Commodity Ecology

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Blog and concept at


Mark writes:

"Two Institutions Required in Every Watershed: Commodity Ecology and Civic Democratic Institutions".

"The priorities of both commodity ecology and the watershed civic democratic institution are to familiarize a locality with its specific interactions of health, ecology, and economy, by making a venue in which we can discuss making our human material and technological decisions fit particular areas instead of destroying them--and fit in a way that provides for ourselves and other species in the process.

Ideally, there should be an ONGOING commodity ecology conference immediately where teams from each of the 71 different commodity choices—with material scientists, technologists, inventors, biologists, health workers, business owners, ecologists, consumers (who want something that no one is offering it in the area or who have an idea for what they would want to buy or phase out), and general citizens.

This is similar to the “Gaviotas”-sense of local interactivity. Gaviotas is a nice example of how user-producer relationships for the goals of sustainability and localism were institutionalized. They made group decisions about both technology and materials choice issues, in a form of democratic discussion in their community on how to optimize their material relationships synergistically, to reduce wastes and pollution as well as to generate novel material businesses and ideas for how to integrate.

In Gaviotas, it was only when the gruff “technological producer” preoccupied 'professional worker' adults were forced to share the same eating tables and forced to talk to the “user children” of their technological handiwork, did a large amount of technological innovation start to accrue. One example was the combining of the see-saw for kids with the water pump, effectively harnessing child play for water pumping, and making it fun as well instead of a drudgery, as well as putting children within the contributing world of the community instead of being external to its working life.

The school framework itself started to be bundled into these locally optimal user-producer relationships, by having classes visit various workshops in the actual material and technological world. In the process of questions and answers between the tech-adults and the roving class of children, many other user-producer links were discovered and implemented, with the children's school thus benefiting the adults as well as the children. These are only two of several examples. There are many more.

Thus, in Gaviotas, the user-producer relationships were additionally child-adult relationships that came full circle as well. Such communication occurs only if all the different user-producer frameworks are regularly made aware of each other through some regular basis. I would argue this goes for suppliers and consumers in general.

It would be fine to do this at a dinner table. However, to systematize what is going on here, as well as to note how Gaviotas failed when it attempted to "scale out" its work, the suggestion is to have specific watershed COMMODITY ECOLOGY institutionalizations.

A watershed based institution is required to enhance and cultivate geographically optimal frameworks of technological innovation and materials choice. This is based innately upon the geographic specific dynamics upon how various other material choices, inputs, and outputs are arranged uniquely in each watershed--and require different solutions for different watersheds.

The goal factors are local economic durability, ecological security, and health optimalization. These are the goals that should be the keystone criteria in mind in these deliberations.

How can this be done? If it's democratization and local input and oversight of material choice processes and procedures of decision making, this means that consumers are the ultimate power of authority in materials choice relationships and should have some type of institution in which they can do one of two activities: arrange or call attention to user-producer relationships in material choices that they want in their area (that they fail to have), as well as complain about existing separation of producers who ignore the three goal criteria for sustainability (health, ecology, and economic sustainability) in their technological choices as well as material choices.

These issues of materials choice decision making procedures are to be democratically nationalized (and watershed-based) issues, instead of exclusively a private issue taken typically with regard or even against the consumer interest (as in the current frameworks of “consumption without representation” in GMO foods for example). Instead, feedback from the public in consumer/user-producer relationships on what materials they want to consume in their watersheds, and which ones should be phased out, how to interlink each of them, and what technology is required to perform this, is involved here." (

The 90 Commodities essential for human life

Summary graphic at

1. textiles 2. dyes/colorants (murex, cochineal, synthetic chemicals, derived organic coal based chemicals) 3. building materials/tool construction 4. metals 5. garbage/garbage disposal 6. soils/dirt 7. drugs/medicines 8. infant food 9. animal based food 10. vegetable based food 11. mycelium based food (mushrooms) 12. insect based food 13. transport 14. pollinators (introduced bees where none exist; or in some cases required hand pollination, in vanilla for instance; ultrasound/birdsong pollinators) 15. fertilizers 16. herbicides/pesticides 17. mineral food (typically only one: salt, sometimes earth/clays/dirt) 18. preservatives (salt, smoke, sun-dry/dehydrate, chemical, sugared, vacuum sealed, pickled, dry freeze, etc.) 19. communication/transmission technology (voice/sound, paper, mud brick cuneiform, silk rolls, papyrus, digital computers, pony express, telephone/telegraph, smoke signals from fires, semaphore, electrified metals/conductors, electromagnets, etc.) 20. condiments/flavorings 21. scents/incenses/fragrances 22. purifiers/cleansers/concentrators (soap, water, membrane sieves, clays, diatomaceous earth, ultrasound, gas diffusion/heat, etc.) 23. protectants (paint, plastic, electroplate, glass, bulletproof glass, etc.) 24. retardants (asbestos, inflammable materials, deoxygenators, glass, etc.) 25. insulators (wool, ice, straw, fiberglass, rags, vacuums, solid glass, plastic, stones/marble, etc.) 26. abrasives (diamond dust, carborundum, sandpaper, etc.) 27. lubricants 28. elastics (rubber, synthetic rubber) 29. coolants (ice, caves, chemicals, oils) 30. ambient heat (chemicals, caves, oil, hot springs, tallow, wood fires, antifreeze) 31. light/artificial light (sunlight, chemicals, oil (whale or abiotic), tallow, electricity/blubs, fire) 32. potable liquids (water, wine, sake, beer, cider, milk, tea, coffee, koumiss, etc.) 33. war materiels 34. energy (oil, solar, wood, nuclear, hydro/waterpower, charcoal, horse power, human labor, AC electricity, DC electricity, tides, zero-point technology, water based electrolysis engines, electromagnetic dynamos, etc.) 35. catalysts/mordants 36. energy storage (batteries, computer memory (a peculiar property of silicon only discovered in the 1950s), cynanobacteria (being linked as silicon substitutes in experiments) etc.) 37. aesthetics (brought into consumption simply because of perceived beauty, spirituality, and/or symbolism/ideology interests instead of a ‘material functionality’ prominent in many other consumptive positional categories) 38. musical instruments 39. toiletries 40. conductors 41. nonconductors 42. superconductors 43. semiconductors 44. environmental-proof/waterproof/airtight materials 45. adhesives 46. solvents 47. industrial tools/machine tools materials 48. tunneling/drilling materials 49. humans themselves as a ‘designed commodity’ (i.e., materials for those of eugenic bent, gene knowledge, etc.; or replaceable human parts whether transplants or cyborg machine substitutes like dialysis machines, artificial hearts, or artificial kidneys, etc.) 50. sense extensions (different from simply communications technology, actually going into human sensory areas that humans are ill equipped to do without aids of some sort) 51. calculation (human minds, abacus, computer, copper, silicon, superconductors, cynanobacteria, etc.) 52. software (from Jacquard’s loom to programmable Chinese textile machinery from the Later Han, etc.) 53. hardware 54. timekeeping (archaeoastronomy, moons, garden/plant clocks, calendars, mechanical clocks, water clocks, chronometers, Foucault pendulums, cesium atomic clock, etc.) 55. spacekeeping (string, plumb line, geodetic pyramid, compass azimuths, compasses) 56. climate manipulation (seeding, etc.) 57. money (state-financial decisions about money and exchange are equally a commodity and infrastructural issue influenced by the materiality of the commodity in question and politics of choice; local currency strategies, rice, metals/coins/bullion, paper, checks, digital transfers, stones, shells, salt, cider, cigarettes, etc.]) 58. remediation (zeolite, recycling filtration, etc.; various types of water and soil cleansing technologies dependent upon physical characteristics of the materials utilized, learning options, etc.) 59. dentistry 60. stimulants 61. hallucinogens 62. intoxicants 63. narcotics 64. hypnotics 65. psychedelics/entheogens 66. anesthetics 67. chemically inert materials. 68. poisons/antidotes/purgatives 69. surgical tools 70. experimental models 71. antiseptics 72. packing materials 73. fodder 74. shock-absorbents 75. real estate 76. services 77. funeral services 78. levitation 79. invisibility 80. transparent materials 81. anti-gravity / inertial variation 82. light-proof / electromagnetic-proof materials 83. insect repellents 84. sound-proof materials 85. contraceptives 86. breathable air 87. chemical fractionation 88. desiccants 89. moisturizers 90. life-extension