These notes are from the “The logic of sufficiency” [2] as described in [1].

The idea of sufficiency begins to shift to the principle of sufficiency when structure is needed for enactment, when more than sensory perception of “enoughness” or “too muchness” is needed to recognise excess and to act. Unlike the normatively neutral concepts of efficiency and cooperation, Thomas Princen contends that sufficiency as a principle aimed at ecological overshoot compels decision makers to ask when too much resource use or too little regeneration risks important values such as ecological integrity and social cohesion: “when material gains now preclude material gains in the future; when consumer gratification or investor reward threatens economic security; when benefits internalized depend on costs externalized”. Princen sets out an argument for the installation of social organizing principles attentive to risks, especially those risks that are displaced in time and place, are desperately needed in the belief that sufficiency principles (as opposed to mere efficiency) such as restraint, respite, precaution, polluter pays, zero, and reverse onus, have the virtue of partially resurrecting well-established notions like moderation and thrift, ideas that have never completely disappeared.

Princon’s mentions a few real world examples where the logic of sufficiency has already been embraced by companies or communities as the basis of doing well. With examples ranging from timbering and fishing to automobility and meat production, Princen shows that sufficiency is perfectly sensible and yet absolutely contrary or modern society’s dominant principle, efficiency. He argues that seeking enough when more is possible is both intuitive and rational –personally, organizationally, and ecologically rational. And under global ecological constraints, it is ethical. Over the long term, an economy –indeed a society– cannot operate as if there’s never enough and never too much.

[1] J. Barry and P. Doran, “Refining green political economy: from ecological modernisation to economic security and sufficiency,” Analyse und Kritik-Zeitschrift fur Sozialwissenschaften, vol. 28, no. 2, p. 250, 2006.

[2] T. Princen, The logic of sufficiency. MIT Press, 2005.

Nuclear Sustainability

I came across the Energy Architecture Performance Index 2013 report (evaluation of energy systems of 105 countries) done by World Economic Forum. From the summary:

The EAPI measures 16 indicators aggregated into three baskets relating to the three imperatives of the energy triangle to which energy architecture should contribute: economic growth and development, environmental sustainability, and access and security of supply. The EAPI both scores and ranks each country’s current energy architecture based on how well it contributes to these imperatives.

It is interesting that according to this aggregated index, France’s energy system architecture ranks 3rd. About 80% of France electricity is from Nuclear power. So the alchemy of “energy triangle” lies in nuclear power?!

Grain and root farming

The distinction between grain- and root-farming cultures has been cited as the basis of fundamental differences of outlook between Occident and Orient. Briefly, the thesis is that the root crops of southeast Asia required fewer and simpler techniques of cultivation, were perennials instead of annuals, stored less well than grain, concentrated less energy than grain, were grown in small, mixed assemblages instead of large monocultures, required less irrigation, and fermented differently. The result is that the husbandry of Asia was more in harmony with the inward and passive mysteries of the feminine principle. The Great Mother in the West was more readily subordinated to the calculating and regimenting masculine ideal. Even today, the maternal figure in Asia keeps an energy that in the West was swept away by the conquest of the Mycenaeans by the Achaeans and in the Levant by the collapse of the autochthonous temple cities of the river valleys. (Diamond (1981)[1] in Shepard (1998)[2] )

  1. Diamond, S., 1981. Culture in history: essays in honor of Paul Radin. Octagon Press, Limited. 

  2. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

From nomadic foraging to sedentary village life

Shift from hunter-gatherer to initial forms of village life demanded different style of consciousness: emergence of sedentary village life from nomadic foraging… Changes in thought, perceptions of the outer and inner world, and premises and assumptions … These shifts have to do with the quality of attention rather than ideas; with the significance of place rather than the identity of nations; with the theme of duality; with the subtle effects of food and trophic patterns on thought and expression; with the accumulation of made things and possessions that was part of village life; and, finally, with some of the subtler influences of domestication on the ways people saw themselves and the land, as well as their plants and animals.[1]


  1. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

First global annihilation

If we consider the story of life on earth, changes which led to presence of free molecular oxygen on Earth (known as GOE), is probably the most horrible event. It led to annihilation of anaerobic life forms which dominated the earth for more than a billion years.[1]

Cyanobacteria, which appeared about 200 million years before the GOE began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. Before the GOE, any free oxygen they produced was chemically captured by dissolved iron organic matter. The GOE was the point when these oxygen sinks became saturated and could not capture all of the oxygen that was produced by cyanobacterial photosynthesis. After the GOE the excess free oxygen started to accumulate in the atmosphere. Free oxygen is toxic to anaerobic organisms and the rising concentrations may have wiped out most of the Earth’s anaerobic inhabitants at the time. From their perspective it was a catastrophe. Cyanobacteria were therefore responsible for one of the most significant extinction events in Earth’s history. Additionally the free oxygen reacted with the atmospheric methane, a greenhouse gas, triggering the Huronian glaciation, possibly the longest snowball Earth episode. Free oxygen has been an important constituent of the atmosphere ever since.

Basically, the planet was saturated by toxic wastes (for the major inhabitants of Earth then) which led to a global bio-catastrophe and their annihilation. Sounds familiar?!

  1. Great Oxygenation Event, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 19-Jan-2013.