The debate on human nature II; Human Nature in Politics

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By Ben Wilson

Causality and human understanding

Imagine twenty thousand years ago, leading a hunting party.

Where regular hunting spots are deserted, because the animals have moved on. A spirit has put a curse on the tribe. Desperately the shaman decides to consult the ancestors by throwing an animal bone into the camp fire. Interpreting the cracks, it leads the hunting party to a previously unexplored location. The hunting is good there and the bone reading technique is used to point to new hunting locations and it consistently works, building a relationship between man and spirits.

Fast forward twenty thousand years, we could cynically point at the narrative that our ancestors created and laugh. However a technique was devised to point them into a new direction, breaking routine behaviours. Having this technique green lit and supported by part of their cultural narrative gave the hunting party a reason and the confidence to use the technique.

If you debated against your incredibly great ancestor, you would be hard pressed if you used methodological or scientific debates. The bone technique does actually work, however the reason why is why you would disagree. You would argue about the random pattern of the bone pointing humans into areas they had not hunted. Whilst your ancestor and scoff saying it was the doing of the ancestors.

Neither fish or bird…

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Now let’s brings this to the modern era. Human nature is a common catch all term and the definition I would understand it as is common traits, thoughts and behaviours that all humans have regardless of culture.

It’s an interesting term and should indicate a level of fraternity between all people. There is some evidence for universal traits, such as universal body language and facial expressions demonstrated by the work of Paul Ekman. Linguistic structures are found to all follow similar structures, and a child learns language just as well being placed in any culture, demonstrated by Noam Chomsky and his less famous colleagues. However these things aren’t what the term human nature is used for.

Anecdotally “human nature” is more used as a nihilistic term to refer to an undesirable behaviour conducted by (surprise) another human being. It can also be attached to greed, betrayal, lust and general pursuit of hedonistic things. People supporting the current system of global capitalism and corporatism, use “human nature” as a rhetoric to explain the flaws of the system.

People against the current status quo will explain these flaws are behaviours created by the system. So now the nature vs nurture debate has now become a structure for a political debate.

However like a lot of contradicting narratives, the answers lies in between. For the Nature argument, environmental factors can change or suppress genes. Genetics is an ever changing field with the wealth of information coded in our DNA being shown to be more and more complex than one simple gene. So we are born with some individual differences but they are not as distinguished and noticeable as many people think about genetics. In terms of the nurture debate, animals, humans of varying intelligences and culture all respond to behavioural conditioning. All animals needing to maximise behaviours that give them the most rewards. However Jaques Fresco and some others have reduced the nature debate by removing any kind of emotional or mental rewards for behaviour. Behaviourism as a discipline has been mature enough that Humans (and some great apes) have needs than the purely material.

So both nature and nurture as a political narrative could reduce us into two different variations of meat robot. A collection of chemicals that acts only to reproduce, or an animal with no cognition pushing a lever for a reward. We must transcend these arguments, acknowledge that the human condition is mostly positive, rewarding and an experience we appreciate to live with. But it is not a black and white experience, which can be scary and existential. Once we stare this in the face, we can consider a new type of society and governance. Since “human nature” should scare us into accepting a status quo. Flaws will always appear in system, however identifying a situation and adapting it, is just as human as adapting to a situation.

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Ben Wilson is a young support worker from Britain who has studied Psychology, is interested in Zen Buddhism, fairness, anthropology and finding ways to make people happy.

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The debate on human nature I, the RBE movements, science and ideology

By Enrique Lescure

The discussion on human nature

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Jacque Fresco (whom I presuppose you all know about) is basing his arguments for the design for The Venus Project, on his claim that it is scientifically proven that human beings are blank slates that are adapting to their environments, and that heritage and genetics play no role.

His main argument is that human beings behave “capitalistically” in a capitalist society, and will automatically adjust to what he terms a “Resource Based Economy” (RBE) on the basis of this purported scientific truth.

This claim is often the first one that representatives or supporters of various RBE movements are using against people who question whether or not a transition to an entirely untested system is a wise idea.

Sadly, the scientific foundations for this argument are very shaky, and in its pure form, the argument is simply flawed. I will devote this article not on what human nature is, but on the debate on human nature and its relations to science, ideology and human behaviour, in order to try to explain why Jacque Fresco and other RBE followers are using this argument to sell The Venus Project.

What science is, and is not

Science

Often, when laypersons meet at pubs, private places or parks to discuss, and the topic is on some subject they’ve perhaps heard on the radio or seen on Youtube, they often talk about that “the scientists have said that…”, or “that is not true, because the scientists…”

Other people, often belonging to the minority of people susceptible to conspiracy thinking, believe that the scientists are out to destroy society, or “fabricate global warming”, that there is a nefarious Agenda 21 (which is almost unrecognisable from the real Agenda 21) which aims to depopulate Earth in order to save it.

No matter if you view “the scientists” as some sort of revered final authority which stands above the understanding of “ordinary commoners”, or see them as a nefarious cabal intending to upheaval and mischief, you see yourself as separate from them, and them as having access to knowledge and information which you could never hope to attain.

That is not what science is.

Science is from the beginning two different methodologies combined with documentation and archiving. The two methodologies (there are more, but these two are the main ones that are utilised), empiricism and rationalism.

Empiricism is basically experience-based learning, where scientists tests their hypotheses by for example mixing two or more elements or conducting testing under controlled conditions. Rationalism is a process whereby the possible reasons for the outcomes of the experiments should be weighed against one another until those proven less likely are scrapped.

In our modern age, the ideal is that this entire process should be monitored, by those involved writing their hypotheses, methodologies, results and conclusions and subject it to peer review. The ideal is that the experiments should be repeatable and that even a scientist with opposing views would find the same results as the first scientist.

Of course, pride, research grants, professor positions and politics inside faculties are playing a role, and there have been cases of fraud and academic corruption. Yet that is not primarily the fault of the process, but rather a testament to the kind of system that the process is occurring within. It is also a testament to the human tendency to factionalise, especially amongst dominant males.

This however can be corrected, as science – unlike many religions and ideologies – is self-correcting. Ambitious scientists are welcome to challenge established wisdom and question old beliefs, and in this way our understanding of the world is improved.

How political and religious movements are (mis)using science

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During the late 19th century, the European colonial powers divided the continent of Africa between themselves, subjecting the indigenous nations of brutal exploitation and oppression. However, to admit that for the home audience (and possibly for oneself, as an exploiter) would create a psychological scar. Thus, the imperialists devised for themselves and for the public arguments for why they “ought” to “civilize” Africa.

One of the obvious arguments was that the inhabitants had not received Christ yet, and therefore it was pivotal to send missionaires to Africa to bring “the ignorant savages” into the fold of “Christian Civilization”.

A perhaps quite unexpected argument, which however reminds a bit of the arguments for NATO-led military interventions usually made at our contemporary era, was to “protect” the peoples of Subsaharan Africa from Arab slavers, selling slaves to the markets of the Ottoman Empire.

The nastiest – and in a dark way the most “honest” – answer why, was provided by ideologists and by scientists of that era who acted like ideologists. They were basing their theories on Charles Darwin’s theories, written in his two books The Origin of Species and Descent of Man, and chose to interpret the books in such a manner that they believed there was some kind of evolutionary struggle between the “inferior” and “superior” races of mankind.

According to this view, the Europeans had “the right” to impose colonial control upon Africa, because the European states were stronger than the African kingdoms and had superior weapons. This kind of motivation had little that differed it from the motivations found on steles in Mesopotamia, raised by the kings of the cruel Assyrian Empire. But the darwinian explanation became popular amongst intellectual circles in Europe and the Americas because it was “scientifically based” and had support from large parts of the scientific establishment.

Herbert Spencer took this cruel ideology masked as science, and applied it on the class issues in Europe at the time. Arguing against social reforms and social justice, he claimed that those who were poor were sentenced to poverty not by an unjust political system but by their “evolutionary inferiority” (genetics were not known at that time). Thus, that some people died very young because of lethal working conditions and were subjected to starving and homelessness was none other’s fault than themselves, for having been born with such “inferior bodies and minds”.

This argument has – by the way – made a reappearance in the Anglo-Saxon world, as has the argument that some races are intellectually inferior. This has been contested however.

On the progressive side, similar sweeping scientific claims have been made about for example gender relations issues and LGBT issues. While those who seek to preserve existing hierarchies delve into science in order to justify social injustices, progressives delve into science to fight social injustices.

The first example of this kind of use of science is the theory – supported by a lot of feminist researchers – that all the differences between the sexes can be attributable to patriarchy and to the traditional cultural gender norms that women and men have been forced to live under, and that nothing – nothing – is affected by human biology. From this follows that society should actively intervene in order to subvert these norms, abolish the genders as social constructs and allow all human beings to liberate themselves and define their own identity independent from the norms and expectations from society, an ideological goal which I find as noble as a RBE.

The second theory that is usually presented by progressives is that humans are born with sexual preferences, and therefore people have the right to express their sexual orientation by entering relationships with other grown-up adults. It is understandable that LGBT activists are using this defence in order to try to make a homophobic society tolerate the presence of people with non-hetero orientations.

What is wrong with using science like this?

IntrospectionWhen science is used to motivate political agendas, it can increasingly fall under the risk of being reduced to a dogma, especially if the political agenda happens to be dominant within an institution. Scientists who have dissenting theories or who’s academic honesty has led them into other conclusions can then be subjected to peer pressure and be marginalised within academia. A science which can hardly be questioned from within leaps the risk of turning into ideology – an ideology which motivates itself not by the merits and consistency of its values but by claiming the reverence of being scientific, while demanding to not be questioned out of ideological concerns.

If we take our progressive examples, feminism would not fall to pieces if it is proven that what we within human societies have seen as gender-specific behaviours are partially based on biological mechanisms such as hormones affecting the amygdala, since it does not follow that it then would mean that women must conform to patriarchal norms or that we should not question such norms any more.

And does it follow that we would have the right to oppress LGBT people if it was shown that sexual orientations can develop by a mixture of genetic conditions, choice and environmental factors? I don’t believe that, and I believe that the argument that “we have to accept LGBT people because they are born that way” deprives human beings from the power of their own destinies, and also indirectly implies that society would be perfectly within that right if they weren’t “born that way”.

Summa summarum…

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Rightist activists tend to argue that humans are entirely driven by genes and biology, and are therefore inherently unequal, and that “capitalism is in human nature”. All gender behaviour differences are genetic, but homosexuality is a free choice and “gays should straighten up”. All other economic systems than free market capitalism are bound to fail due to “the laws of nature”, and races are unequal…

Leftist activists on the other hand, tend to argue that humans are more driven by environment than genes, that the first human societies were egalitarian, and that humans have the freedom to choose how to form their communities. Gender behaviour differences are instituted through Patriarchy, sexual orientations are something that humans are born with, and socialism lies much more in human nature than capitalism. Races do not exist…

Yes I admit it, these two descriptions of two activists are stereotypical, and probably neither one is existing in pure form as an ideological activist in the real world. But these kinds of supposedly “scientific” arguments used with the faint hope of ending debates that doesn’t change the mind of anyone partaking (especially not between two people) have cropped up in discussions numerous times, until people almost repeat them automatically.

The point is, when you use science primarily as a mean to support your political agenda, you are not in fact advancing your political agenda (you are giving it crutches which it probably doesn’t need), and you are turning science into a dogma. The academic world is probably fraught with bias already, but fighting bias with bias is never a good idea, and will inevitably create such monstrosities as Biblical Archeology and Intelligent Design, “sciences” entirely devoted to spreading agendas.

Science is not about believing what you want to believe, but to boldly follow evidence, wherever it might lead you. And yes, established scientists since long ago has often been bad on that, and allowed their bias and political opinions to affect their work. They are only human after all.

How to correctly use science

Milky wayYou have values and sentiments, right? You want the society to progress in a specific direction, and are highly motivated. Perhaps you are even ascribing to a consistent ideology. Society is not working so well as it could, and you are ready to struggle to move it into a direction that you’ll view as more beneficial for humanity and/or the environment.

What you should do is that you should educate yourself, and use information available and judge it critically, no matter if you agree with it or not. If you get into a position of responsibility, science is of great aid since it tells which routes are more possible and which routes are less. You do not need to change your values if established science would find out something less flattering about your species, the environment or social structures, instead you should use that new knowledge as a way to better be able to realise your values in reality. That is not possible if you decide to use the scientific texts you agree with as dogma.

The Soviet Union collapsed not because of war, but largely because its academia and research was heavily restricted by Marxist-Leninist dogma, which together with the police state created an unwillingness to question the collective farms, the static prices or the command economy. The Islamic world stagnated largely because the Ash’ari theological school (which stressed the absolute predetermination by God’s will of everything that happens) triumphed over the Mu’tazilites and their more open interpretations of scripture. If the Mu’tazilites had won that struggle, it wouldn’t be inconceivable that the Islamic world could have pioneered the scientific revolution. Greek science stagnated during the Roman Era, largely because Plato and Aristotle were treated as authorities which could not be questioned by the literate classes.

So use science as a map, but not as a guiding light for your heart. Use it as a tool to achieve a goal. But do not for all what matters in your mind mix up the tool itself with the goal in your heart.

What is social entropy?

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By Enrique Lescure

What is it?

I’ve been asked multiple times today what social entropy is. I admit that I have coined the term, and now I will try to briefly explain what I mean with it.

Entropy is traditionally defined as a term designating that physical systems tend to fall back into their constituent parts as time passes on.

Societies, much like eco-systems or individual organisms, are consisting of interacting networks of individuals, clans, regions, interests, institutions and norms. These tend to form cultures which create in society an overall sense of predictability. This predictability is supported – in complex societies – by force and by laws, dictating what people may not do and what consequences they will experience if they breach these rules. Often, these rules are directly or indirectly for the gain of a ruling elite.

Social entropy however, is a centripetal force that strives to dissolve the “higher” or “medium” institutions of any society, reducing it to its component forms. Being left unchecked, this destructive force will cause lawlessness, riots, and unpredictability. Our societies are dependent on that people are following the norms in terms of getting up, getting to work, paying for goods at the local cornershop (even if they most likely could get away with theft), not stealing or vandalising property nor hurting other people.

I would argue that most societies are characterised by social entropy. It is not like it is a force that only appears when the law ceases to work. Rather, it is humans violating the social norms of predictability in terms of how society functions and affecting in some way the economic predictability of society (causing damage which costs resources and time to repair).

Even such a predictable and well-arranged society as the Swedish welfare state is continuously experiencing social entropy, in the forms of crime, vandalised bus stops and graffiti on unwanted walls. I would not herein state whether or not social entropy is desirable. Some societies are genuinely repressive, some are benevolent (though fundamentally unsustainable) and some are genuinely repressive, but their removal has led into worse states, either of repression or of social entropy.

Where social entropy is allowed to roam free, the society is experiencing a loss of complexity (which usually is termed civilizational collapse and the end of the world by those experiencing it). Examples range from the Roman Empire to the Easter Island, from Medieval Iceland to modern-day Somalia, and from Detroit to Syria.

Revolutionaries usually secretly or openly desire such a calamity, believing it will usher in (their imagined) paradise.

However, experiences show that it takes long time for old civilizations to rebound, and even longer time for newer civilizations to emerge. Experiences also show that revolutions are uncontrollable and unmanageable events that are causing tremendous suffering for the participants.

The Earth Organisation for Sustainability is certainly advocating social change, but that not because we desire chaos, but that we seek to prevent that the inherent unsustainability of the current system would usher in the greatest loss of complexity in human history, to not speak of the greatest loss of ecological diversity since the Dinosaur apocalypse.

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What will 2015 bring forth?

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By Enrique Lescure

2014 in hindsight, what now?

2014 was a year dominated by social entropy.

The Syrian civil war spread into Iraq, making the Islamic State a new unrecognised government in the heart of the Middle East, spreading atrocities from Aleppo in the west to Baghdad in the east, and contributing even more to the tragedy that the destruction of Syria represents.

In eastern Ukraine, a similar type of conflict has emerged, this time with indirect and direct involvement from both the West and the Russian Federation. This war is centered around nationalism and competing geo-political interests, and those suffering the most are the civilians.

In Africa, the Central African Republic and South Sudan were both fraught with sudden outbursts of civil wars, in the case of the former temporarily turning the CAR into a failed state, leading to ethnic clashes between groups professing to Islam and Christianity. Boko Haram, the despicable terror group of northern Nigeria, have intensified their campaign against the Nigerian state.

The year was however – also – characterised by a continued green revolution in energy generation, a continued automatisation process and a growth in 3D printing, the nano-revolution and engineering pursuits, which can prove interesting in shaping the outlook of the world until the 2020’s and beyond.

So what interesting things can happen in 2015?

The Greek Elections; or “the collapse of the European Union intensifies”

grexit_477701130Greece is holding their elections on Sunday the 25th of January 2015, ahead of schedule, caused by the failure of the Greek parliament to elect a (ceremonial) president.

Meanwhile, Switzerland has disconnected it’s currency from the Euro.

Are those two events connected?

Yes, there is a very serious reason why Switzerland has moved towards a floating Franc. In 2010, following the world financial crisis, Greece was forced to borrow money to pay debt to the banks to which they owed money, de-facto entering a state bankcruptcy.

State bankcruptcies are nothing new for Greece. During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, Greece has suffered debt defaults five times. This would have been the sixth. The reason why I write would is that the Greeks have not been allowed to default on their debt, because that would damage the credibility of the entire Eurozone, and result in a chain reaction where speculators would move against the Euro.

In 2010, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel de-facto became the EU president, as she moved towards sanitizing the debts of the southern European states (amongst which Greece was the worst), in return for massive austerity packages from these countries, which unsurprisingly led to increasing unemployment and dissatisfaction. In the last Greek election, in 2012, the left-leaning party SYRIZA (an amalgamation of many parties to the left of the Greek social democratic party PASOK) became the second largest party of the Greek Parliament.

This time, on the 25th, SYRIZA can very well win the elections and form a government. The party has threatened that if Greece is not allowed to move away from the austerity package and have the debt renegotiated, they will move away from the Eurozone.

How would cash-strapped Greece leaving the Eurozone and declaring default hurt Europe?

Firstly, those affected will be the banks that Greece owes money to, and the governments will probably make up for their losses by even more austerity, since banks are considered “too big to fail”. This will most likely add fuel to the sentiments that the established parties and governments in Europe are more identifying themselves with financial institutions and the wealthy elite, than with ordinary middle and working class people – which could create more room for dissatisfaction, dissent and even violent reaction…

Secondly, the Eurozone is not primarily an economic project, but a part of a political process. The European Union is formed according to a functionalist principle, where the founding fathers of Europe realised that there was little popular support amongst the masses for European federalism.

David Mitrany

David Mitrany

Functionalism as a model, envisioned and described by amongst other people the Romanian-born social scientist David Mitrany, establishes that European integration should take the easiest possible route, much like how water is moving around rocks to flow down to the sea.

The European Union began as the Coal & Steel Community of 1946 – 1957, upgraded itself to the European Economic Community of 1957 – 1993, and became the European Union by the Maastricht Treaty of 1993. Each of these changes brought a deeper economic integration. The European Monetary Union is a complement to the European Union, which is aiming at harmonising monetary policies. The next logical step would be integrated financial and taxation policies, but this has failed to materialise, mostly because the political capital of the European Union was exhausted after the introduction of the EURO and the expansion from 15 to 27 member states in 2004-2007.

The European electorate was not that keen on the increased political influence of the European Union, illustrated by the failed referendums in France, the Netherlands and Eire during the 00’s. When the crisis of 2008 hit, there was no identification with the European Union amongst the masses, and when the economy failed, the European leaders quickly moved to access the interests of their own economies. So the European integration project is rapidly losing momentum, and will continue to stay weak so long a new stable equilibrium is not reached.

It is very possible that Tsipras (SYRIZA’s leader) is going to be far more moderate than the worst doomsday sayers predict, but his electorate wants results, and if the current malaise trods on in Greece, people will become increasingly radicalised and maybe either move to the far left or to the far right Golden Dawn.

Alexis TSIPRAS

In the case of “the worst scenario”, a Greek expulsion/resignation from the Eurozone, Greece’s economy will probably default, leading to an intensification of the crisis. However, such a deep dip will probably on the medium term be good for the Greek economy, as it will rationalise and prices will lower to the level that the tourism industry starts to generate growth for the overall economy.

Maybe the Greeks would prefer a very painful fall and impact to rock bottom before decades of stagnation.

For the Eurozone, it will mean a definite break from the idea that the Euro as a currency regime is stable, and can lead to a new crisis. Therefore, I expect Merkel to actually try to listen to Mr Tsipras’ demands and try to reach some kind of compromise with a SYRIZA-led government. The question is what the German and Greek peoples would think of such a renegotiation?

Given that, the Tory-led government in the United Kingdom has woved to hold a referendum on continued membership in the EU if they are not reaching a deal regarding free mobility with the European Union. The reasons for this referendum are domestic and populist, and it is not unlikely – if the situation permits – that Cameron would draw back the referendum a few years before it (if he wins the elections in May). However, it signals that the consercatives are now trying to gain (back) the support of the plurality (perhaps majority) of Britons that see the European Union as a problem

The Russian Crisis, the Donbass War and Saudi Arabia

While there are still open hostilities in the East of Ukraine, the Russian actions since the autumn indicates that Russia isnovorussia_map_by_grdgryphonranger-d7ks806 aiming for a d’etente with the West, with a situation where Russia has “lost” the Ukraine as a Pro-Russian state, but the West won’t see Ukraine as a member of the EU or NATO. Meanwhile, the West has sought to punish Russia for their violations of the international order by the means of sanctions. Many European leaders, including the French president and German industrial leaders, are increasingly skeptical to the sanctions as they serve to hurt European growth forecasts as well, while the Americans are more hardline.

The Russian economy on the other hand is quickly draining its capital reserves and is seeing cuts in the civilian sector. The reason behind this is not only tied to the western sanctions, but also to the Saudi oil production figures. Saudi Arabia is involved in an own proxy war versus Iran and Russia inside Syria, and given the current volatile situation, they are ready to use their oil weapon to lowering the price of oil and thereby hurting Russia and Iran (and also the growing shale oil industry in the United States).

It will take eighteen months to deplete the Russian currency reserves, and by then Russia will be reliant on debt, with an 20141018_gdc875awful credit rating at their disposal. This can lead to political destabilisation inside of Russia and create the foundations for regime change there. However, the regime change may not be the desired from the western perspective. If Putin for example would withdraw from Crimea and Donbass and leave the separatists to their fate, he could very well face an uprising from the nationalist right.

More likely, I expect that Russia and Iran could see this as a hostile action by Saudi Arabia, and could use whatever tools they have within their disposal (short of outright military actions) to try to hurt Saudi Arabia in return.

The fall of the Islamic State?

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It won’t end the crisis in Iraq and Syria, but it will mark the introduction of a number of regional powers into the fray. It is likely that Turkey, Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia and Jordan can to some degree intervene militarily with ground forces into the theatre. Such an intervention will quickly overwhelm the IS and push them back into armed insurrection and guerilla and terrorist activities, much like how the Vietnamese pushed the Khmer Rogue back into the jungles.

The intervention of Turkey or another major Sunni power would almost certainly force an Iranian counterreaction, perhaps in the form of more regular Iranian troops and revolutionary guards being sent into Syria (and perhaps Iraq). In the worst case scenario, this could mean a regular war between Iran and one or two Sunni Powers, but more likely new armed groups will emerge under the wings of Turkish, Iranian and Saudi base territories and engage in continued fighting in the region. Nevertheless, Syria and large parts of Iraq will continue to turn into failed states for 2015, with an immeasureable humanitarian cost.

Social Entropy

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The truth in evolution is that the more complex an organism is, the more vulnerable it becomes to disturbances in the eco-systems it is dependent on. The human civilization today, with its largely integrated world economy, is an increasingly complex web of structures, arrangements, institutions and interlinked human communities. What is happening in the Middle East and in Europe are not only the results of long-term social and socio-economic trends, but also parts of the very same trends.

These parts of the world are experiencing socio-economic and social realignments which has been working for a long time, and exploded in the Debt Crisis of 2010 and the 2011 Arab Spring. During 2015, there is a high risk that the escalation of these trends will continue on and drive through the realignment. Since many key players are trying to use this alignment to come up on top, they will serve to intensify the crises in matters that they believe could benefit them.

At least in the Middle East, we are seeing a massive loss of social complexity, throughout a large part of the Fertile Crescent, and it is possible that Syria can turn into a new Somalia, situated into the heartlands of the Middle East. This will ultimately work against Saudi Arabia, which now also faces the prospects of a collapsing Yemen on its southern border.

Ultimately, this realignment is part of a wider realignment, where the issue is whether the Unipolar “New World Order” (the American-led world) can come to terms with the BRICS about how power should be distributed internationally, and whether or not the BRICS can survive the oil crisis and China’s dampening growth forecasts.

Enrique

What is the EOS about?

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By Enrique Lescure

Reality

Fundamentally, the Earth Organisation for Sustainability are an organisation that is devoted to reality.

What then is reality? Ultimately, there are only two things you can be sure of existing, namely your own mind and reality (everything that your mind in itself cannot affect without some sort of action through your body). The only thing that you fundamentally know about reality is that it exists independent from your mind. There are some worldviews that disagree with this accessment, especially from the neo-spiritual direction, but EOS bases its analysis on the idea of a reality that exists independent of human opinions about it.

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This means that we believe that if you dress in a Superman outfit and tries to jump from the twelfth floor, it won’t end very well. Chances are high that you would agree with that accessment.

However, not the same can be spoken of our civilizations.

The Eocene Biosphere

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The last mass extinction event was roughly 65 million years ago. It was most likely caused primarily by a meteorite impact outside the Yucatán Peninsula in what would later become the Caribbean Sea. This event ended the era of the Dinosaurs, and led to the birth of the era of the Mammals, who gradually filled out the ecological vacuum left in the smouldering ruins of the Mesozoic eco-systems.

Of course, the rich diversity of land and marine animals we currently enjoy on this Earth are not identical with the species found during the early to middle Eocene phase. In general, evolution tends to fill niches and develop new species and ecosystems in a never-ending symphony.

Evolution can hardly be described as a “hurricane in trash dump”, nor blind and random. Rather, it tests itself against the physical reality and bends itself around it, challenging it and forming a colourful diversity of life. Life also rearranges the very environment itself, forming complex webs of interrelationships – ecosystems – that strive to survive. After all, life wants to live.

meerkat-familyBut does evolution  have an end-game? Isn’t it so that evolution has played out its role, as a few transhumanists assert, as it has reached it’s purpose (producing us)? For certain, evolution continues to go strong, albeit “slow” from the perspective of a human life-time.

The great Canadian Palaeontologist, Dr Dale A. Russell, observed a trend in fossils, namely that the brain-to-body ratio has been steadily rising amongst animal populations in geological time. He predicted that if evolution continues for another 900 million years, brain-to-body ratios of typical animals then will be six times greater than today – meaning that humans are truly exceptional – as the first species that has acquired sapience, but that does not mean that many more intelligent species will see the light of dawn as evolution progresses. If we – or the species descending from us – are still there many millions of years from now, we will be able to observe and experience that very process. We will be able to meet friends we could never have imagined, and will be able to learn much from them on an equal basis.

The Sixth Great Mass Extinction

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Our current civilization is built on exponential economic growth. A large part of the legitimacy of the current socio-economic system is derived from abilities to create consumer cultures and increase the living standards within the frameworks of such a system. After all, as a largely and increasingly secular civilization, we don’t have any heavenly ethos that can legitimise poverty and perpetual debt. But due to economic growth, your children will certainly have it better than you!

The industrial civilization has existed for 200 years, and it can probably last 100 to 200 years more. During its first 200 years, it has managed to create a widening and deeper ecological deficit. It has managed to transform the rules of Earth’s climate and transform the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, upsetting the established climate cycle on the planet. Moreover, it has managed to create extinction levels of species 1000 times faster than the normal rate. In short, we are right now living through a mass extinction event.

The destruction of groundwater and soil to feed our unsustainable agro-industry will serve to accelerate this process, and eventually it will smother the very system it is intended to feed, creating an industrial collapse and see the civilization lose complexity and undergo collapse and dark age phases until we’ve learned the lesson of not overshooting.

However, evolution will go on, and the damage we have done to the planet will be healed during millions of years, until a new balance emerges and new species branch out.

The ethos of EOS

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For every eco-system we destroy, for every species that we make extinct, alter or transform in order to feed the insatiable thirst of oligarchical institutions that mostly benefit a super-elite on the top, we are depriving evolution of opportunities, and depriving the future of potential diversity. We are doing it, either actively by participating in it, or passively by accepting it, because we need to maximise economic growth for the next quarter of a year.

Earth will cope with it.

It is not sure humanity will.

What we want to do is to offer humanity a way that allows us to reach our full potential as an intelligent, responsible and empathetic culture. That the primary goal of the human civilization should be eudaimonia, within the capabilities of the planet, that we should add to the diversity and beauty of this world, not destroy it and turn it into a concrete desert. That we should seek to expand our knowledge and creativity, and act as responsible caretakers of this beautiful world teeming with life.

We are a sapient species. It is time we start behaving as one.

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Moo! Exponential growth, outspacing, food and livestock.

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 by Enrique Lescure

An issue of waste. An issue of space.

Oftenmost when mainstream organisations are dealing with environmental concerns, they are focusing their attention on one particular issue close to the heart of that very organisation. It could be conservation, energy, emissions or rainforests. However, despite their best efforts to counter the trend, the usage of the planet’s biosphere has increased for every passing year – as evidenced by the Earth Overshoot Day that for every year is moving backwards throughout the weeks and months.

Some people believe that the current system in itself is fundamentally good, though they also believe that it has caused some problems. They do however believe that these problems can be managed within the exponential growth system, and that the problems themselves are mainly caused by insufficient technology.

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Wind, solar, geothermal will put an end to oil dependency, and we will continue to have the current socio-economic system, and growth will continue so everyone will continue to have it much better in the future as GDP per capita will increase (now we for a moment ignore that real wages amongst the US middle and working classes have not increased since the late 1970’s). That is the mantra of the mainstream.

The way of the EOS is not to say no to optimism, but to say no to illusions. This is why we must poke a hole in this illusion.

Exponential growth on a confined space such as a planet will not – under any circumstances involving real biospheres – ever be able to sustain itself for eternity. Either it will be stopped by a stagnation of demand (as happened during the 1920’s), or by the very limits of the planet itself.

Proponents of the system then claim that when resources turn too expensive, humanity will – through the creative processes of capitalism – automatically find alternatives that are both cheaper and cleaner and offer a higher standard of life to the consumers and better profits to businesses.

The issue of space

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Of course, they have it partially right. The world is not a zero sum game, and it is possible to find more efficient ways of doing things through technology. But technology in itself is most often not a problem. What is problematic, however, is the idea that the Earth is just a sum of resources, which has been the basis of Economics since the 18th century.

What they tend to ignore however, is the issue of ecology. The biosphere consists of tens of thousands of complex eco-systems, consisting of millions of animal-, plant- and fungi species. These eco-systems are more or less stable webs of life that interacts through interdependent relationships.

What tends to be forgotten is that we do not only take things from nature. We are also transforming nature, by turning areas into production zones for food and raw materials. One last point before we move along, is that proponents of the current system often refer to the Coase theorem, an economic theorem formulated by Ronald Coase, who basically sums up that the environment first deteriorates during early stages of economic growth, to recover later because the public has increased their income so much that they demand a better public environment (it can also be summed up as that well-defined property rights can regulate any problems). In short, to heal you first have to wreck.

These proponents often cite the well-known facts that Europe and North America today have more forests than they had a 100 years ago, to show that this law holds and that it is general. Given that, how then come that even if we use up less of our forests in the developed world today, our global footprints are increasing?

Simple.

We are simply shifting more of the logging to the developing world, especially the rainforests of Africa, South America and South-east Asia – some of the most biologically diverse places on Earth.

Linear resource flows

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A mere 200 years ago, most economies were local village and town economies where most things utilised by humans within a confined area also were produced within that area. Today, even relatively simple items such as drawing pins are often consisting of substances that are extracted wherever it is cheapest and most effective to do so from a profit perspective.

Modern mega-cities are existing because they extract their resources from the entire Earth. The organic direction that this endeavour takes is characterised by what I call linear extraction systems. Such systems are characterised by the reformation of space into monocultural production zones, which de-facto are an industrialisation of nature. Such production zones are necessitating the destruction of the natural eco-systems previously located within the very same space.

In short, you must wreck to make.

Of course, all types of human activity will affect the environment, but the current system in employment in itself is based around production models that seek rationalisation above everything else. What means with rationalisation is the transformation of space and resources to best suit the profit demands of the market.

The effects of this can be seen throughout the world.

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Moo!

If we for a moment place ourselves outside of Earth and outside of time, we can see that while there has been human cultures and tribes that have been carnivorous, most humans prior to the modern age lived on a largely vegetabilic diet – out of pure necessity. Meat requires animals to be grown up, and animals eat food.

However, with rising living standards, first in the west and later in the non-western world, new technologies and the rise of an increasingly urban middle class has led to a rise in meat consumption. Moreover, meat – at least for the generations who first had access to refrigerators – symbolised an increased social status and prosperity.

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Apart from refrigerator technology and increasing abilities to preserve and transport meat, the 20th century has also seen the birth of a meat industry, which often is completely inhumane, dependent on steroid feeding animals and denying them the opportunity to pursue their natural behaviour. However, this industry is also contributing immensely to the destruction of the planet.rexfeatures_1141708a

A large part of the meat industry is consisting of cattle and sheep, two hoofed animal species with similar digestive systems. This digestive system is very good at producing methane emissions, which contributes immensely to climate change. Methane for the record is a more potent gas than carbon dioxide.

Moreover, cattle demands much nutrients to grow, as well as much water. This means that  the world’s 1,5 billion cattle is a high resource cost in terms of both space and actual emissions. Around a third of the world’s land surface is needed to feed the current population of cattle and sheep. Moreover, this has a direct impact on soil erosion and freshwater depletion. To not speak of greenhouse gas emissions. It is measured by a recent report by World Watch that this industry alone stands for 51% of the total emissions, meaning that it is the major contributor.

The solution

The film Cowspiracy recommends everyone to become vegetarians/vegans, which would solve the demand issue. The problem with that solution however is that it would not account for the lands already being damaged by the demands of the meat industry, and that it doesn’t take into account that not all people have the opportunity to arrange their consumption after environmental/vegan demands (even though that could change if more people became vegans since that would make vegan food commercially viable).

What we have seen is that we have an economic system which unintentionally punishes good behaviour and rewards bad behaviour in terms of sustainability.

The solution must then be to form a better form of market which would better reflect the needs for a holistic approach to the planet, especially where the cost of products would be measured against their ecological impact. The EOS has proposed such a model, called Energy Accounting. Under such a model, the cost of obtaining food would resemble the ecological impact of that particular food production model, which would pennalise for example the consumption of beef, as well as production that is not ecological.

What needs to be done globally however, is that we need a global accessment on how to minimise the amount of space we use to produce food on, so to give these areas back to the eco-systems which need to fill them so this planet should have a functioning biosphere.

This would require a mobilization of forces on all levels, from grassroots to global associations, in order to consciously steer our civilization towards food sustainability. EOS has worked on this together with Green Free Will on a local basis in northern Sweden, through the Umea Biodome Project. However, we need such initiatives in every city in every country on Earth.

It is a matter of the survival of the human civilization after all.

What lies in 2015 for the Earth Organisation for Sustainability?

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By Enrique Lescure

What the cooperation with Green Free Will has meant for us

Ultimately, the Green Free Will (GFW) Cooperation has been a success, and the biodome shell is now standing in Nordmaling. This has proven that we can contribute positively to the improvement of the local community, and also raised our media profile. The biggest positive feedback has been the talk we held during the Survival Kit Festival in Umea in October 2014, when we had the opportunity to describe the EOS for an audience of around thirty people.

This raising of our profile shows that the strategy pursued since May 2012, when we agreed to enter our relationship with GFW, has yielded much in terms of media exposure and positive feedback. It has also showed that EOS is about more than theory, that we intend to actively contribute to the raising of the environmental standards of a community.

The Biodome Project has a long way until it can reach the goal of a self-sufficient, automated, artificial eco-system. But thanks to the efforts of GFW and EOS members, it now has been manifested in reality. That is a large step for Alexander and Ann-Sofie and their team.

The internal changes that must occur during 2015

The EOS is entering a dynamic and challenging year, where we have an opportunity to transform ourselves internally and structurally. What I am referring to is of course the Board Election of 2015, which would occur during the Annual General Meeting in May month.

This Board Election will see the election of two new EOS directors. Dr. Andrew Alexander Wallace has declared that he will not stand for reelection for his directorship.

During the course of 2014, I had the privilege of hearing many proposals on how the Board could be improved. I presented these proposals before the Board, and we have agreed to initiate a process where we moves towards a professionalisation of the Board and a replacement of what doesn’t work with what is proven to work.

Firstly, we must disconnect the functional sequences from the executive functions of the Board. Sequence directors should not necessarily be board members any more, and consequently board members would not become sequence directors automatically any more. The functions of the Board will be to advise the sequence directors primarily, and the two functions will be autonomous from one another.

Secondly, board members will be divided into acting board members and board members, where the first ones would be those who either see themselves as deputies until the positions could be filled.

Thirdly, the EOS Manual needs to be updated to reflect on these changes.

Many more changes will occur as well, but those changes will rather be of substance than of forms.

How the future should look

(Enrique Lescure, Board Director)

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I have declared my candidacy for one of the Board directorship positions during this year’s Board election. My reasoning for my candidacy is that I have experience within EOS as one of the founding members and have experience with networking and recruitment. Also, I have played an important role in the Umea Biodome Project.

What I believe is that EOS should use the period of 2015 to 2020 to build on the gains harvested by the Biodome Project, and that we should focus on the growth of our organisation’s width and depth.

With width, I concretely mean that we need more active, devoted members, both to be able to more effectively handle our core presence on the web and locally in our communities. With depth, I mean the quality of what we are doing and how we are reaching our conclusions. We need to utilise the principles laid forth in The Design while we are making our decisions, and a central key aspect is that all active sequence operatives and board members have read and understood The Design.

Concretely, my first steps will be to structure up and recruit people to the sequences of administration and finance. The seuqence of administration has traditionally been responsible for the website, but the problem is that while the website is maintained efficiently, changes which the Board has voted on and agreed on have not been effectively implemented. More seriously, no new technate.eu mail addresses have been given since the board back in 2005-2010 introduced them.

We need to expand the amount of people who are administering the website, in order to modernise the website and making it a better expression to the public of what we intend to do. Moreover, we need to expand the website with a hub for blogs, a permanent EOS Youtube channel and a POD Radio show if possible (quantitatively and qualitatively).

The same can be applied for the sequence of finances. Traditionally the most “boring” and legalistic area, it has been handled by the Board directors, as it has proven to be difficult to find any active and devoted sequence directors to that area. We need to find these people and actively seek them out. Preferably, these individuals need to reside within the borders of Sweden and be familiar with Swedish law. Concretely, one of the SeqFin directors would administer the bureaucratic work while the other would focus on making the members pay their annual membership fees.

These are the two sequences most needing attention right now, and I will devote my work in 2015 to solve these issues.

For the longer term, we need to become better at raising our media profile and to utilise our capacities.

Meanwhile, we also need to raise the knowledge of the EOS and of the EOS Design amongst our members and sympathisers.

Also, I intend to recommend for the Board to have a female co-director in the Board. While I do not advocate a gender-binary constitution as a fundamental foundation for our organisation, I believe it will send a signal and that it also will serve to increase our appeal amongst everyone.

That is just one of the ways I intend to facilitate constructive change with.

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