mixed with tidal debris

In the short term though, when we were only getting going, all that was pure science fiction. We focused on manually removing the stuff and reusing it in its original form or re- processing it into other shapes. With the amount we created over those mad decades its going to be with us for a while yet and we have to learn to make the best of it.

Those early 3D printers and similar technology were a big help. It was a masterstroke of the local recycling centre to invest in a machine that could reprocess several different types of plastic. This enabled us to deal with the stuff within the boundaries of our bioregion and reshape it into building materials, insulation, clothes and so on.

All these restoration activities became a key driver of our economy.

Let me give you a bit of background.

When we began most of us were working two jobs, at least. One to earn the cash we needed to buy food, pay rent, mortgages, keep cars on the road and to keep moving on the treadmill that had been created for us and the other to do the work that needed to be done in the world. It was tough going and a lot of us burnt out doing it. It became clear to us early on that the restoration work we were doing was of value in itself and too often the mainstream economic work we were doing, were forced into doing, was not.

What a pity we couldn’t just discard one and concentrate on the other. Well we could and we did.

How did we do it?

We started printing our own money.

In this time of relative abundance and integrity that seems like a fairly inocuous statement, if a bit irrelevant now that we are moving past the stage of needing arbitrary tokens with which to acquire (buy, we used to call it) what we need to survive in the world.

At the time there were forces at work that wanted to keep us all running to keep up. They made it so hard to survive that we didn’t have time to think about the other stuff, much less act to do something about it and to suggest creating our own means of exchange seemed a bit far fetched.

We did it though.

We used the gaps in the treadmill to use our imaginations. We placed a value on the work we were doing and used this value to create and back a new currency.

We defined a set of tangible, physical actions that we agreed had an objective value to us, our community and the Earth.

These included; A tree appropriately planted, a bag of compost made from food and horticultural waste, a bag full of plastic removed from the environment and reprocessed back into service, and of course time, time spent gathering data on our ecosystem, time spent looking after people, time spent designing solutions and so on

This currency was exactly opposite to the one we were all using at the time. It valued restoration as opposed to extraction …………


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