Sunday, September 17, 2017

Backside Covering

The following is a response to an article titled “How (Not) to Run a Modern Society on Solar and Wind Power Alone” and the comments initiated by myself.  The article was written by Kris De Decker for publication in his Low-Tech Magazine and reposted on the Resiliance website hosted by the Post Carbon Institute.  The article and comments can be found at the following link:

I know I promised not to come back here, but I have been pondering my own and other comments from folks on this topic and felt a need to perhaps apologize (as one commenter pointed out) for getting pissed off and taking it out on the author Kris De Decker and the Post Carbon Institute, or maybe confess my own guilt in having committed the “sins” I have accused others of committing, but more than likely just gloat about my own righteousness.  Use or lose any of this as those who bother to read it see fit, or feel free to abuse me, for daring to revisit these pointless accusations. 

So, let me start over for whatever that is worth (which is probably not much), maybe clarify my points, and perhaps expand on what several folks asked for in what I would propose as an alternative. 

I believe that the thesis of Mr. De Decker’s article is contained in the opening two paragraphs where he points out: “the potential of wind and solar energy is more than sufficient to supply the electricity demand of industrial societies, these resources are only available intermittently.”  Because of the intermittency and other factors like difficulty in meeting peak demand and need for storage, he concludes that “matching supply to demand at all times makes renewable power production a complex, slow, expensive and unsustainable undertaking”.  However, “if we would adjust energy demand to the variable supply of solar and wind energy, a renewable power grid could be much more advantageous” and that “modern technology” could provide a way to take advantage of these energy sources and keep a version of our industrial society in operation into the future.  

The article then goes on to document the variable nature of both wind and solar power, via references, statistics, graphs, and charts.  It also explains how meeting existing power demands with the variable source wind and solar would require an extremely large infrastructure and backup fossil fuel plants or storage systems all of which “would be just as CO2-intensive as the present-day power grid”, “have a high impact on the land” and “require a significant amount of energy and other resources”, leading me to believe that they would not be good for the environment nor us.

In the concluding section of his article titled “Adjusting Demand to Supply”, he proposes “this doesn’t mean that a sustainable renewable power grid is impossible. There’s a fifth strategy, which does not try to match supply to demand, but instead aims to match demand to supply. In this scenario, renewable energy would ideally be used only when it’s available.”  And “if we let go of the need to match energy demand for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, a renewable power grid could be built much faster and at a lower cost, making it more sustainable overall.”  He claims that this adjusting demand renewable energy supply system if built and operated in the United Kingdom, would only result in electricity shortages on 65 out of 365 days of the year (18% of the time). 

Throughout the article there is little if any indication, data, statics, or hints at what the impact would be on the ecosystem of building this “sustainable” system and the new infrastructure it would need to operate.  Was this by design or neglect or simply not necessary?  I however am quite sure that the impacts would be similar to, those occurring currently and in the past from our industrialized society.  So things like climate change, spices extinctions, loss of habitat, dead zones in the oceans, wars, and other calamities will carry on as long as we treat our planet and our neighbors as resources to use to keep our technology alive and our plundering possible, even if those technologies are “renewable” or their usage is now paced to match the variable rate of supply.     

Based on this understanding of the energy supply system that Mr. De Decker was proposing, I concluded in my pissed off state of mind  that a summation of the proposal was that we could “keep our "modern" society powered into eternity with "green and clean" energy, ignoring the fact that this industrialized society that views the planet and people as resources to plunder to keep the profit in the pockets of the power-elite is the source of our problems. Ignoring the impacts plundering the planet to obtain the resources needed to build the "green and clean" infrastructure is the only way this works out with a "happy" ending. Thinking it might be time to stop following the "green washing" being put out by Resilience and the Post Carbon institute.

Several commenters responded negatively to my and other commenters labeling the article and others published or publisized by the Post Carbon Institute as “greenwashing”.  Asher Miller (who I assume is the executive director of the Post Carbon Institute) responded to this accusation with “I find comments like these truly baffling. I think anyone with an open but critical mind would be hard-pressed to lump PCI/ in the "greenwashing" or "techno-cornucopian" camp.  Usually, we're accused of being Luddites/Malthusians/doomers.  To me, comments like the above show laziness, ignorance, and/or a hardline view of collapse that is utterly fatalistic and very likely wrong. And I'm always left wondering, why do you come here?” 

Obviously Mr. Miller was indeed familiar with some of my best character traits (or worst depending on who you ask), and it was indeed my lazy nature that prompted me to react with the original abbreviated response.  It was also ignorant of me to assume that other people had the same understanding of the term “greenwash” or the other concept that came out in the commentary like “techno-cornucopian”.  I actually prefer the term “techno-fundamentalist”, and wished I would have used that term in any of my comments to point out that it is that world view that I believe dominates Mr. De Decker’s article and others I have seen publicized by the Post Carbon Institute.  And I am indeed resigned to the fact that like all the other complex civilizations before us, ours is indeed heading into an unavoidable collapse, as we too have fallen into the trap of letting fools have all the power in our society.  So, to make up for my ignorance and initial lazy response, below are some definitions that I hope clarify what I mean by these terms and the words that make them up. 

Greenwashing– “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.”  (

Technology – “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area”

Fundamentals – “any intellectual/political/theological position that asserts certainty in the unquestioned truth and/or righteousness of a belief system.” 

technological fundamentalists are those ‘unwilling, perhaps unable, to question our basic assumptions about how our tools relate to our larger purposes and prospects.’”

Perhaps I am incorrect in applying these terms to the article in question and the Post Carbon Institute.  I do admit that I am indeed guilty of accusing them of what I know for sure I am guilty of and that is the practice of greenwashing influenced by my own technological fundamentalist upbringing.  I have worked most of my life as an environmental engineer or specialist, working for industry, consulting, and government.  I used to be convinced that this was noble work, that what I did was to preserve and protect the environment by helping to design equipment and treatment plants to clean up our wastewater and keep our rivers and lakes clean.   I kept this same ethic to guide me working for government environmental regulatory agencies enforcing the rules and regulations that I believed were designed to keep our environment safe.  About 12 years ago, after 20 or so years of doing this type of work, and seeing the state of the planet, I started to question this.  I began to wonder if that is what I was really doing.  It seemed to me that my work was much more about covering up the messes that our industrial society was creating, than it was about protecting and preserving the planet.

And to answer Mr. Asher’s question about “why do you come here?”, it was at this point in my life I was first exposed to the work of the Post Carbon Institute at a conference I attended on Environmental Sustainability.  I don’t remember the name of the speaker from the Post Carbon Institute, but I remember the thesis of his talk which was basically that in the age of peak oil and climate change we needed to rethink how we focused the goal of our societies and our priorities away from economic growth and towards meeting the needs of people.  I liked that message and I looked up the Post Carbon Institute and began following the work that folks who worked there were putting out.  It seemed like a safe and sane place to go to learn what I thought could be a new calling on how to make our way of life more sustainable.  

And I found other resources and learned about concepts like “greenwashing” and “techno-fundementalism” and I realized I had been and continued to practice them and get paid to keep doing them.  I also realized to make a living in our modern industrialized society, that if you didn’t practice them to a certain extent or believe in them you would not make a living or maintain some semblance of sanity.  In other words, despite my attempts at looking for ways to making a living in various places, I could not find any place to work in my line of work that was not guilty of these practices, nor am I aware of any such “utopias” existing within our industrialized society.   Based on this, it seems obvious to me (perhaps influenced by my own insanity) that indeed we all our guilty of these practices, whether we want to admit it or not. 

What do I propose as an alternative?  It is indeed ignorant and arrogant on my part to even assume that I can solve the worlds environmental, societal, or energy problems.  I believe that the problems with our societies and those of the past are indeed a result of giving the power to make such decisions into the hands of few people or even a few organizations or institutions.  I also do not believe that a solution will come out of the systems that have created these problems.  Looking to alternative energy fueled systems to sustain the same old but modernized version of industrial society is not where I will be looking for a solution.  The solution is also not going to come from focusing on whether we need a newer, simpler, older, or varied technology or changing or modifying our tools.  I think that the solution will come from asking ourselves what do we really need as human beings to thrive, living on a finite planet, within a fragile ecosystem?  And then individuals within societies will need to determine what tools or technology should be used to obtain what it is we all need. 

Sorry if I am wrong, and best of luck to all in finding a more meaningful way of life, as our society enters the world of collapse.  And with that I really am done. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How Is Environmental Madness Possible?

Free market society requires the sacrifice of psychosocial integration for the benefits of wealth. The resulting poverty of the spirit leave each person, to a greater or lesser degree desperate for something that will provide a sense of meaning and belonging.  At the same time that the free market dislocates people, it proffers pseudosolutions for the misery of dislocation.  As corporations know that affluent people’s real material needs are already satisfied, they peddle a multitude of consumer products that are designed to fill the void of dislocation: enormous house, modish clothing, personal beauty products, lottery tickets, electronic games and gadgets, gas-guzzling cares, sexual enhancements, exotic foods, weight-loss schemes, and on and on.  Because these products can only partly or temporarily fill the psychosocial void, they are difficult to consume in moderation.  When they are consumed in excess, their ever-increasing environmental and social costs must be pushed to the periphery of consciousness, as in addictive denial. 

If we take the time to really get to know the overweight couple taking the four-wheel-drive car to the superstore to stock up on superfluous merchandise in apparent ignorance of the environmental costs, we will see that their motivations originate in the same addictive dynamics as clinically diagnosed ‘shopaholics’.  This couple truly needs to consume excessively.  No matter how much they buy, they never get the feeling of personal satisfaction and social importance that they are seeking.  They need to own that lavish home-entertainment center, because if they could not dull their wits with incessant television and other entertainments, they might become horrified by the state of the world and the role of their own country in it.   Their fragile, but essential, sense of the rightness of things as they are could be shattered.  Besides, keeping up with the media really helps them to participate in conversations with their media-savvy friends.  They need the big car to feel safe as they drive, because people drive these days as if nobody cares whether they live or die.  In addition, having those other vehicles in the garage for when they might be needed gives them a sense of freedom, and without freedom what would they have, really?  They need to buy materials to expand their already excessive house, because it will then express the unique sense of taste that they have so much trouble getting people to notice in other ways.  They need more high-protein food and medical care for the two dogs than is available to most families in the Third World.  Frankly, those precious little yappers have a bigger place in their lives than most of the people they know in the First World, never mind the Third.

They consume energy with the same avidity that they consume material goods.  After all, people who have worked hard to put their money in the bank need some kind of recognition and reward.  If it seems they have every electrical appliance and electronic gadget imaginable in their house, all flashing, whirring, heating, and cooling at once, it is only their due.  Besides, hydro-electricity is still cheap.

They have their separate needs too.  He needs to have all sorts of esoteric tools that he doesn’t use now, because it will enable him to serve a real function in the community when he can eventually afford to retire from his job, finish fixing up the house, get away from the TV, and then turn to what has most fascinated him, in the background, all his life.  She knows he will not have time to master any significant portion of that complicated stuff, but she senses his yearning for a sense of worth, knows his sensitivity to criticism on this topic, and values the stability of their marriage.  Besides, if she is considerate about his stuff, he won’t be mean about her little indulgences.
She needs to keep the fridge packed with meat and vegetables to feel like a good wife and mother, although most of it gets thrown out after a while.  It’s just that it’s impossible to say when family or friends might show up unexpectedly for dinner or when she might get back to regular cooking.  Besides, vegetable these days go all spotty; it seems like the restaurants buy all the good stuff.  Plus, the clerks at the supermarket are so nice and chatty they almost seem like good friends.  And isn’t there just a good feeling knowing you’re all stocked up?  Taken together, all their scarcely used merchandise constitutes the material scaffolding for the construction of a fulfilling life that they genuinely need – but then, somehow never gets built. 

Of course, they do not consume every product in grossly wasteful or addictive ways. And – you must understand – they already know about the environment and they care.  They recycle.   They only consume the products that satisfy real needs, and view the inexplicable, overconsumption of others with bitter disdain.  They would not buy things that are environmentally destructive unless they were really necessary, as a buffer against depression and the other ravages of dislocation.  They are not greedy, evil, or stupid.  Rather, they are desperate to be recognized, to belong, to have a purpose.

They have been told throughout their lives that they can achieve these goals if they just purchase the right merchandise.  There are as much victims of dislocation as the junkies who sleep in abandoned buildings.  I would imagine that they are also just as loved by the Christian God for they, too, are poor in spirit – even if their oversized house is stuffed with enough merchandise to enable some homeless, starving people to survive, and even if their addictions are, collectively, more environmentally and socially destructive than those of the much smaller number of heroin junkies.  They suffer by comparison with drug-addicted people in another way, too: their plight seems more hopeless.  Although there is no way that they will be able to buy a cure for their dislocation, they are doomed to keep trying because so many voices are encouraging them to make another trip to the mall. 

Many affluent people have a smaller number of grossly wasteful habits than the composite couple described here, but they are part of environmental madness too.  It matters little whether this style of life is formally labelled ‘addiction’ or not.  The essential facts are that the fundamental motivation to relieve dislocation is the same as the motivation for addiction to drugs or anything else, and this couple’s destructive way of life is as intractable as any other kind of addiction, even now, as the polar ice caps melt. 

Wasteful consumption is essential for the survival of a bloated economy.  There must be affluent people to consume the products of the factories as wastefully as possible so that more can be manufactured, because corporations that do not grow must die.  The eternal expansion of the free-market society requires that people learn new needs and try the new products that are continually being invented for their consumption.  The composite couple described here must be able to believe the barrage of propaganda that incessantly asserts that the way they consume is not madness, but is ultimately for the best, in some deeper sense.  Multiplied by millions, they form a perfect vicious cycle. They work compulsively; they consume compulsively; the gross domestic product rises; the environment deteriorates; the poor get poorer; everyone feels dislocated; they work more compulsively; they consume more compulsively, the gross domestic product rises further; [and on, and on].

It is not innate wickedness or stupidity that is destroying our planetary ecosystem, so much as it is the increasingly desperate response of countless people to the dislocation of their lives.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rural People Aren't Stupid

“Rural people aren’t stupid”, proclaims Nina Eliasoph in her article “Scornwars: rural white people and us”.  This urban dweller first learned this lesson from her first contact with “white rural people” in Sociology classes she taught at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  There she heard about the “empty towns without jobs from which everyone tried to leave as soon as they could; small farmers who worked so hard to compete against agro-businesses that they had to pass up on sleep; and small communities with big drug problems”.  

After a couple of months of hearing these stories she had heard enough, and smelled their resentment (perhaps over the lingering smell of manure), and decided that City folks like her needed to look into to the plight of these rural whites.  When she did, she found that rural whites resented City folk because they would eat Wisconsin cheese, but ignore the people who produced it.  She also reinforced her own belief that indeed some of these rural whites were indeed “racist and homophobic”.  She was “shocked” that these white rural people would ignore Donald Trump’s racism and sexism, and still vote for him.  Apparently, such ignorance of these characteristics on the part of urban voters for Democratic candidates (or their spouses) is not so shocking.  

At the root of her findings was that these hillbilly types apparently lacked a realistic vision of how things work.  They need to remember the great Democratic New Deal that previous politicians used to placate the angry rural people and other poor, so they would buy into that great American Dream, where it was not only the wealthy elites who could profit from our Representative Democracy, but every man and woman, no matter what their color or upbringing, right?  It’s not the grandmother or other kin who raised them that they should be grateful for, but rather the government funded infrastructure and institutions, all provided by the wise tax payers.  

What white rural people really need is that religious zeal inspired by “political gratitude”.   This is the stuff where we are thankful to our government for rural gems like green hills and fresh streams, running water, and not growing up in war zones.  Of course not everyone can experience these blessings: like the people in some poorer Cities where the boom has busted like Flint Michigan, or certain communities next to mountain top coal mines in the Appalachian Mountains, or the poor Muslim folks who find themselves being bombed in our name in one our Wars On Terror conducted outside our own boundaries on the other side of the planet.  

So ignoring that stuff, the way to find this political gratitude is first to listen better, and donate more money to the Sierra Club, and of course support renewable energy, which without a doubt will bring better paying, more secure, and safer jobs to rural areas than the current extractive industries who currently prey on these places.  Secondly, believe in the magic of an economy that can provide for better pensions for one group of people that does not have to be paid for by someone else, and that environmental regulation and food safety laws are actually designed to protect and serve the needs of rural people somehow  – despite that fact that most of them are written by lobbyists, political appointees, and politicians paid by or made up of the wealthy elite.  

If only rural whites stopped listening to Fox News, than rural America could truly be great once again, or at least appear so in our visions of it.  This is despite what these non-stupid people are really experiencing “poverty, the lack of funding for education and health care, the neighbors and kin who’ve gotten cancer from pollution, and so much more.”  These realities can all be ignored if only progressives like Eliasoph could force these not stupid people into believing in a different reality.  

It is proposals like this that remind me why I long to return to my rural roots in Northern Wisconsin and leave the urban life I retreated to.  For the rural people I know certainly are not stupid, and most of them did not need a PhD in Sociology to figure that out.  And they know better than to believe foolish progressive story tellers who like to profess that all is well with the American dream, as long as we tweak it a bit.  It is likely that those who voted for Trump choose the only option they could in voicing their complaints about a government that does not serve them, but rather exists mainly to suck off their resources to create more profits for the wealthy elites who indeed tend to converge in the City, or behind their rural compound walls.  

So perhaps my kinfolk may not be stupid, but they are indeed fools like the rest of us if they continue to believe that a government founded by sexist racists designed to serve the wealthy elites, can do anything else but continue to function the way it always has.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Liberties Taken with Obama’s Last Speech

Some twisted excerpts from US President Barack Obama’s  January 10, 2017 Farewell Address as potentially heard by the Power Elite. 

 Everybody sit down, nobody is following instructions!
I witnessed working people in the face of struggle and loss.  The work has always been hard. It's always been contentious. Sometimes it's been bloody.

Change only happens when ordinary people come together to demand it.
Our American idea — the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  A great gift that our Founders gave to us: The freedom to “chase” our individual dreams.   America is exceptional — for those who follow.

In 10 days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy— President-elect Trump.
We remain the wealthiest, most powerful, on Earth.  Our boundless capacity for risk means the future should be ours.  That's what I want to focus on tonight. 

Our founders argued. They quarreled. They expected us to do the same.
Democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the specter of terrorism, it will determine our future.

Our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.
The good news is that today the economy is growing again – because that, after all, is why we serve.

Our economy doesn't work (for most Americans.  For example you,) the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income.  Families, in inner cities and in rural counties, have been left behind — the laid-off factory worker; the waitress or health care worker who's just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills — the game is fixed against them.
Government only serves the interests of the powerful. There are no fixes to this long-term trend. (Applause). I agree!

The next wave of economic dislocations will come from the relentless pace of automation.
We're going to have to forge a new social compact to guarantee corporations reap the most from this country that's made their very success possible.

The disaffection and division will only sharpen in years to come.  There's a second threat to our democracy — and this one is as old as our nation itself – race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.  Workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.  (Applause.)
The children of immigrants, just because they don't look like us, will diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America's workforce.

Our economy, (is) a zero-sum game. 
If we're going to be serious about race, we need laws against hiring (them), and in housing (them), and in (their) education, and in (getting them into) the criminal justice system.

Our democracy is fiction.   
Climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Blacks and other minority groups, (are) the challenges that a lot of people in this country face.  The middle-aged white guy, he's got advantages.
Slavery and Jim Crow didn't vanish.

When minority groups voice discontent, they're engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they're demanding special treatment.
For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves the stereotypes about immigrants, and that's not easy to do.

Retreat into our bubbles.
Start accepting only information, whether it's true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there. (Applause.)

We're going to keep talking past each other.  We'll make common ground and compromise impossible.  And that makes politics dispiriting.
Excuse ethical lapses – it's not  dishonest, my mother used to tell me.  (Applause.)

Challenge climate change, promise to save this planet – our children won't have time, they'll be busy dealing with its effects: more environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. 
Argue, deny the problem, betray future generations — the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders. (Applause.)  It is that spirit that made us an economic powerhouse, and put a computer in every pocket.  It's that spirit —that allowed us to lure fascism and tyranny; that allowed us to build a post-World War II order based on military power.  (Applause.)

Principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion, and speech, and assembly, and an independent press – now being challenged (by us) —as a threat to (our) power. The peril each poses is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.
It (our tools) represent the fear of change; the fear of people who speak or pray; contempt for the rule of law; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief in the sword or the gun or the bomb.

The propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what's true and what's right – because of our men and women in uniform, because of our intelligence officers, and law enforcement, and diplomats.    
No foreign terrorist organization has planned an attack these past eight years.

Our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever.  
We have taken out tens of thousands and half their territory.  And we all owe you a deep debt.

Protecting our way of life, that's just the job of our military. (Our) Democracy can buckle when we fear citizens, (we) must remain vigilant against aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. (Applause.)
And that's why, for the past eight years, I've worked to put the “fight against terrorism” on a firmer legal footing. That's why torture worked, (and we) reformed our laws governing surveillance to (appear to) protect privacy and civil liberties, as patriotic as we are. (Applause.)  That's why we cannot withdraw from big global fights.

Democracy, and human rights, and women's rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that's part of defending (our) America.
Extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are the rule of law around the world (thanks to us!).   

Around the world the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, (along with) our own freedoms. 
So let's be vigilant, but not afraid. (Applause.) Kill innocent people, they cannot defeat America.  Betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. (Applause.)

Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for —another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.  (Applause.)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Do Crazy

"Life's too short, the world's crazy, I could die tomorrow, so I don't see any reason why you shouldn't do what you want to do. … I'm trying to do whatever I want just to show everyone, hey, you can do whatever you want, even if it's some crazy thing that seems impossible."

Mike Summers on his winter hike along Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail. See the Journal-Sentinal article on his trip at the following link.

Standing for Soil

“A radical movement capable of offering a democratic alternative to corporate capitalism will have to draw on traditions that have been dismissed or despised by twentieth-century progressives and only recently resurrected both by scholars and by environmentalists, community organizers, and other activists.  It will have to stand for the nurture of the soil against the exploitation of natural resources, the family against the factory, the romantic vision of the individual against the technological vision, localism over democratic centralism.  Such radicalism would deserve the allegiance of all true democrats. “

Christopher Lasch

“Democracy and the ‘Crisis of Confidence’”

DEMOCRACY JOURNAL, Volume 1, January 1981

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Follow-up thoughts on the Sustainability rant (after blood pressure has dropped back down).

Probably my biggest frustration with the event yesterday (and events of that type) is they do not provide a forum that encourages discussion of the issues presented.  They are a venue where the speakers present as the experts, the audience sits back and takes it in and learn from the experts, and maybe say something in support of or to ask a clarifying question or two at the most. 

In the case of yesterday’s forum, some great topics in need of discussion came up:  climate change, human population, economics, solar and wind energy, etc.  I do believe that all of these are critical issues that need to be understood if we are to have any hope of changing the direction the human world is going.  What troubles me however is that these topics are sort of just lobbed out there and batted around with implications that if we just refined, controlled, or reinvented them then everything will be “groovy”.  The event came across as much more of a sales pitch, rather than a presentation designed to encourage understanding about the topics presented.

It is my belief that major issues threatening humanity and the planet, things like climate change, human population, loss of habitat, species extinction, war, etc.  are all symptoms of a much worse “evil” and that “evil” is our current global world view that is primarily shaped and imposed by CAPITALISM or a system of civilization designed by the “elite” folks to control everybody else so that they can have more wealth and more power.  And one of the keys to doing this is to consume the resources of the planet to produce expensive and complex infrastructure, designed to provide global access to more resources, more markets, and hence more wealth.  Of course waste disposal, illness, or other negative side effects like climate change are denied or ignored or the cost imposed on someone else – otherwise the whole thing would not be profitable.

It is kept in place using coercive methods imposed by governments who write rules, hire military and police and other agencies to enforce those rules and keep the people in line.  Huge sums of money are spent on advertising, education, and other manipulation techniques to convince people that this is the system they need to follow. And it also depends on the support of other various folks within the hierarchy to implement the rules and to reward those who do these duties. And then once it is all in place, it is difficult if not impossible for the non-elite folks to survive outside this globalized economic/political system, especially when the support systems outside the market are destroyed, outlawed, or impaired.  These support systems include the likes of families, neighborhoods, small local business, and the commons of our land, air, water, etc. which are needed to obtain what we need to live.    

If you’re interested in this topic, one of the best sources of explaining it all that I have found has been in the writings of anthropologist John Bodley in his books CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY, VICTIMS OF PROGRESS, or ANTHROPOLOGY AND CONTEMPORARY HUMAN PROBLEMS.  I am sure there are many other authors and books that have delved in to the topic from other perspectives as well. 

So what do we do?  That is indeed the challenge, especially when survival outside this messed up system is by design discouraged by the cultural and material infrastructure that keeps it all in place.  I believe that the solution will come as we learn to unlearn all that we have been taught growing up in this system.  To do that we need to understand what lies behind the curtain of Capitalism – reading one of Bodley’s or other author’s books on the topic might be starting point. 

Learning to get along with our families and neighbors will be an important hurdle. These support networks have by design been destroyed or dysfunctionalized by the “system” to force us to have to go the market for things that we should be getting from our friends, families, neighbors, or even obtain for by ourselves.  We need to rebuild our communities so we can insure we meet our real human needs.      

Recognizing the methods we use to “numb” out so we don’t have to think about all this stuff will also is critical.  These might be the obvious things like drinking alcohol, or doing drugs; but also include the less obvious like over working, or performing acts of “charity”, or participating in the games provided by the empire like surfing the internet, watching movies or sporting events, or playing other “games”, being consumed by consuming “junk” food, etc.  Bruce Alxander’s book THE GLOBALIZATION OF ADDICTION is a great source for more on this topic.  The solution to these mind numbing issues is not to be found through righteousness or pharmaceuticals, but by understanding that to survive in the insanity that defines our society today, one needs to numb out in some way or another.  

As we do the above things, another step we need to take is to begin to understand what it is we really need to thrive and survive – or what our real human needs are.  At the core they include the need for clean air and water; access to healthy food and land; and access to healthy community.  The writings of Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef might be one source of information that helps to identify what it is we really need and not get sucked into buying what the market sells us.    

We need to relearn how to recreate a society that is designed to meet those human needs.  One example of a possible model for doing this can be found in the Transition movement, which may not be perfect, but it might be a start.  This re-creation will require we meet our real needs locally as much as possible.  We will need to learn to feed, cloth, and shelter ourselves.  The energy we use to accomplish these tasks will need to be locally sourced and not destroy us or the planet by using it.  Technology we use will need to be about helping us to meet our needs, not about increasing the profits of someone on the other side of planet or about creating jobs.  Economy will be a subset of people, and people will be a subset of planet – economy will be put in its place, and not used to control us.  We can no longer simply take what we want from others. 

And last, but certainly not least we need to understand what it means to be human, and appreciate our place in the planet.  Unfortunately our religious institutions have failed us here and instead of helping us to reconnect to the cosmos they have instead been used to guilt us into complying with consumption.  This means we need to re-find that deep connection to the planet and ecosystems that are the real source of all it is we need.  Shutting off our electronic devices and spending time outside in nature will be one of the primary methods of accomplishing this.   Finding respect, appreciation, or perhaps even reverence for the planet will be the key to everything else.    

And throughout this we start practicing and experimenting with how to do all this.  We reduce our consumption, we spend time with our families and friends, we build community, we get rid of lawns and plant gardens, we grow more trees, we learn to cooperate, we stop depending on the market for our needs and start relying on ourselves and our communities, we let go of blind faith in technology, we stop numbing ourselves and start thinking, we stop listing to fools and call them out when they act foolishly, and hold them accountable for their foolish acts, and we begin dismantling the current infrastructure and reclaim it to rebuild a new society designed by the people - for the people - with the planet in mind.  

So my goal for the coming year is to find or perhaps create events where these sorts topics can truly be discussed, understood, and perhaps even practiced, and not to waste time or energy going to sales pitches designed to keep the same old game going.  Waiting for governments, non-profits, corporations, or other institutions means relying on the same old systems that have gotten us to where we are now – does not seem like a viable option anymore.  I indeed need to be the change I want to see and I need to start living accordingly.