Letters to Readers
Where to Get It
Youth Futures: 2012 and Beyond (2015 Archive)
Starting in 2012, this space will present updates to the book Standing on Your Own Two Feet: Young Adults Surviving 2012 and Beyond, which is a free book for all young adults. Short corrections will be incorporated into the book as soon as possible, but most additions and supplements will be found only here.
The one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know.
29 December 2015: Hunches about 2016
I have been asked by a number of my regular young-adult readers to give my predictions for the future in a more concrete form than the Future Timeline. There, I only place possible major events, mostly about climate change, in 5-year blocks, as being any more precise than that feels WAY too far out on a limb. Even those are subject to change, of course.
Well, okay, I do have some hunches. No predictions, just hunches. And I have to admit a conflict of interest. I want to go to the Queen Mary's 50th Anniversary Celebration on 9 December 2017. So I am motivated to NOT imagine anything in the future that would affect the trains, busses, and hotels I would need to attend that event, nor the Queen Mary herself, before then. I'll try to ignore that motivation as I share my hunches.
Also, I worry that a Methane spike is already beginning and that the Arctic icecap is done for. Even now, in December, there are reports of temperatures in the Arctic, usually the water but sometimes also the air, that are WAY too high. My hunch is that if the icecap completely melts one of these summers, possibly as early as 2016, then the following year it would melt early in the season, and that would trigger Greenland to begin a rapid melting pulse. The floating Arctic icecap does not raise sea levels when it melts, but Greenland does. That would give us several meters of sea level rise, which would devastate current human civilization. My nearest town, Kelso, Washington, would be under water.
In other words, I'm not holding my breath about visiting the Queen Mary in late 2017.
During the last two centuries we have known nothing but an exponential growth culture, a culture so dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that is incapable of reckoning with problems of non-growth.
13 December 2015: Key Events of 2015
To those of us who are living through it, the current year may seem like it is moving slowly, compared to the pace of events in movies and television shows where an entire crisis and resolution must unfold in two hours or less. But compared to most of human history, the year just passing has been a frenetic blur.
As many of you may know, I maintain a timeline of key events concerning Climate Change, which is, in my opinion, the most important thing happening in the world today. I also keep an eye on Peak Oil, Resource Depletion in general, and of course The Economy, but none of those will directly affect the Earth and the many other creatures on it; they are human concerns. Climate Change, on the other hand, affects everyone and everything. For that same reason, in my timeline I primarily list physical processes, and only include the very most important human political events.
It is always a challenge to know where, in the timeline, to put a process that has roots in the past, and will continue to evolve in the future, without getting into lengthy expositions and histories. But since I most often write for young adults, I aim to keep things as concise as possible. Hence, I have to pick a year in which to stick each item that will allow easy understanding, without bending the truth too much.
So, enough said. Here's my list of the key Climate Change events of 2015, with the chance, I admit, of needing to squeeze in something else later on. I welcome any opinions on the items I have included, or omitted, the wording of each, and the placement.
CALIFORNIA DROUGHT: The drying of southwestern North America enters a critical phase in which rivers no longer provide enough water for drinking, irrigation, and hydro-electric power.
OCEAN HEATING: Excess ocean heat is creating an "El Niño" (or worse) condition in the Pacific Ocean, normal up-welling of nutrient-rich deep water is being disrupted, and large marine animals are starving as krill, anchovies, sardines, etc., vanish. From heating and acidification, about half the coral reefs of the world are now dead or dying.
LAUDATO SI: The encyclical of Pope Francis clearly draws the battle lines between those who want a livable planet and a just human civilization, and those who would sacrifice it all for short-term comfort and profit.
MASS MIGRATIONS: Displaced by wars, droughts, and increasing general poverty, large numbers of people begin to leave the Middle East and North Africa for Europe and other destinations.
ARCTIC: Although the Arctic Ocean did not become ice-free this summer, almost no thick multi-year ice remains. With the global Methane level at 1846 ppb, and readings over the Arctic up to 2629 ppb, evidence mounts of a Methane spike that could easily trigger abrupt climate change.
PARIS UNFCCC COP-21: At the 21st Conference of the Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, most countries agreed to vague and non-binding greenhouse gas emissions cuts that are believed to limit global heating to about 3°C. The conference's main contribution may have been a broad recognition that 1.5°C is a meaningful target, not 2°C.
Special note about OCEAN HEATING: I'm not convinced it's just an "El Niño," which is why I put "(or worse)" after it.
Everyone's got a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.
15 October 2015: Will the U.N. FCCC COP-21 save us?
In early December of this year, the governments of the world will meet in Paris, France to make commitments for dealing with climate change. Most nations have announced some intention to reduce greenhouse gases, and many people are hopeful that something good will come of it.
The question is, will it be too little, too late?
As I read articles about the commitments our leaders want to make, and other articles about what scientists say is needed, I become very worried. The 2 types of articles seem to be talking about completely different things.
Our government leaders say something like this: "We plan to reach a peak in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 or so, begin reducing them by about 2050, and approach a low-level of emissions by 2100."
And scientists say something like this: "We needed to start slashing our greenhouse gas emissions drastically (about 10% a year) starting 10 or 20 years ago, be at zero by 2030, and then start pulling carbon out of the air as fast as we can. Even if we do all that, we will probably still have to deal with 2-4 degrees C of global warming that will pound us with massive storms, floods, droughts, and other terrible effects for the next 1000 years."
Do you see why I'm worried?
The fact is, climate change is a completely physical process that involves gasses in the air and water. Our government leaders are used to running the world by talking, doing little things to APPEAR to be solving problems, and putting people they don't like in jail. Climate change will not be affected by any of those "human" ways of doing things.
Here's an example I just stumbled upon. In a well-written article by Kevin Anderson, he summarizes the models the U.N. has been using:
In plain language, the complete set of 400 IPCC scenarios for a 50% or better chance of 2 degrees C assume either an ability to travel back in time or the successful and large-scale uptake of speculative negative emission technologies. A significant proportion of the scenarios are dependent on both 'time travel and geo-engineering'.
Wish them luck in Paris, but I don't recommend holding your breath.
Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do the maintenance.
13 August 2015: Earth Overshoot Day
It has been determined by scientists that on this day, 13 August 2015, the human race has used up all the eco-system resources that the Earth can give us for the entire year 2015.
It is possible to do this because the Earth has many "stocks" of resources (oxygen in the air, fresh water, biomass like firewood, soil, etc.) that have a large supply in place, and so can be used more quickly than they are replaced by natural processes. But doing that causes eco-system damage, just like when we spend more money than we make and have to borrow and go into debt.
Once, about 50,000 years ago, Earth Overshoot Day was 31 December each year, and creeping earlier only very, very slowly. In about the year 1750, when we started burning coal, it began creeping earlier more rapidly. It really started moving earlier by giant steps in the middle of the 20th century.
No one knows how long this can go on. My guess would be that Mother Nature will bring us back into balance very soon.
"If we use more than what we have, the only thing left to eat will be imaginary cookies."
To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of.
11 August 2015: The Earth as a Dying Battery
In a recent scientific paper, explained well in an excellent and easy-to-read article, the Earth is compared to a battery that is only trickle-charged very slowly by Mother Nature using sunlight.
The energy in the battery is stored in chemical forms, like in all batteries. The Earth stores its energy using organic Carbon compounds, mostly biomass (wood on land, plankton in the ocean) and fossil fuels (coal, crude oil, and Methane gas).
Our modern civilization was only made possible because we learned how to deeply discharge the battery. Two thousand years ago, during the Roman Empire, the battery was still nearly full:
Today, it is almost down to half, and dropping rapidly:
"Unless biomass stores stabilize, human civilization is unsustainable."
Additional thoughts by JZC:
The comparison can be taker even further. With any battery, the quality of the energy is lower when using the bottom half of the charge: the voltage begins to drop, just as our sources of energy are becoming more expensive because they are deeper, more difficult to extract, or of lower concentration.
Also, any battery that is deeply discharged will be damaged, and never again be able to hold as much of a charge, even if it can be recharged. This shows on the Earth as eco-system damage. For example, a scarred landscape such as a clear-cut forest or an open-pit mine is extremely slow to rebuild its soil and biomass.
Since we have done most of the draining of the Earth's battery since just the middle of the 20th century, and the bottom half of the battery's charge is more difficult to use, we could be very close to the point when the battery will no longer allow our industrial civilization to continue.
This comparison ignores the effects of pollution, such as climate change, which could bring our civilization to an end even sooner.
When chaotic behavior begins to emerge in an oscillating system ... that's a sign that real trouble may be sitting on the doorstep.
25 June 2015: What IS "sustainability," anyway?
Everyone's trying to jump on the Sustainability Bandwagon these days, but few of them really know what it means, or actually want to do anything about it. Richard Heinberg, one of the clearest thinkers and writers about our current world situation, recently gave a presentation that included a good summary of 5 environmental, and 2 financial, sustainability concepts.
1. Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.
2. Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.
3. To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.
4. To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.
5. Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to biosphere functions.
6. To be sustainable, a financial system must generate only as much debt as can realistically be repaid; given that the tendency is for debt levels to increase anyway, periodic "jubilees," or occasions of general debt forgiveness, are advisable.
7. To be sustainable, complex societies must find ways to limit inequalities of wealth, which might otherwise increase to the point where those with the least no longer regard governance systems as legitimate.
... human cognitive facilities that would accurately perceive truth would be at a disadvantage against competing humans genetically selecting for evolutionarily useful illusions.
21 June 2015: "If we destroy creation, creation will destroy us."
Although Pope Francis spoke this earlier, with the release of his encyclical Laudato Si on 18 June 2015, this simple truth appears ready to become a war cry for those who want a livable planet and a future for our children, against those who would destroy it all for short-term comfort and profit.
Actually, the situation is even worse. If we tinker with creation too much, creation will destroy us. Many species of plants and animals have gone extinct without doing anything as drastic as we are doing. Everything eats and breaths. We go far beyond that, because we're smart. We burn things, dig things up, move things around, pile things up, make new things that have never been seen on Earth before, and then dump them on the land or in the water.
The saddest part is that we know we're hurting the Earth. The trilobites and dodo birds did not know, and probably weren't doing anyting harmful. We know. We know for sure. Now we must choose.
It would be very, very hard on us if we decided to get back into balance with the Earth's ecosystems. The simplest and most urgent thing we must do is quit burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) right NOW. Yesterday would have been better. If you find yourself driving or riding in a car, bus, or airplane tomorrow, and next month, and next year, then you know what you, and everyone else, decided.
That's okey. Every creature that has ever lived has limitation. One of ours seems to be that we can't let go of our short-term comforts and profits, even if they're destroying the Earth. Maybe someday a new dominant species will live here, where we once lived, who will be smart enough to keep their civilization in balance with the Earth's climate and ecosystem. It's impossible to know, because it looks like we won't be here to see it.
Hypocrisy is anything whatever [that] may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.
10 June 2015: The Five Stages of Collapse
Now that John Michael Greer has completed his series of essays on this subject, I'll try to give a summary of the idea. I don't claim to be able to explain them as well as Mr. Greer, but I will attempt to do so with many fewer words, and in language that is accessible to young people.
The Era of Pretense
The Era of Impact
The Era of Response
The Era of Breakdown
The Era of Dissolution
If you want to corrupt a people, corrupt the language. ... Once it becomes impossible to say the truth with the language we have, it will ultimately be impossible for us to adapt and survive.
4 June 2015: The Nine Planetary Boundaries
In 2009, scientists realized we knew enough about what was harming our planet to make a list, and figure out if we had "crossed the line" in each case.
Early this year, they updated and improved that idea. They stayed with the same 9 boundaries, but changed some of the names a little to include a few things they hadn't the first time. Here are the new 9 boundaries:
1. Climate change
The ones in bold are the ones we have crossed, according to the scientists.
Based on my reading, I would guess that we are close to the line for two more, but this is just my opinion as a non-scientist:
4. Ocean acidification
Can we cross back onto the "good" side of the boundaries we've crossed? We don't know. As a mental health professional who watches world politics, I doubt it.
The money to be made is clearly more important than the extinctions we cause, including our own.
17 May 2015: The Precautionary Principle (or) Let's play Russian Roulette, children!
In case anyone hasn't heard of Russian Roulette, it's a game played by very stupid or very drunk people in which one bullet is placed in a 6-cylinder revolver, the cylinder spun so that the bullet is in an unknown random place, and the trigger pulled with the gun to your own head. That's a 17% chance, each try.
(I don't know if this "game" has anything to do with Russia. That's just what we call it in the USA. If the Russians don't claim it, my apologies to them.)
Russian Roulette is a good example of a systemic risk, a risk that could be total, complete, infinite, ruinous. If you play any "game" with systemic risk a few times, you might get away with it. If you play long enough, you're dead.
There are many risks that our society chooses to take all the time. Usually, we know about what the dangers are. We transport deadly chemicals by truck and train because we know, from experience, that when an accident happens, some land is poisoned, some people and animals die, but most of the world can go on. These are not systemic risks. They are known risks, and their effects are local.
The human race, as a whole, has never had to think about systemic risks before. We had never, before about 1950, had the ability to do anything that affected the entire human race, or the whole planet. Our leaders had no practice at making decisions about globally systemic risks.
Suddenly, we have a bunch of them staring us in the face. Most of our leaders are still thinking the old way that worked a hundred or more years ago. Risks were know, effects were local.
The Precautionary Principle is that when the risks are systemic, we have to be very, very sure the idea is safe before trying it. Here are, in my opinion and the opinions of most respected scientists, the "games" we are playing that could have globally systemic risks:
- Nuclear war
To test your knowledge of what's going on in the world, you can try to match these up with the possible systemic risks, which I've put in random order:
- Human diseases and mutations from radiation poisoning
No one knows which, if any, of these will "get us." If I had to guess, I'd say a combination, probably including at least a little of everything.
The important thing for each of us to do is practice spotting systemic risks, those that could lead to ruin for the world, so if we are ever in leadership positions, we can take a second, third, and fourth look at those ideas before deciding.
The story of global climate change has been the story of one decade's hysterical doomsaying becoming the next decade's unwarranted optimism.
21 April 2015: The Wife and The Tiger's Whisker
In a good article by Carolyn Baker about healing reltionships in which one partner is preparing for the future and the other isn't, she shared a beautiful story from China:
Once upon a time, a young wife named Yun Ok was at her wit's end. Her husband had always been a tender and loving soulmate before he had left for the wars, but ever since he returned home he was cross, angry, and unpredictable. She was almost afraid to live with her own husband. Only in glancing moments did she catch a shadow of the husband she used to know and love.
When one ailment or another bothered people in her village, they would often rush for a cure to a hermit who lived deep in the mountains. Not Yun Ok. She always prided herself that she could heal her own troubles. But this time was different. She was desperate.
As Yun Ok approached the hermit's hut, she saw the door was open. The old man said without turning around, "I hear you. What's your problem?"
She explained the situation. His back still to her, he said, "Ah yes, it's often that way when soldiers return from the war. What do you expect me to do about it?"
"Make me a potion!" cried the young wife. "Or an amulet, a drink, whatever it takes to get my husband back the way he used to be."
The old man turned around. "Young woman, your request doesn't exactly fall into the same category as a broken bone or ear infection."
"I know," said she.
"It will take three days before I can even look into it. Come back then."
Three days later, Yun Ok returned to the hermit's hut. "Yun Ok," he greeted her with a smile, "I have good news. There is a potion that will restore your husband to the way he used to be, but you should know that it requires an unusual ingredient. You must bring me a whisker from a live tiger."
"What?" she gasped. "Such a thing is impossible!"
"I cannot make the potion without it!" he shouted, startling her. He turned his back. "There is nothing more to say. As you can see, I'm very busy."
That night Yun Ok tossed and turned. How could she get a whisker from a live tiger?
The next day before dawn, she crept out of the house with a bowl of rice covered with meat sauce. She went to a cave on the mountainside where a tiger was known to live. She clicked her tongue very softly as she crept up, her heart pounding, and carefully set the bowl on the grass. Then, trying to make as little noise as she could, she backed away.
The next day before dawn, she took another bowl of rice covered with meat sauce to the cave. She approached the same spot, clicking softly with her tongue. She saw that the bowl was empty, replaced the empty one with a fresh one, and again left, clicking softly and trying not to break twigs or rustle leaves, or do anything else to startle and unsettle the wild beast.
So it went, day after day, for several months. She never saw the tiger (thank goodness for that! she thought) though she knew from footprints on the ground that the tiger -- and not a smaller mountain creature -- had been eating her food. Then one day as she approached, she noticed the tiger's head poking out of its cave. Glancing downward, she stepped very carefully to the same spot and with as little noise as she could, set down the fresh bowl and, her heart pounding, picked up the one that was empty.
After a few weeks, she noticed the tiger would come out of its cave as it heard her footsteps, though it stayed a distance away (again, thank goodness! she thought, though she knew that someday, in order to get the whisker, she'd have to come closer to it).
Another month went by. Then the tiger would wait by the empty food bowl as it heard her approaching. As she picked up the old bowl and replaced it with a fresh one, she could smell its scent, as it could surely smell hers.
"Actually," she thought, remembering its almost kittenish look as she set down a fresh bowl, "it is a rather friendly creature, when you get to know it." The next time she visited, she glanced up at the tiger briefly and noticed what a lovely downturn of reddish fur it had from over one of its eyebrows to the next. Not a week later, the tiger allowed her to gently rub its head, and it purred and stretched like a house cat.
Then she knew the time had come. The next morning, very early, she brought with her a small knife. After she set down the fresh bowl and the tiger allowed her to pet its head she said in a low voice, "Oh, my tiger, may I please have just one of your whiskers?" While petting the tiger with one hand, she held one whisker at its base, and with the other hand, in one quick stroke, she carved the whisker off. She stood up, speaking softly her thanks, and left, for the last time.
The next morning seemed endless. At last her husband left for the rice fields. She ran to the hermit's hut, clutching the precious whisker in her fist. Bursting in, she cried to the hermit, "I have it! I have the tiger's whisker!"
"You don't say?" he said, turning around. "From a live tiger?"
"Yes!" she said.
"Tell me," said the hermit, interested. "How did you do it?"
Yun Ok told the hermit how, for the last six months, she had earned the trust of the creature and it had finally permitted her to cut off one of its whiskers. With pride she handed him the whisker. The hermit examined it, satisfied himself that it was indeed a whisker from a live tiger, then flicked it into the fire where it sizzled and burned in an instant.
"What have you done?" Yun Ok cried, horrified.
"Yun Ok," the hermit said softly, "you no longer need the whisker. Tell me, is a man more vicious than a tiger? If a dangerous wild beast will respond to your gradual and patient care, do you think a man will respond any less willingly?"
Yun Ok stood speechless. Then she turned and stepped down the trail, turning over in her mind images of the tiger and of her husband, back and forth. She knew what she could do.
Carolyn Baker concludes: "We have no idea what happened with her and her partner as a result of her interactions with the tiger or the hermit. What we do know is that she was no longer the same woman who paid a visit to the hermit on the first occasion of doing so."
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
16 April 2015: Why do people believe what they believe (or claim to believe)?
A recent article by Geoffrey Chia & Rebecca Willis contains lots of political argument, but also a good summary of why people hold beliefs (in addition to holding them because of rational thinking based on evidence):
1. justifiy the pursuit of their self interest
2. represent the easy option, the path of least resistance, which requires minimal intellectual, social, physical or financial investment or effort on their part. Ideas requiring sacrifice or hard work tend to be rejected.
3. cast themselves in a positive light to impress others (especially to gain favourable treatment or special dispensation from others or advantage over others)
4. cast themselves in a postive light to boost their own egos. They subscribe to self-flattering narratives which elevate their status ...
5. cast others in a negative light to justify the belittlement, ostracism, subjugation, oppression, exploitation and/or murder ...
6. cement the bonds of belonging, solidarity and pride within their social group or tribe. This is of important survival value to the individual, because historically, membership to a group or tribe was essential for material sustenance. Expulsion from the group, being left to fend on your own, could lead to death. ...
7. offer psychological comfort, emotional solace and hope, particularly during difficult times. ...
8. confer upon the believer a sense of ... satisfaction that somehow in the long run, their enemies will inevitably face horrible violent retribution in this life or the next.
9. offer simplistic pseudoexplanations which are easy to grasp ...
10. ... organic brain disease. ...
... beliefs should be based on truth. What is truth? It is that paradigm which provides the closest approximation to reality.
There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder.
10 April 2015: Darwin Weeps: Warning Labels and Technology Render the Survival Mindset Obsolete
This is a nice little article by Daisy Luther that challanges us to recognize the ways in which we are "dumbed down" when society does our thinking for us, and warns us about every little real (or imagined) danger. She puts the situation into historical perspective:
... once upon a time, being stupid got you killed.
and she concludes:
Some of us are deliberate in our day-to-day actions, mindful of our surroundings, and possess a sensible, problem-solution mindset. But we're in the minority. We have to face it: a survival mentality is now an anomaly. It's all but obsolete.
When people insist, as so many of them do, that of course we'll overcome the limits to growth and every other obstacle to our allegedly preordained destiny out there among the stars, all that means is that they have a single story wedged into their imagination so tightly that mere reality can't shake it loose.
6 April 2015: How to Survive Anything in 3 Easy Steps
Daisy Luther wrote this nice little article which I will attempt to summarize. The suggested timeframes are just from me, JZC, and are not meant to fit all situations, but just to give a sense of the attitude we should have when dangers threaten our lives.
1. IMMEDIATELY ACCEPT that the dangerous situation is happening. Yes, the human mind tends to avoid acceptance of uncomfortable realities with denial and other mental tricks. If we only tidy up our desks, or do the dishes, maybe the problem will go away. But that is exactly the period of time when we need to be moving on to steps 2 and 3. (Suggested timeframe: 1-5 seconds.)
2. MAKE A PLAN based on all the facts you already know or can quickly discover. Because dangerous situations tend to change rapidly, don't forget to stay flexible and be ready to switch to Plan B or Plan C. (Suggested timeframe: 5-15 seconds.)
3. ACT, which can take many forms such as fighting, fleeing, or freezing. But only certains kinds of freezing count, such as hiding from a danger you can't fight or outrun. If you are freezing to avoid these steps, then you're in trouble.
In 1972 there were two possible options provided for going forward -- overshoot or sustainable development. Despite myriad conferences and commissions on sustainable development since then, the world opted for overshoot. The two-legged hairless apes did what they always have done. They dominated and subdued Earth. Faced with unequivocable evidence of an approaching existential threat, they equivocated and then attempted to muddle through.
20 March 2015: Logic Of Power
In a recent short essay, Vera Bradova explains the difference between "power-with" (cooperation) and "power-over" (domination), then gives an excellent summary of the essential problem with "power-over":
Power, like water, needs to flow to stay healthy. When it is hoarded and congealed, it goes stale and eventually poisonous. And when it turns toxic, we find ourselves in a grim fairy tale: the person who hoards it will be sickened by the power he wields, and anyone who tries to grab that toxic power away from him will be poisoned and corrupted in turn. Once you touch that poison, its evil magic will turn you into yet another marionette goose-stepping in the domination death march.
Humans are not doing anything "wrong." Humans are reacting to the same instinct that all species have, namely to make use of available energy to allow more of the species to live to maturity.
11 March 2015: How do Empires hunt bears?
I just read an excellent little article by Ugo Bardi that explains some of the things empires do. It's very relevant to what's going on in the world today, and ends with some great elephant jokes.
As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we're seeing ... So, we've got to gear up. We're going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we're just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.
4 March 2015: The Externality Trap, or, How Progress Commits Suicide
In this recent essay by John Michael Greer, he provided an excellent summary of the concept:
a) Every increase in technological complexity tends also to increase the opportunities for externalizing the costs of economic activity;
b) Market forces make the externalization of costs mandatory rather than optional, since economic actors that fail to externalize costs will tend to be outcompeted by those that do;
c) In a market economy, as all economic actors attempt to externalize as many costs as possible, externalized costs will tend to be passed on preferentially and progressively to whole systems such as the economy, society, and the biosphere, which provide necessary support for economic activity but have no voice in economic decisions;
d) Given unlimited increases in technological complexity, there is no necessary limit to the loading of externalized costs onto whole systems short of systemic collapse;
e) Unlimited increases in technological complexity in a market economy thus necessarily lead to the progressive degradation of the whole systems that support economic activity;
f) Technological progress in a market economy is therefore self-terminating, and ends in collapse.
But what enables slavery and oppression? The ability to conceive of other living things as if they were essentially dead matter. And this is what all of us have learned to do. ... Ours is a civilisation that metaphorically and literally eats its own, even as we project the horror of cannibalism into all our mythology.
2 March 2015: Don't Come Back In Until Dinner
I found an excellent example of what people do when they get "too" rich: they let fear rule their lives, and start doing very unwise thing such as raising children who are completely disconnected from the Earth and the process of life. This short article is by Brian Miller, and was originally published by Winged Elm Farm blog.
I grew up in a household with strict rules. Foremost among them: Get out of the house. When not in school we were expected to be outside. We spent our days doing chores and fishing, looking for pirate treasure along Contraband Bayou or building forts, swimming in ponds or going to the library. Whether on bikes or on the bayou, that landscape was full of kids. On days spent inside because of rain we would play board games or read, watching TV was off limits.
Today, where our farm is located, in East Tennessee, the countryside is mostly empty. You see the occasional activity outdoors, usually men on tractors. But only once in sixteen years have I seen a kid cross the seventy acres of our farm. Never have I had to yell at a kid for building a fort on our land. No kid has ever darkened the door to ask permission to hunt rabbit or squirrel, or fish in our ponds.
There are homes nearby where I have never observed a person outside. Cars appear and disappear in the driveways. But the owners are not once glimpsed. I've cut a hay field; long hours, three days in a row and never spotted a person outside a neighbor's house. A house, I add, that often had four cars in the drive.
While baling that hay on the final day, I saw one of the cars start up and move down the driveway. It drove the 150 feet to the mailbox. A youthful arm extended out of the driver's window and collected the mail. The car reversed back up to the house.
It would be tempting to ridicule the generation of kids who spend their lives in darkened rooms, zombied in screen-time with their gadgets. But their parents, who by example, are equally to blame. With all of the challenges we face to our civilization and planet, it seems somehow dishonorable to while away one's life in such an unproductive manner.
That the rural landscape is empty in the very place where hands and eyes are needed is troubling. Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson refer to the benefit of "eyes to acres." They mean that the understanding and the correction of problems in our landscape begin by an intimate daily familiarity.
In a way, it seems like a modern day Highland clearance; where blame rests partly with forces that have devalued the local in favor of the global, removing those eyes-to-acres. But it is a blame shared by us for our willing collusion in that withdrawal, as passive consumers of this life.
Understanding our land begins with engagement, even if it is just a kid rambling along on an idle afternoon across a pasture and a wooded hill.
Maybe our inner mom needs to say, "Get out of the house! Don't come back in until dinner."
For all intents and purposes, on human time scales, oil in our lives is indistinguishable from magic. ... Cheap energy, not technology, has been the main driver of wealth and productivity.
21 February 2015: How to Spot the Sociopath in Your Midst
They always know how to get what they want from you. They know your weaknesses better than anyone, even yourself. They can always turn a no into a yes, and they don't seem particularly concerned with laws, safety, or right and wrong. They're the most predatory members of our society, and they'll take what they want, and hang you out to dry.
This is the introductory paragraph from an article by Joshua Krause, and is excellent for prompting us to think about where sociopaths might be in our lives. The rest of the article is less good, as it comes very close to broadening the definition so much that all of us would fit into it, but you are welcome to read it.
It is possible to point to hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of imaginative, courageous programs to reduce, recycle, and reuse -- yet the overall trajectory of industrial civilization remains relatively unchanged.
15 February 2015: Ignoring and Mis-using Science
Recently, a researcher put together and published a list of the things we see when a government decides to ignore and mis-use science for political purposes. I could give examples, from the dawn of history to the present, but I won't because it isn't safe to do so, you can think of them as easily as I can, and it is not my wish to enter into politics.
1. There is a lack of experiments.
... the old [climate] normal is broken ...
14 January 2015: Some deep understanding about Mother Russia
Here's an excellent and easy-to-read article that sheds a lot of light on the largest country in the world, where the sun is rising at one end as it sets at the other. I'd recommend it to our elected leaders, but from what I've heard, they are much too busy for such trivial matters.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
12 January 2015: A Little Wisdom for Today from 2,600 Years Ago
As for those who would take the whole world
It pays to remember that societies get what they deserve, not what they expect.
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