Opinion - Environment

2007 - 2022

On Future Food Systems, Empty Shelves and the 36p Octopus

Two images haunted me this week. One was of an octopus for sale in a supermarket. The yellow label read ‘REDUCED Fresh octopus was £1.41 now 36p’. The other was of an empty shelf with a ‘Best of British’ sign above it. If the first was a symbol of our horrific domination and desecration of nature, the second was a sign of the hopeless constitutional farce we are bound into and the wholly predictable food crisis unfolding before our eyes. In the week when Richard Burnett, the Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association predicted: “the UK food supply chain was to collapse in ‘two or three weeks’ we need to think radically differently and act quickly. In the face of such system failure let’s look at some alternatives.

If the virus has exposed and amplified the social inequalities in our society, Brexit has unearthed some of the system failures we are on the brink of. While the language of ‘Best of British’ looks pitiful in the face of empty shelves and spiraling food prices – this is not to defend the EU food policies, or the supermarket ‘just in time’ delivery system, but to point out how fragile and precarious it all is. In the face of the Brexit food crisis and in the year of Covid and COP-26 – and the 36p Octopus – these are some reflections on what we should grow, produce and eat in Scotland and beyond. There are four ideas: on the need for food sovereignty; creating a local economy of regional food; ensuring climate-viable food and creating food that people can afford to grow and eat and nourish themselves.

Food Sovereignty

The alternative to the broken food system we are experiencing must be based on food sovereignty in Scotland. Food sovereignty has six defining principles:
  • It focuses on food for people: The right to food which is healthy and culturally appropriate is the basic legal demand underpinning food sovereignty. Guaranteeing it requires policies which support diversified food production in each region and country.
  • Values food providers: Many smallholder farmers suffer violence, marginalisation and racism from corporate landowners and governments. Agricultural workers can face severe exploitation and even bonded labour. The role and knowledge of women are often ignored, and their rights to resources and as workers violated. Food sovereignty asserts food providers’ right to live and work in dignity.
  • Localises food systems: Food must be seen primarily as sustenance for the community and only secondarily as something to be traded. Local and regional provision takes precedence over supplying distant markets. The ‘free trade’ policies which prevent developing countries from protecting their own agriculture are inimical to this paradigm.
  • Puts control locally: Local food providers must have control over territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations, and their rights are respected. Food sovereignty rejects privatisation of such resources, for example through intellectual property rights regimes or commercial contracts.
  • Builds knowledge and skills: Technologies must not undermine food providers’ ability to develop and pass on knowledge and skills needed for localised food systems. Instead, food sovereignty calls for appropriate research systems to support the development of agricultural knowledge and skills.
  • Works with nature: Production and distribution systems must protect natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In February 2007 more than 500 representatives from more than 80 countries, of organizations of peasants and family farmers, artisanal fisher-folk, indigenous peoples, landless peoples, rural workers, migrants, pastoralists, forest communities, women, youth, consumers, environmental and urban movements gathered together in the village of Nyéléni in Sélingué, Mali to strengthen a global movement for food sovereignty. They defined food sovereignty as:

“…the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal-fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.”

In Scotland this means a challenging process of breaking the land ownership model that lies at the heart of much of the power dynamics at play. This is particularly difficult for a nation that has much of its ‘food and farming’ culture and policy dominated by landed interests. It also means championing our indigenous food and moving away from a system of export growth and globalised food.

A Local Food Revolution

Any truly sustainable food system that produces a healthy diet for people and planet must look very different wherever it is. A relocalised diet must be regional and seasonal, adjusted to the carrying capacity and conditions of place, it must be the opposite of the globalized food that knows nothing of season or soil.

This is difficult for us to comprehend but it’s an essential prequisite to creating food systems that are part of the solution not part of the problem. For a viable food system to have long-term resilience it must be grounded in place and seasonality. Place exists, geography exists, time exists.

A sustainable food system will not emerge from a lab, or a meat factory or from a ‘vertical farm’ or be created by Monsanto. You won’t get it by Deliveroo or Walmart. It will be delivered by small farmers and producers who sustain rich soil and who sell within short supply chains. It will be highly seasonal and organic, though in the sense that all food used to be ‘organic’. It will contain less meat, but of higher quality, and it will look very different not just within each country but within each region. It will be enriched by a living food culture that knows something of its own traditions but isn’t captured by them.

Small-scale tinkering with ‘local food initiatives’ are dwarfed by mainstream Scottish food policy which is aimed squarely at export-growth to the virtual exclusion of all other policies. A local food revolution does not mean swapping the Union Jack for the saltire it means rediscovering local food heritage, replanting orchards, creating municipal-scale Cuban-style urban farming, and building regional local food economies. The good news is we are blessed with natural produce; innovators; think-tanks and research bodies, campaigners, chefs and gardeners, community food projects and farmers and producers with an advanced understanding of the way ahead. We know what we need to do.

We have an advanced and articulated good food movement that needs energised not suppressed.

Future Food Means Climate-Viable Food

Any food system we intend to create must not be an attempt to restore a tradition from the past, it must be forward-facing and contain the following key ingredients. It must be low-carbon and engage in a major shift away from the high-intensity, polluting and displaced globalised food that has dominated our plates in the post-war era. It must be affordable beyond the metric of artificial food at artificially cheap prices. Affordable is not the same as cheap. And it must be ethical both at the point of production and consumption.

All of this is perfectly possible but not if we contain the discussion and the vision within the current extremely narrow terms of the debate, where corporate capture and business as usual are the norms, with only peripheral innovation allowed as window-dressing to the dysfunctional juggernaut that has brought us our now well-worn list of diet-related ill-health. At the moment there is no credible strategy for reducing carbon in food, or for dealing with the childhood obesity epidemic or the long list of other diet-related disease, or for tackling food poverty and insecurity. The empty shelves are only the most recent sign of an already broken system.

The scale of carbon emissions from the way we produce, transport and consume our food are routinely ignored behind the ‘big ticket’ items like energy, which Scotland has made some ambitious strides. By comparison in ‘food’ we are barely out of the blocks. This is because unlike in energy where the big carbon gains are made from switching from one power source to another – in food the changes have to be experienced by us.

Food that Feeds People

With the revelation that the Trussell Trust’s 400 food banks in Britain distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.2 million people for three days in 2016–17, a number that has spiraled ever since, the first thing to recognise is that a substantial amount of people are going hungry every week in Britain today. That’s morally unacceptable and any other considerations need to be based on – and stem from – this reality.

So the first and most basic human right and essential element of the ‘food system’ must be an ability to feed people. In an advanced Western, post-scarcity society the fact that we are not able to do so is a direct result of government economic and social policy and this takes the issue beyond technical fixes or innovations and into the realm of social justice and social struggle.

The affordability of decent food isn’t just about making that food dirt-cheap. It’s about increasing the number of jobs in local communities; increasing wages for those with the lowest incomes; making jobs more secure.

In this sense, the precarity and waste in the food system is mirrored in both production and consumption. The current system offers stability only for a handful in the nexus of relationships — for many it offers a combination of economic instability and ill-health by being enthralled to a vast corporate machine or faced with the over-consumption of highly-processed, nutritionally-dubious foodstuffs.

Who Feeds Us?

One of the problems with changing food systems is we are locked into a series of myths about abundance. The 24 hour supermarkets and the idea of a-seasonal food – you can have anything anytime from anywhere – is it perpetuates the idea that food is just on-stream at all times. This worldview feeds-in to the idea of the land and sea as places just to be endlessly plundered as if they are inexhaustible. Our massive over-consumption of meat and dairy, our massive over-exploitation of the seas and the subsequent carbon cost and biodiversity loss tells us this isn’t viable. But the idea that the corporate food system is benevolent is still deeply embedded with us.

We are told that corporations are the creators of food, the providers of security and the harbingers of future abundance, but this is a toxic myth worth dispelling. As Vandana Shiva wrote in her recent book Who Really Feeds the World?:

“Women, who are the primary growers and providers of food, nutrition, and nourishment in societies across the world, have evolved agriculture. Most farmers in the world are women, and most girls are future farmers: they learn the skills and knowledge of farming in fields and in farms. Women-centered food systems are based on sharing and caring, and on conservation and well-being. What is grown on farms determines whose livelihoods are secured, what is eaten, how much is eaten, and by whom it is eaten. Women’s food is diverse and sustaining, and when women control the food system, everyone gets their fair share to eat. Women are the world’s biodiversity experts, nutritional experts, and the economists who know how to produce more using less. Women make the most significant contributions to food security by producing more than half the world’s food and by providing more than 80 percent of the food needs of food-insecure households and regions.”

So our emergent food system, fighting against gigantism and vested interests has three dynamics in interplay with each other: soil, democracy and creativity combining to produce new models and ways of working. As Vandana Shiva writes: ‘While women manage and produce diversity, the dominant paradigm of agriculture promotes monocultures under the false tenet that monocultures produce more.’

This urge for productivism, a force of top-down technocratic control of the commons is a nightmare worth resisting. What does a sustainable food system look like? It looks like the opposite of that. Diversity versus monoculture, small-scale and multi-varied rather than a one-dimensional food system.

We are all suffering from what Wendell Berry has called ‘cultural amnesia’:

“The ideal industrial food consumer would be strapped to a table with a tube running from the food factory directly into his or her stomach. Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical — in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.”

So the first act of creating this sustainable food system, what we can call a ‘restorative practice’, is to remember. This act of remembering is to cast off the dead hand of corporate food which serves up swill for profit. It is not the octopus that is reduced, it us.

Comments (60)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    Good to see this subject brought up Mike. Mind you, since I live entirely on ready-to-drink nutritionally complete meals, I probably fall into the “strapped to a table with a tube running from the food factory directly into the stomach” category. Having watched ‘My Octopus teacher’ on Netflix the 36p Octopus picture is very harrowing. Our species deserves to go tits up.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      I wouldn’t pay £8.00 per kilo for a northern octopus like the one in the picture; there’s not much eating on them and too much waste. It’s a bycatch that’s normally discarded by fishermen.

      1. Malcolm Kerr says:

        Colin raises ‘missing the point’ to an art form. Well done! (Claps).

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Well, would you pay £8.00 a kilo for a scraggy species of octopus? It’s high time consumers used their spending power to send the message to producers that they’re not buying sh*t* produce.

  2. Morag Burton says:

    I enjoyed your article and sincerely hope that these empty shelves may be the wakeup call that we need. In my view a good first step on the journey to feeding ourselves better would be regular local community markets AND a requirement for supermarkets to have space for local produce. In most European countries this is normal practice; even hypermarkets often have stalls outside with local vendors selling their produce.
    We also need to give consideration to the now largely broken trail of cooking knowledge passed on in times past from mother to child. The old school Domestic Science model probably put off more students than it helped, but it seems obvious that school pupils should learn how to grow and prepare food as part of their education. In schools with a strong community focus this often happens with parent volunteers.
    Food is immensely important and the current supermarket system is not only unsustainable for the planet, but is also a major promoter of ‘refined-for-profit’ foods which are only healthy for their investors profits. Such ‘foods’ should incur taxes that unrefined foods do not.

    Much like an massive container ship at sea, a change in direction is required. It can only happen slowly, by degrees, but it needs to start now.

    1. Thanks Morag.

      The broken trail of knowledge is a big problem. My idea is the Soup Test. You can’t leave school until you can make a pot of soup – explored with some other ideas here: https://issuu.com/fifediet/docs/the_food_manifesto

  3. Carol says:

    Food for thought- Land-ed and labelled “Best of British!
    But, sparing a thought for the Octopus and its life’s worth, “I’m reduced to just 36 (P)”.
    “It’s life, but not as we (should) know it “!
    It seems that life’s worth in that British Brexit Customised [ASSIMILATION] programme,
    otherwise known as the BBC [Oneness] vision is being reduced to a (P)ittance.
    Planet and people are paying a heavy price for BR(IT)!

    These words from Mike hit a “Swerve” for ME and I was thrown back in time to my childhood
    “Star Trek” future vision for humanity,

    “Diversity versus monoculture, small-scale and multi-varied rather than a one-dimensional food system”.

    Remembering that “Gene” pull quote from Roddenberry, (Series Creator)

    “If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

    That future in question?
    Boxed by Britain with that BORG- “Britain Our Ruling Ground” desig(nation) for “One”?
    Time to alter course for saving Planet and People in an “All” strengthening Diversity.

    “Resistance is Worthwhile”!

    (As recommended by Pat Kane, “Very much worth your time:”)
    Mike, your words (as usual) speak volumes to ME

    (Mothership Empathy) Carol. x

    1. Tom ultuous says:

      I don’t think the Borg would bother with the British. They’d recognise they’d already been assimilated by Murdoch.

      PS Carol. Why do you never see anyone going to the toilet on the star ship Enterprise? After all, it’s a five year mission.

      1. Carol says:

        Hi Tom, I see and sense humour in your Star Trek comment (much appreciated)
        My reference to The BORG is a fact simile from the days gone by to today, with a “Oneness” vision for “The British Empire”.
        A once upon a time vision, seeing an Assimilation of a large part of the planet, it covered around
        25 per cent of the world’s land surface.

        Those Royal roots are still sucking the life out of Gaia (Mother Earth) today, “Secretly” of course!
        I am aware of the brainwashing mission that Murdoch is on, but it is Poppy “Talk” compared to the
        Monarchy Madness greed when it comes to power “Corrupt”!
        Beware The Brood of The BORG Queen, next up in “Princes Charles, Wills and Harry line”. (Time)

        Tom, may I also say I noticed your comment above, (I quote)

        “Our species deserves to go tits up”.

        I understand your sentiments and feel your anger.
        I cannot help but feel the human species was NOT meant to be on this “me-me” course of destruction. (I have felt this Natural- Nature balance guidance from childhood)

        Confirmation of this fact?

        On another recommendation by Pat Kane, I recently came upon a gentleman by the name of,
        Jeremy Lent.
        Having just read his latest book, “THE WEB OF MEANING”, it was for ME a big “SIGH” of relief for the soul! (It simply made so much sense)

        I leave you and All this link, (from ME an avid Star Trek fan)
        “Would our current civilization be eligible to join the Star Trek United Federation of Planets?”


        And thinking of your (understandable) comment Tom, I leave these words from Jeremy,

        “There are some who, appalled by our species’ impact on the living Earth, consider humanity to be like a malignant cancer consuming Gaia. While this may be a fair depiction of our current civilization, it certainly need not hold true for humanity as a species. The rise of conceptual intelligence in humans has given us exceptional powers that can be used both beneficially and destructively. However, just as we’ve seen how each of us can develop an integrative intelligence that combines our embodied experiences, humans collectively have the potential to develop a far more integrated relationship with the rest of nature. Technology doesn’t have to be used to destroy the complexity of living systems—if established on a different ethical basis, it could be developed to work in harmony with natural processes, promoting Gaia’s overall negentropy”.

        Live Long And Prosper.


        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Thank you for that Carol. Hopefully we will get back on track after the last great war when the vegans win. In the meantime, as V’ger would say “Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?”

        2. Mark Bevis says:

          “There are some who, appalled by our species’ impact on the living Earth, consider humanity to be like a malignant cancer consuming Gaia. While this may be a fair depiction of our current civilization, it certainly need not hold true for humanity as a species……”

          The evidence is against us I’m afraid. A very good read is The Missing Lynx by Ross Barnett, published in 2019, ISBN 1472957342.
          the author shows that neanderthals lived alongside the megafauna for 250,000 years, even if they occasionally ate each other. But then 40,000 years ago modern humans entered Europe and the US. Within 9000 years pretty much all the megafauna had been slaughtered, and the neanderthals assimiliated Borg-like or also wiped out soon after. We are really shit as a species. There’s little recompensence in that Homo Sapiens and neanderthals also ate each other as well.

          That’s before we even got to the ecological disaster that is agriculture some 7000 years ago.

          Other data shows we have slaughtered 68% of the remaining wildlife between 1970 and 2016, although I suspect if we take the baseline back to 1750, it’ll be nearer 95%. In an interplanetary court of justice, we’d have no defence.

  4. Daniel Raphael says:

    ‘Ethical’, ‘sustainable’, and so forth…cannot exclude considerations of what–and who–we consider to be sources of food. Rather than take a lot of space with providing arguments, I will simply refer anyone who wants details of the water waste, devastation of vegetation, and pollution entailed in raising animals for food, to the following. There is much, much more available–these are just samplings:


    The earth is a closed system–no other Planet B to go to yet, Mr. Bezos–and that literally means what goes around comes around. There’s no escaping it–we’ve reached the limit of our destructiveness, and it is now rebounding on us. Argue with nature–go ahead. It is truly like pissing in the wind.

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      Note to editor: All line separations were removed in the final version of the preceding comment, as were spaces between links and other info. Finally, this is the first time I can recall that I see an “awaiting moderation” note vs. posting of my comment–is this a change in moderating policy?

  5. Natasha says:

    “… in energy where the big carbon gains are made from switching from one power source to another …”

    This is a myth. Thermodynamics forces the reality that neither food supply nor energy supply can simply switch to non fossil energy sources. Why?

    First, far too much land and mineral resources are needed for wind water & solar electricity generation to build out, on the order of a magnitude or more than fossils or nuclear.


    Second, wind water & solar cannot build out themselves and rely on diesel to mine, refine transport, and build all the materials into infrastructure and maintain it forever. Alternatives energy storage solutions to fossil fuels superior energy storage capabilities (i.e. relatively safe high energy density) such as batteries, bio-fuels, and hydrogen have multiple ‘deal-breaker’ problems, in addition to relying on low energy density sources i.e. wind solar & water’s impossible land & raw materials inputs:-


    This means if we try to reverse fossil fuel extraction, which provides 86% and rising of global energy, then civilization must begin a return to per capita energy consumption typical a hundred or more years ago (i.e. before the oil age) and populations will have to reduce to small fractions of current numbers because the energy density of wind water & solar & electricity is far too low to replace fossil fuels.

    Here’s a specific example. In 2019 the Natural History Museum gave a warning against ‘extractivism’ (i.e. corporate mining the global south extract the short term profit and screw the locals and the environment) that if the UK’s 31.5 million cars were to be replaced by electric vehicles by 2050 (not including the LGV and HGV fleets), as is currently planned by the Government, this will require almost TWICE the current ANNUAL GLOBAL supply of cobalt, nearly the ENTIRE WORLD PRODUCTION of neodymium, at least HALF OF THE WORLD’S copper production, and THREE QUARTERS THE WORLD’S lithium production during 2018. The 20 per cent increase over current electricity generation levels to power the EVs would require a years’ global copper supply and 10 years’ worth of global neodymium to build the 6,000 wind turbines needed. (In a letter to the Committee of Climate Change, authored by a team of eight earth scientists headed by professor Richard Herrington).


    I wrote an extended essay with all the details and links here:-


    1. Tom ultuous says:

      I read (confession – half read) your essay Natasha and I’d rather go down your road than rely on the deck chair arranging these COP26 [email protected] will come up with. Maybe if other countries have nuclear power scum like the US & “UK” will leave them alone instead of invading them for the sake of a pose and causing the displacement of millions of people. It’s got be better than accepting that your offspring will be living in a scattering of hippie colonies as some on here do.

      That my meagre reply is the only attention your post has (so far) got is shameful.

  6. Daniel Raphael says:

    I posted a comment earlier this morning, but see it is gone. It showed with an “awaiting moderation” note, which struck me as curious–and some of the the spacing inside the article had been removed, such that URLs ran together with text, etc. I won’t comment again, but thought I’d comment about this so the editor, at least, is aware this happened.

    1. Mark Bevis says:

      I’ve seen that happen recently to my posts if I include a link, I was first to post earlier today on this article and it’s still not appeared. The formatting is not an issue, just a feature of preview, it does appear correctly when approved.

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      It also happens if you misspell your user name or email address.

      1. I think it’s just an automatic anti-spam thing if comments have multiple links.

        1. Daniel Raphael says:

          Thanks for that.

  7. Mouse says:

    Pickled cabbage technology workshop?

    It does sound like September in the average Russian kitchen, but with a lot less tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, or an awful lot more greenhouses.

    We are so stinking rich we eat fresh blaeberries flown from Chile. In January. And we think that’s normal. It would be a struggle to persuade people to eat lots more turnips. Or even contemplate pickled anything. Or eat nine-month-old tatties in June. Or eat mutton. The Winter holds no deep-seated food-fear for the British, at all. Everyone expects to eat the same stuff in February as they eat in September. The most bizarre thing is that you get far better fishmongers in central Russia than in Scotland. Sometimes I get the feeling that Scots wouldn’t eat fish (or cheese) unless it had been dyed orange. Wierd.

    1. “Everyone expects to eat the same stuff in February as they eat in September.”

      Yeah, that’s a problem. The premise is that our global food system is a huge part of the climate crisis.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        Yes, but that’s the general or collective will. How do you change it? Especially when we’ve only got until yesterday to save the Earth?

      2. Mouse says:

        As ever, the problem is our demand. That’s a lot more difficult to change than moaning about global systems that exist to satisfy our demand.

        1. How do you think change happens?

          1. Mouse says:

            Change comes about by dying your food orange.

          2. Mouse says:

            But seriously, people seem to like to forget that great pontificators and agitators like Gandhi and King punted personal responsibility. Gandhi didn’t even believe in human rights. Not a right – a responsibility.

          3. Colin Robinson says:

            Dialectically, through the inherent instabilities of the system in question.

            The idea that there is a natural equilibrium or order to the systems in which we’re enmeshed, which we must maintain if we’re to avert apocalypse, is a conservative myth. Life evolves through catastrophic change or systems crises.

  8. Mouse says:

    You would have to address the fact that a vast amount of arable land in Scotland is given over to barley for alcohol production.

  9. Mouse says:

    Maybe that has something to do with the national love of orange food?

  10. Max says:

    It is all very sensible and of course this is what would need to be done, but my personal opinion is that it is far too late to turn things around, the collapse of our civilisation is imminent and in progress as I write, and it now becomes a matter of survival, not that I am a “prepper” as such, I don’t agree with their mindset, I think the preppers are coming from a place of ego mostly and only care about themselves and their immediate family possibly.

    However it would probably be a good idea for people to find some land somewhere with access to clean water, where one can grow food, and to establish a small community of people who have a diverse range range of skills, and to gather together things like seeds, tools, supplies and so on. In the cities and towns survival will be impossible, what I see is that it will only be possible to survive in small “lifeboat communities” like what I mention above. These communities would probably need to be in an extremely remote and isolated place and would need to be self sufficient to a great extent, otherwise they will get overrun by refugees fleeing the cities.

    Probably not even this is possible, we modern people from the developed world lack and have forgotten the survival skills to do this kind of thing, and extinction of the human species is imminent, or possibly a few humans might survive the cataclysm, I put my money on the Indigenous Peoples, maybe some uncontacted tribes in the Amazon Rainforest or Papua New Guinea. Then we can begin again at the beginning and maybe humanity can have another go.

    I am reminded of the myth of Atlantis, which sunk beneath the waves in one day and one night, its demise was said to have been caused by the hubris of its inhabitants

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      I love the ‘Noah’s ark’ trope (‘lifeboat communities’), though not so much the anti-refugee sentiment. The figure of the ‘noble savage’ (‘Indigenous Peoples’) also makes an appearance. Hugely entertaining!

      That the Atlantis myth comes to mind should not come as a surprise; it’s also constitutive of our apocalyptic mindset.

      1. Max says:

        “Don’t feed the trolls!” ~ Aristotle (or someone like that….)

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          To complete the quote: “…because the troll feeds on generating debate.”

          Of course, ancient Greeks didn’t speak of ‘trolls’ (trolls didn’t feature in their bestiaries – trolls are a much later Hyperborean cultural phenomenon); the likes of Aristotle spoke of ‘gadflies’ instead. Socrates was the archetypal gadfly or ‘troll’.

          1. Max says:

            “Never break the peace which good men and true make between thee and others.”

            ~ Saga of Njal, Ch. 55

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            “And that is, I am sure, all well and good, Njál. But since you are so knowledgeable about these things, you can perhaps share with us poor Athenians during you sojourn among us, away from the blood-feuds of the Þjóðveldið Ísland, how you know the good man from the bad man and the true man from the false man. What is this ‘truth’ of which you speak so blithely? What is this ‘goodness’? In what do they consist? Come now, honoured Hyperborean guest; do not suddenly turn shy and reticent. Why, you’re blushing fit to rival the rosy lips of the handsome Alcibiades. Since you are blessed – or cursed – by the conceit of being right in such important matters, please… please enlighten us.”

            Pseudo-Plato: Njál, 512b-522a

          3. Max says:

            It is such an utterly pointless waste of my precious time getting involved in these kind of online exchanges, I have far better things to do with my time and I will not engage with you any further, a suggestion to you might be to put down your smartphone and do something productive, anything, it does not matter what. Life is short, you could drop of a heart attack in the next 2 minutes, or any other causes of sudden death, it is entirely possible, so really do not waste your life on this kind of nonsense, and more importantly do not waste other people’s time. I am trying my best to be kind to you.

          4. Colin Robinson says:

            This is my work, Max, my calling. If you don’t want to engage in these dialogues, then the solution is entirely in your own hands.

          5. Max says:

            Okay, Colin. Here’s the deal. I feel like giving you another chance. It is like this: I have no problem at all with people disagreeing with my views and opinions, and I am happy to debate with anyone. It is healthy to have robust debates. But what I do expect of people is that they engage in debate in a reasoned and non-agressive way, and they can challenge my ideas but not attack me as a person. I am committed to doing likewise.

            When I read your initial reply to my OP, it came across as a little too sarcastic for my liking, and you seemed to have missed the point again same as the previous commenter said to you about your octopus post above. I have a very low level of tolerance for any kind of abusive or negative comments directed at me. Like I said by all means challenge my views, but I kindly ask that you do not disrespect me as a person. I do my best to extend respect to others and I ask the same of them. I do not suffer fools gladly. The other reply to my OP, from Carol, was very respectful and well thought out and I appreciated her input. As a result of that she got a positive response from me whereas you got a negative one.

            If it is indeed your calling to get involved in the discourse around the current planetary crisis, as you say, that can only be a good thing, and your intentions seem to be in the right place but if I may offer you some friendly and well meant advice, which you can either take or leave as you wish, it is that it might be of benefit to you if you were to work on refining your online communication skills a little, learn to be a bit more courteous and polite, and ditching the sarcasm might also help. In other words communicate a bit more like a grown up. The adult world is a different place to places like Russell Group University undergraduate debating society chambers for example, which can often be populated by white middle to upper class ex public school boys.

            I wish you all the best in your life, and I would reiterate that an attitude of respect will go a long way. It opens many doors whereas disrespect slams doors shut in your face.

            Unfortunately respect is in decline in our society, there is a huge amount of disrespect and it takes many forms. I have no interest in engaging in any kind of conflict with anyone, online or in real life, life is to short and there are far, far more important things to think about. However if people feel they really must get into a conflict with me, the I do not back down. I will stand my ground against anyone.

            So that is it. I am trying to be as clear as possible, although sometimes I don’t quite know why I bother, but I cannot help it, I always try to give people a second chance. I am doing my best to talk to you on an adult level, I hope you will hear this on an adult level, and if you choose to respond, your response will reveal your level of maturity in public online which will potentially be there for people to see as long as the Internet exists.

          6. Colin Robinson says:

            Well; that’s me told, John. Complete waste of time, of course. I’m incorrigible.

            Meanwhile, a wee tip of my own; a word to the wise, as it were. Why don’t you address the substantive points I make instead of wasting your time with impugning my character, which is at most nebulous and at the very least fictive? That would be far more productive.

          7. Max says:

            I am in no way obliged to address any “substantive points” you make. You are not entitled to my engaging with you in debate, you don’t have an automatic right to my time. As I said, if you don’t show respect, you do not get respect back. You seem to be displaying quite a sense of entitlement. If you look at this in terms of territory or personal space, you are infringing on my personal space and the way I operate is when someone infringes on my space in a disrespectful way. I stand my ground and I do not let them infringe and I expel them from my space if they don’t leave voluntarily. This is a matter of personal boundaries. You need to learn to respect other people’s boundaries.

            I first started training in Martial Arts in 1992, and at one point I had the ambition to try to qualify for the Sydney Olympics in Judo but I did not make it, but that was my ambition. When I was fighting competitively I won at least one Gold Medal in every single competition I entered, sometimes more, sometimes 2 or 3 Gold Medals, and I have never been defeated in competition by anyone below Black Belt level. I have trained with some world renowned Grandmasters in Ju-Jitsu, Ninjutsu and Shaolin Kung Fu. My former Judo Coach very narrowly missed qualifying for the Seoul Olympics, he is a 6th Degree Black Belt. My current Judo Coach also competed in the Sambo World Championships, Sambo being the Combat Art of the Russian Military in case you are not familiar with it. In the last month my social media posts have got likes from a Boxing World Champion, a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu World Champion, a former British Judo Youth Olympian and numerous other Black Belt Martial Artists.

            I do not like it when people are disresepectful, in real life or online.

            You are very welcome to come to our Judo Club and train with us if you wish, we train in Dumfries and Castle Douglas 3 days a week, Monday Wednesday and Saturday, you might learn something new. It is good fun, if you do not mind being thrown hard onto a mat. You learn how to fall properly.

            I train in Martial Arts not so that I can fight but so that I do not have to. I am generally a very peaceful person.

            You should investigate what the Maori Warriors say in their tradition about territory. The Maori Warriors also say that the Pakeha (White Man) does not know about psychic warfare. That is very true. Not many people in our culture have these skills anymore.

          8. Colin Robinson says:

            You are indeed not obliged to address any of my substantive points. And indeed, you don’t. Nor am I entitled to your engaging with me. And yet, you do.

            The Bella Caledonia site is not your ‘personal space’ for me to ‘infringe’. It’s a public space, an agora, in which we’re all free to come and go, dreaming our dreams of Michaelangelo (unless, of course, we’re excluded from the marketplace by the site manager or censor).

          9. Max says:

            I really do not want to get into conflict with you Colin, you know, I try to live a peaceful life, live and let live, and I am committed to a life of non-violence, (Martial Arts is not actually about violence as such) but I do stand up to bullies of all kinds, cyberbullies or whatever. I am not saying you are a cyberbully, but perhaps in my humble opinion, you might conisder being a little more considerate in the way you communicate online, I would find this helpful. Just my opinion. Let us just leave this right here, I have nothing against you personally and if you leave me alone I will leave you alone, can you just agree to back off and you just follow your calling as you call it if you want to, that is fine. How would you feel about that? I have no ill-will towards you, please stay safe, be happy and just go your own way, okay?

          10. Colin Robinson says:

            No worries, man.

    2. Carol says:

      Max, may I thank you for your comment and say “good morning” to you?
      I see another thoughtful person brought onboard by Mike Small’s well written articles.
      You have given good advice and I, being a mother, with heavy heart filled with fear for the future of our children, am grateful for your opinion.
      Being “Empathic” and connecting in interconnecting thoughts I am reminded of the Mad Max films in a similar scenario,

      Mad Max –
      “The series follows the adventures of Max Rockatansky, a police officer in a future Australia which is experiencing societal collapse due to war and critical resource shortages”.

      May I stipulate in reference to yourself Max, you are NOT “Mad” in making this comment!

      I see and feel much common sense given by someone that seeks a second chance for our species.
      Hopefully there are many more like you out there that can pull us back on to that “Moral” given course for humanity, that gives All our lives meaning and a purpose, in an answer to that bigger question,

      “What is the purpose of human life”?

      Continuing on my “Star Trek” future hope for humanity, may I leave you and All this link?

      “Inspirational Speeches of Trek”


      You Max, have shared for ME (Mothership Empathy) your human spirit.
      Thank you.


      1. Max says:

        Thank you Carol, for your thoughtful and intelligent response. I don’t have time to reply further right now but wanted to acknowledge your reply to me comment, and thank you. Stay safe!

          1. Carol says:

            Good Morning Max, more words of wisdom I see from you, (I quote)
            “Life is short, you could drop of a heart attack in the next 2 minutes, or any other causes of sudden death, it is entirely possible”. (well said!)
            Last night I had written a response to Colin, but my husband’s words of wisdom (“You should not get involved with your sensitive nature”) I had to agree on.
            So this is for your eyes only (In response terms) and I do so to support your well written comment today, (Dated 10th August 2021 at 8:21 am)

            Colin Robinson
            Hello Collin, may I wish you a “Good evening”? (warm and heartfelt)
            I have just read comments between yourself and Max and although it is NOT normally in my nature to take sides, truth be told I found your comments, (how shall I put it?) – Cold!

            My empathic abilities, or as you put it “Calling” are for connecting and listening to others.
            I like to think I keep an open mind to all, “but not so open that all my marbles fall out”!
            (An adaption from a saying by the late Carl Sagan – American astronomer- Sagan claimed to be agnostic)
            Part of your quote, from Pseudo-Plato “you can perhaps share with us poor Athenians”, certainly cut to the chase.

            In a balancing act of fairness, I will read your comments, but in your few written (own actual words)
            “This is my work, Max, my calling”, I must simply say, “I cannot connect to your calling”!
            They say “Honesty is the best policy” and I can’t say fairer than that.

            In another balancing act of open- minded fairness, I personally love this quote from The King and I,
            “Men of faith and men of science, by contradicting each other, always manage to arrive at same conclusion”.

            I will “conclude” at that!

            Max, may you continue to keep those well- balanced- comments coming!
            Stay safe (also)

            Carol. x

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Dear Carol,

            Thank you for your warm and heartfelt greetings.

            Don’t concern yourself about being unable to connect to my calling. It’s not for everyone. We are Hyperboreans; we know very well how far off we live. ‘Neither by land nor by sea will you find the way to the Hyperboreans.’ – Pindar already knew this about us.

            Yours etc.


  11. Carol says:

    Dear Colin, I write with appreciation in your response to MAX, 10th August 2021 at 1:59 pm

    (I quote) “No worries, man”.

    That would (for ME – Mothership Empathy) tie into this,

    “Never the Muse is absent
    from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
    and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
    Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
    in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle they live”.

    Carol. x (Over and out)

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Aye; and amid the polyphony of our muse, we live eternally in the happy state of ᾰ̓πορῐ́ᾱ (‘constant puzzlement’), free of the curs’t conceit of being right.

  12. Max says:

    Hi there dear moderator this comment is not for publishing. Please could you delete all my previous comments on here in the last two days, the ones in reply to Colin Robinson as well as the opening post which I posted. It was just a pointless and useless discussion and it would be best deleted. Many thanks!

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      My! Somebody’s taken the hump.

      1. Max says:

        There is an expression that the Tibetans have for people like you, Colin.

        What they say is “One day he will meet a mother’s son”.

        A “mother’s son” is a Tibetan expression which could be translated as a BMF. You know what a BMF is? A Bad Muthafucka.

        I am giving you a very clear health warning Colin.

        The problem with behaving like an idiot online is that you cannot separate your online life from real life. Online bad habits spill over into real life. It eventually becomes part of your personality and character. So what is inevitably going to happen to you if you persist on the path of pissing people off is that you will piss off the wrong person. And then as the Irish proverb goes “It is often that a man’s mouth broke his nose.” You will piss off a man you really really do not want to piss off. It will not be me because I would never hurt a fly, I am a man of peace. Nowadays anyway. But there are many men who would annihilate someone like you in an instant.

        So change your ways before it is too late. I am saying this to protect you from your own stupidity.

        My work has taken me into prisons and mental hospitals. I have worked with people who they ended up strapping to a gurney and executing by lethal injection because of their heinous crimes. Pancuronium Bromide paralyses the muscles and causes respiratory arrest and Potassium Chloride stops the heart. Nowadays they cannot even give them a sedative anymore beforehand because the pharmaceutical companies have banned the use of medicines in executions for reasons of medical ethics.

        This is what is do as voluntary work as a service to society.

        Believe me there are men out there who you really do not to piss off.

        You do not realise it but I am trying very hard to help you. But of course it is impossible to help someone who does not take responsibility for themselves.

        Karma is a very serious thing indeed.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Max, you’re going way OTT. Colin is BC’s resident draining vampire. He drains us all. It’s harmless stuff.

          1. Mark Bevis says:

            Haha, yes Tom, like it.
            Have to say Colin hasn’t offended me yet, being called an evolutionist is quite pleasant, and never thought of myself that way.

            Max’s post that started this is very good:
            “It is all very sensible and of course this is what would need to be done, but my personal opinion is that it is far too late to turn things around, the collapse of our civilisation is imminent and in progress as I write, and it now becomes a matter of survival, not that I am a “prepper” as such, I don’t agree with their mindset, I think the preppers are coming from a place of ego mostly and only care about themselves and their immediate family possibly.

            However it would probably be a good idea for people to find some land somewhere with access to clean water, where one can grow food, and to establish a small community of people who have a diverse range range of skills, and to gather together things like seeds, tools, supplies and so on. In the cities and towns survival will be impossible, what I see is that it will only be possible to survive in small “lifeboat communities” like what I mention above. These communities would probably need to be in an extremely remote and isolated place and would need to be self sufficient to a great extent, otherwise they will get overrun by refugees fleeing the cities.

            Probably not even this is possible, we modern people from the developed world lack and have forgotten the survival skills to do this kind of thing, and extinction of the human species is imminent, or possibly a few humans might survive the cataclysm, I put my money on the Indigenous Peoples, maybe some uncontacted tribes in the Amazon Rainforest or Papua New Guinea. Then we can begin again at the beginning and maybe humanity can have another go.”

            I agree with a lot of this.

            Colin’s response didn’t really explain himself, but is also correct.
            The myth of the noble savage, I referenced elsewhere. From the book The Missing Lynx, which showed how modern humans wiped out the mega fauna within 9000 years, a slip of a moment in evolutionary time scales. After that same mega-fauna lived alongside neanderthals for 250,000 years.

            It is a debateable topic. Would the American Indians, living in small numbers across a vast continent, have wiped out the buffalo? Eventually, but over a time scale so slow that other factors would have intervened (apart from European intervention) first. Before Colombus arrived and “discovered” America, those Indians lived in huge numbers and in quite complex societies, some sources claim they were none-violent. Collapsology shows that without European intervention, their society too would have overshot and collapsed. Hence the phrase the ‘myth of the noble savage.” The American Indians of the 18th-19th century we see in hollywood hunting buffalo were but a sad remnant of a greater civilisation. Just because they didn’t have guns, armies, industry, western political land owning elites, they were termed savages. And similarly for other “native tribes” going back to the Romans.
            It’s all the Romans fault, ah-ha, calling those outside the empire barbarians because they didn’t have cities and plumbing and roads and aqueducts etc.
            Just like today one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, in earlier times one man’s barbarian was another man’s free living person.

            I digress. I made a comment on another BC post about the flat screen not being able to transfer the nuances of body language and syntex, so it is quite easy for a typed sentence to imply a different meaning.
            I would add that I personally delete about 2/3rds of my posts across the internet before publishing. Sometimes it’s kinder to let people live in their blissful ignorance for a bit, undermining people’s hopium feels like a cruel act!

            We’ve come a long way fro 36p octupus.

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            We’ve come a long way indeed from the cost of inferior octopus. That’s how Socratic dialogue works.

        2. Colin Robinson says:

          I thought a ‘mother’s son’ was a Mason, as in ‘Ilk man and mother’s son, take heed,’.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            And thanks for the advice. But I’ve been philosophising for over 50 years, and nobody’s thumped me yet.

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            ‘…which came first the Mother or the Son?’

            Neither, and that’s because the concepts involved are codependent for their meaning. The mother is ‘the mother’ only in virtue of the son’s being ‘the son’, and the son is ‘the son’ only in virtue of the mother’s being ‘the mother’. Logically you can’t have one without the other; therefore, neither can possibly come first.

            But why are you wasting your time, John, feeding the troll?

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