Discussion in 'The big picture' started by Ludi, Apr 7, 2012.
Ban the plough and the axe
Rather than ban them, I think giving people an alternative (permaculture) is of value. I don't think we'll be successful just telling people "stop doing what you're doing" without giving them a viable alternative.
What's wrong with an axe?
I think it's symbolic rather than actually evil, the axe. It symbolizes the destruction of trees. The pruning saw, the secateurs, are more benign tools of the nurture or maintenance of trees than the axe. Even though the axe may be necessary to the cutting of trees for lumber and though the axe may be used benignly in the maintenance and nurturing of trees, that may not be the symbolic feeling behind the image of the axe, which is, probably, one of destruction and not nurture.
The chainsaw and good selective thinning can increase the value of timber, diversity and forest structure. At least this is what I am learning from permaculture. High grading, clearing and burning of forests have let only the opportunist species succeed.
As Bill said, we all need to be loggers and conservationists. we all live in timber houses.
I agree, Matto.
Not all of us do, some of us are changing that.
I spent 2 hours one day explaining to children how timber construction was stupid, and the use of cob housing, or Earthships via recycled materials is not only better housing in the long term, but also way more economical.
It went over well & I could actually see they learned.
Remember, Permaculture isn't just about what is outside the walls of your house, inside the imaginary lines of your property. It's about all of us together, our environments, and how we interact with them from zone 1 outwards.
I'm not convinced timber housing is necessarily stupid. Lots of folks made houses of wood and thatch. Materials which grow back relatively quickly can be sustainable.
I know people that have built timber framed houses that will last 1,000 years. You want to make the same claim for cob?
Using timber for housing makes sense if you have trees and no suitable cob, plastic, sand, straw etc. Use what is there.
btw, does anyone know if the work has been done on cob and earthships, and earthquakes?
11th, 12th & 14th century cob buildings still stand despite numerous wars and actual use in Afghanistan & surrounding region.
I understand there are a number of cob buildings in Europe from the Middle Ages still in use, most though in the UK date back beyond 500 years with constant residents.
The State of Colorado did tests on Earthships and found them to be the most stable buildings in seismic areas; This testing was done when Michael Reynolds has his architects license revoked.
Cob & Earthquakes... no idea.. but they have lasted thousands of years.... including WW1 & WW2.
I just figure that Permaculture is pointed more at emulating the structure of natural environments rather than forms of agriculture that require actively modifying the environment.
Perhaps plough agriculture lasts so long in China because their methods of farming suit the climate and landscape qualities that occur naturally?
(This is without reading anything, of course.)
Do we even know if plough agriculture *has* been used in China for thousands of years?
Thanks Pak. I'd like to see how well it fares in wet climates over time. I still think that using timber is completely sane, where one does so sustainably. How is digging up earth inherently good and growing trees and cutting them inherently bad?
I think appropriate housing might vary depending on one's climate, etc.
I live in a cool temperate rainforest and Cob Cottage is across town not only making a little town of said buildings, but also teaching Rocket stoves and more out of cob.
When you come to a forest to live you need to clear the area to build a house right? All that timber, and the soil of your home is all that is needed, not extra soil. You make your foundation, and remove the soil inside the foundation. Said soil that is removed is then used to make the walls. You are not cutting down more trees like with timber framing, and you do not need extra clay soil then what is already there.
Cob housing is beyond a shadow of my doubts incredibly more green. Then you add to it the fact all they need is a human, and maybe 1 or 2 candles to heat them. Rocket Stoves in the cob housing seems redundant to me, since Cob houses are as insulated thermally as an Earthship.
Hmmm, one size fits all makes me uncomfortable. The point of permaculture (as far as I can tell) is to observe and interact with the local environment and design from that. I can't see how one can make such a generic statement as cob will always be best.
Are you saying that every location on the planet has soil suitable for cob? What if there is no clay?
A friend of mine owned what I assume is a cob house for a while (it was built around the 1860s) - it's made of local earth and tussock from the area. It was cold in winter and definitely needed heating (-12C would be the normal heaviest frosts). I don't think it was sunk into the ground though, maybe that was the difference.
Yep, point them to that video series. IMO, that's all you need to show them about plough culture's sustainability.
And here is one of many reasons I won't till soil
One of my biggest complaints about the permaculture community (not necessarily permaculture itself) is that there are a lot of permaculture enthusiasts out there who are too eager to drink the Kool-Aid. There is a lot of misinformation and hype spread around in the permaculture world and it gets passed on over and over again as permaculture dogma. Even in PDCs I have heard quite a bit of misinformation. If people want formulaic approaches and dogmatic recipes, then I think they should look into biodynamics.
Yep, I went there.
So let's be careful about throwing around words like always and never, ok? Cob is not always the best or most "green" choice. Cob is great for moderate and desert climates because of its high thermal mass, but it's not so great for cold climates because it is a poor insulator (r-value of approximately 0.5). In cold climates, you're better off going with timber (if it's plentiful and sustainable) and/or strawbale houses. And I would have to echo Ludi and pebble's statements that the appropriateness of construction materials is heavily dependent on the climate you live in and the resources you have available. I have a permacutlure friend in Sweden who is surrounded by mostly boreal forest. He could either build with the timber he can source sustainably on-site, or pay lots of money and use lots of fuel to have straw and clay transported in from elsewhere. Which do you think is the greener option?
In a cold climate you are better off with an Earthship. People forgot that I also included Earthships when I mentioned there are greener alternatives to chopping down trees. Timber, is a mindset from colonization times in human history & there are plenty of housing types that are low in fuel costs to create.
I would like to point out a typical cob wall has an R-20 value and a timber frame has R-0.44 (And that's sheathing, a composite wood, not the real thing) until insulation is added, but then you have to take into account the petrol used in making that fiberglass insulation which isn't good for you by any means only has a R-11 value.
Cob is still better in a colder climate which is why it is used in places like Scotland, Ireland, and the UK, even currently people are going back to these homes.
And yes, Ludi, you are correct in that each climate & environment should have a house that is best for where they live. Cob, strawbale, Earthships, etc. And that's why Permaculture starts at zone 0, and radiates outward. Do you need stilts for the home? Do you need to protect from wildfires? Earthquake prone? What about snowfall?
I guess my overall point is that Timber should not always be the option a person goes for.
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