The Global Climate Treaty

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

And so we came to this day. A global climate treaty has finally been agreed upon by 195 participating countries. World leaders and many activists are celebrating these happy news – in a political year which have not contained much of these.

This treaty represents a morale booster for the western countries – France in particular – which have consistently failed to handle the Ukraine crisis, overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria or save the Schengen Area from an implosion caused by the refugee crisis. The climate treaty should be understood with regards  to the failure to manage other crises – if political leaders consistently are mishandling – or perceived as mishandling – crises, their prestige will suffer. If such failures erupt more and more frequently during several administrations, the public morale will decrease and thus the support amongst the masses for the legitimacy of the establishment will weaken.

This created an atmosphere which saw it as paramount that a new treaty would come in place, not only because that the environmental situation is getting more dire, but also because of the aforementioned crises and the needs for political leaders to come back from Paris with successes.

While 1,5 degrees indeed is an ambitious goal, especially as the treaty has arrived so late in the process since this issue became one of global importance.

The purpose of this article is to study the climate treaty in the context of antropogenic global climate change as well as our current socio-economic system, and to discuss some of the actions that can be done to reduce the impact of warming.

TL;DR

  • The greenhouse effect is not – as you probably know – something sinister brought by our tampering with the environment, but a part of a natural process.
  • For the last few million years, our climate has gravitated between warm periods and ice ages. The release of CO2 from fossile sources has shifted this balance towards a warmer climate, but the cycle is still existing.
  • The threats against human civilization are manyfold and serious, and require responses and sacrifices which currently are politically impossible to advocate.
  • The Paris Treaty consciously leaves a lot regarding implementation to be decided by the signatory powers.
  • Ultimately, we need to focus on more issues than emissions, one of the most pressing being the protection and expansion of the world’s woodlands.

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What is the Greenhouse Effect?

The climate of the Earth is regulated by many factors – the distribution of continents and oceans, tectonic activity, internal heating, the intensity of solar flares, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the amount of vegetation and the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the name for a process whereas heat from the Sun is trapped under the Earth’s atmosphere and serves to heat up the Earth. Without it, multi-cellullar life on Earth as we know it would be impossible, and the Earth would have frozen to an ice planet aking to Hoth in Star Wars.

The Greenhouse effect is not caused by humans, but something which has existed since time immemorial. It allows heat from the Sun to warm up the surface of the Earth. Neither is it unique for the Earth, both the other rocky planet’s in the Sun’s Goldilock zone have greenhouse effects, though the greenhouse effect is very weak in Mars and extremely strong in Venus.

The greenhouse effect has also varied under different aeon’s and geological periods during our planet’s turbulent history. During the Silurian era, prior to the Cambrian explosion, the Earth was for thousands of millennia covered by ice. When the Dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the planet was so warm that there were no permanent polar ice caps, and the climate was fairly stable with few fluctuations.

In contrast, the Eocene and Paleocene eras have been dynamic and unstable in regards to the planet’s average temperature. During only the last two dozens of million years, multiple ice ages have seen sheets expand over the hemispheres, the Mediterranean have evaporated several times, leaving a salt desert between Europe and Africa, and the sea levels have shifted hundreds of metres, often within just years.

The Flood myths described in numerous holy texts may have a foundation in reality as several events during the stone age led to the rise of sea levels and (probably) massive floods.

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Ice Age World Map by Fenn-O-maniC (Deviantart)

The human civilization, established in the river valleys of the Nile, of the Euphrates and Tigris, of the Ganges, Indus and the Yangtze, and developed into today’s global civilization, was starting to form following the end of the last global Ice Age.

From the latter half of the 13th century, the warm period reached its peak, and then the planet’s cycle started to move towards an ice age again. From the 1860’s and onward until today, this trend towards a colder climate first stalled and then reversed – today proven to be caused by human intervention due to the burning of coal and oil.

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Effects of antropogenic climate change

By altering the amount of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, we are strengthening the effects of the greenhouse effect and therefore increasing the Earth’s average temperature gradually, though at a higher speed than previously done.

This will not mean that we won’t have cold winters any more, or that temperatures in some regions cannot actually can become colder over time, but it means that we are shifting and altering the Earth’s climate cycle towards on-average warmer temperatures.

Such a climate alteration will have effects on crop harvests, monsoon rain patterns, sea currents, vegetation and species, and also on the Greenlandic Ice Sheet – the last large remnant from the recent Ice Age. If it partially or completely collapses, which can happen within a few centuries, it will affect the sea levels of the Earth globally, drowning coastal areas, amongst which are some of the most populated regions on Earth.

Another single factor that can create havoc for human civilization globally, is the end of the Himalayan glaciers. They supply the great rivers of India and China with water, and if they melt there could be a permanent shift of these regions towards a drier climate, which would increase the cost of living. The Middle East could become more dry, as well as the United States.

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Since Civilization first was established, most of humanity has lived in an east-west band stretching from East Asia to Western Europe. The 21st and 22nd centuries may correspondingly see China, India and the Mediterranean basin becoming more desert-like, whereas other regions on the other hand can become more hospitable, for example Scandinavia, Northern Canada, Siberia and parts of the southern hemisphere.

Thus, a shift in the habitability of the Earth’s regions could lead to a mass migration of hundreds of millions to billions of people, which forever could alter the geographic distribution of the human race.

Climate change as a political issue

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Between the beginning phase of the Kyoto negotiations and the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, two decades have passed by. During that time, more emissions have been added on, as the debt-based monetary system requires growth and the technologies available today which creates the fastest growth rates are based on non-renewable energies. Thence, while indeed the usage of green technologies have grown, they have not grown at the expense of fossil fuel-technologies, but rather their growth have been concurrent.

There are two problems with legislation aiming to curb climate change. The first one is the aforementioned fact that our leaders are bound to a growth paradigm, and the second is the fact that the Earth consists of 195 countries. Regarding some issues, like for example a failure to abide to the needs of economic globalization, sovereignty is seen mostly as a matter of inconvenience, while other issues, such as keeping up emission rates, are met with far more understanding than not wanting to partake in international trade agreements.

Ultimately, the absolute majority of the states on Earth, to not speak of businesses, are invested in a global socio-economic system based on fractional reserve banking, which means that in order to pay off ever increasing debts, we find ourselves in continuous need to create conditions so favourable as possible to exponential economic growth. This system is also seen as the best potential system we can have, and economic growth has also an ideological foundation. Most of the states on Earth are not nation-states but rather former colonial territories, composed of multi-ethnic, multi-religious communities. In such states, the main legitimising factor for governments that are both simultaneously weak and authoritarian, is economic growth. You may have to long for buying new shoes, but your son may buy himself a bike.

This means that climate agreements are meeting far more resistance from both business, lobbyist groups and governments keen to keep up economic growth, than for example free trade agreements. The Kyoto Protocol failed because the Bush Administration refused to ratify it. The Copenhagen Summit is widely considered a failure. The French government therefore decided on a strategy where the emphasis was put on the goal – that the temperature may not increase with more than 1,5 degrees Celsius (0,5 degrees under the 2 degrees Celsius seen as the threshold for global warming). All countries partaking under the Paris Agreement have bound themselves to find ways to reduce their emission rates, but the Agreement doesn’t specify how or with what means, and does not at all install any controls or punishments for participants violating the agreement.

On the other hand, if the agreement had contained more binding resolutions, specifications and relinquishment of controls, it would have been rejected by a significant number of countries.

So in short, the choice was between a broad-sweeping but shallow agreement, or no agreement at all. Most analysts hope that green energy and green technology can help making the shift towards sustainability while economic growth is preserved.

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The Elephant in the Room

While we have reasons to be hopeful due to the increase of the usage of solar panels, wind turbines and other forms of green energy, green energy is only a part of the puzzle. Most of the emissions today are within the meat industry and transport, and the growth of green energy has not contributed so much to the decline of the price of oil.

Rather, while the demand of oil has grown, the supply has grown even quicker due to the ascent of North American shale oil and the response of the Gulf States to dump the price of oil by increasing their supply. What we are seeing behind the curtains is an oil war initiated by Saudi Arabia and directed against both the USA and Russia. While this has hurt all oil-producing states, oil consumption overall is increasing.

What stands clear is that emissions may be reduced regionally, but globally they will still pose a threat. The kind of exponential economic growth intrinsically connected to the current system is – through the invisible hand of the market – seeking the paths of least resistance. Innovations and ambitions can alter this balance, but the balance in itself under the current paradigm is problematic.

Therefore, while supportive of green technologies and aims to curb emissions, I remain skeptical of the ability of achieving the objectives of 1,5 degrees without putting under question the ideological predominance of the current socio-economic system.

The current system is collapsing, or rather in its very design it is a system under constant collapse, threatened to be choked by the mountains of debts that it is pushing before itself. It can only survive by cannibalising the Earth, generating economic growth, but the more growth it generates, the more growth it has to generate. Thus, growth numbers tend to decline as demand shrinks and the economy grows, creating stagnation which means that new markets have to emerge in order to fuel the constant need to pay interest rates to the banks which simultaneously function as both the parasites and the creators of the system.

If we do not question the wisdom of this, we will continue to destroy the Earth. The problem is that arrangements like the Paris Agreement, the surprisingly – in relation to the scope of the challenges before us – toothless and impotent treaty, are not only unable to criticise the system which all participants have invested themselves in, but also to propose far-sweeping efficient measures to combat climate change.

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Actions that can be undertaken

Of course, for maximum efficiency, most of the transformation must necessarily occur at the grassroot level, though the creation of municipal solar panels, neighbourhood greenhouses, car pools, the upgrading and upcycling of means of transportation, increased consumption of locally produced goods and services, and increasing the autonomy and resilience of local communities overall. Education of both young and adults is also necessary.

However, we cannot move towards that and a globalized economy of the kind the proponents of free trade agreements like the TTP and the TTIP are dreaming of. One particular thing that definitely is conflicting between the kind of free trade agreements that are proposed today and long-term sustainability is transportation. If we want to reduce emissions, we need to install carbon pricing on goods and services, so the price starts to reflect the environmental cost. Goods that are produced far away would need an additional price tag. This is not the same as a punitive tariff as it will be imposed in relation to distance rather than national borders in themselves.

Massive investments need to occur in public transit systems (and in sea walls). We need to gradually shift ourselves away from Suburbia and create more concentrated urban habitats which also should have an ability to sustain at least a part of their own food production potential through vertical farming.

We need to massively reduce our dependency on meat, and then especially red meat, since it stands for a significant chunk of the emissions. This means that meat must become far more expensive, to pay for its share of the environmental damage which it causes.

More trees will have to be planted, at the expense of mono-cultures and grasslands. We should probably even build floating platforms on the seas and grow trees on them. All plants are breathing carbon dioxide and binding it before releasing it and returning it to the cycle when they die. Trees have the benefit that they can live for centuries, and therefore they can bind carbon for significantly longer amounts of time. The ideal would be if we could approach the number of trees which the Earth contained during the Stone Age, meaning that we would have to double the amount of trees to 6 billion.

These are but some of the actions that should be considered, and where governments on the local and national level could play a significant role (and should play it, especially regarding preparations for moving entire cities).

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Long term Geo-engineering

Ultimately, we have shifted the Earth’s climate development. What we need to do after we have stabilised it is to establish a long-term strategy to manage it, using carbon dioxide, oxygen, vegetation and technology to both monitor and gently steer the climate, both to prevent future disasters generated by us as well as managing the human civilization and the eco-systems through large-scale natural disasters such as meteorite impacts and super-volcano eruptions.

This would require some form of global administrative system, and signals that we are moving towards a Type-1 civilization if we manage to answer to the challenges of this century. Therefore, the public discourse should not focus on the coming five years, but the coming five decades at least.

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Review: This Changes Everything

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Yesterday, I frequented a climate event in Umea, and had the privilege to watch This Changes Everything, of course streamed from a computer to a cinema screen. All those watching the improvised movie theatre left with sense of optimism and feel-good hope in their bellies.

All except one.

Sometimes, there can be a refreshment in bluntness. So, I would put forth my points in a very rash and frisky manner. I think ‘This Changes Everything’ is basically just stating what documentaries on the subject of Global Warming have been stating for the last twenty or so years.

Technically speaking, it is probably one of the best documentaries on the subject as of yet, filmed with HD cameras and tying together the issues of global warming with the de-facto disenfranchisement of local communities.

Still, I do believe that documentaries like these can do more harm than good, especially as Naomi Klein, one of the two producers and the author of the same book, have failed in defining the real problem with contemporary Capitalism.

Therefore, this entry, rather than being a whole review of the film, will focus on the issue of Naomi Klein’s background and how it can have influenced the film.

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Naomi Klein, a journalist and author from Canada, became well-known within the Alt-Globalization Movement of the 1990’s, as a critic of the type of economic globalization which went into a new phase during that decade.

In her breakthrough book, No Logo, she made an ardent work visualising how multinational corporations are exploiting the absence of worker’s rights in third world nations, and how logotypes have turned into mythical symbols within advertisement.

Naomi Klein is highly critical of the economic school of monetarism – most often referred to as “neo-liberalism” by its critics – and generally is positively inclined towards protest movements against austerity, natural resources exploitation and anti-war sentiments.

All this is highly evident in “This Changes Everything”, and if you have read Klein before watching the film, you can be able to predict everything in it. That is not where my critique against Klein lies.

Klein’s thesis and solution

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Klein’s thesis in ‘This Changes Everything‘ is that the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century created a culture where we view nature as a resource to be exploited and the Earth as a “machine” that we have the power over and can manipulate as we want. This is also the reason behind for example the addiction to growth.

According to Klein, growth addiction is an example of a political choice that is ideologically structured and follows the principles of Capitalism, which in itself flows from the Scientific Revolution. As a conflicting principle, Klein presents the aboriginal principle of ‘the Earth as a nurturing mother’ and the principles of democratic sovereignty (hailing back to the populistic practices of Gaius Gracchus).

While not directly mentioned, it is indicated that the Scientific Revolution and Capitalism are masculine principles, while Nature worship and Democracy are feminine principles. For example, most of the proponents for democratic activist movements interviewed in the film are female, while most proponents for the exploitative forces that are interviewed are males.

Klein’s solution to the current problem is that the free market has caused these problems, and the solution should be to increase government interventionism and regulate the market more. Since the governments (according to Klein) do not desire to follow such policies, activist movements would have to protest and stop mining projects and then move on towards advocating public investments in green technology – solar panels and windmills everywhere.

Essentially, the solution is that people should protest to roll back deregulation to the 1970’s, while deepening democracy.

Klein is essentially right, or rather moving in the right direction in her critique of the current system. But her solutions are essentially flawed and (I would claim) build on several misunderstandings and ignorance.

The flaws of Klein’s solutions

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Naomi Klein makes three basic misunderstandings about the reality of the system we are living in, either because she herself has not studied these issues or because she deliberately omits to tell certain things which are essential to know if we truly want to change the system.

The first misunderstanding lies in the nature of the environmental crisis.

Klein focuses very much on climate change, but climate change is only one of five serious environmental challenges that are causing the current mass extinction as I write these words. The oceanic crisis, the soil crisis, the freshwater crisis and the biodiversity crisis are as serious for the well-being of life on Earth. Green energy won’t solve these problems, and emphasising this issue will block out public understanding of the other issues. I believe it is essential to see antropogenic climate change as a part of a wider environmental crisis caused by the current system.

The second misunderstanding lies in Klein’s understanding of free markets contra government intervention.

It seems that Klein has a very binary view on the system, which can be understood as ‘government intervention good’, ‘markets bad’. What that fails to account for is that both governments and private businesses operate as economic actors with the goal of creating economic growth. Keynesian economics have nearly exactly the same goals as monetarist economics, namely the stabilization of the growth curve to ensure stability for investors and economic growth. Keynesians want to focus on low unemployment, while monetarists see inflation as the main threat to the well-being of an economy. To a large extent, deregulation has been caused as much by technological development as by political choices – in an evolutionary process within Capitalism itself.

The third, and most serious misunderstanding, is the idea that economic growth primarily is an ideological choice, and that by consuming smarter and changing the ruling ideology from Liberalism to Green Social Democracy, we will have started to save the Earth.

The core of this lies in that Klein omits to put focus on the nature of money within the framework of modern Capitalism. Ultimately, money today is Debt. Within the banking system, banks only need to keep a part of the money of their clients as deposits, and can loan out the rest – as illustrated by the image above. This means that from an  original deposit of $1000, the bank can create an additional amount of money several times larger than the original $1000.

These loans from the bank have to be repaid with interest. Since both the loans and the interest is created from capital that doesn’t currently exist, this demands that the capital is created. And most of that capital is created from turning parts of the Earth into utilities for the market. This means that the current system both demands a constant growth rate and the continued transformation of the biosphere into linear production units to satisfy the demand for exponential growth as seen in these oil palm plantations in Sumatra.

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For a more comprehensive description, see this entry.

Summary

I hold no doubt that Naomi Klein truly believes that the current situation represents a mortal threat, but I suspect that she also is emotionally invested for other reasons in moving away from monetarism towards neo-keynesianism.

The problem is of course that neither of these two systems are able to solve the current ecological crisis.

Now it is possible to claim that different documentaries should focus on different issues, and that nobody can focus on everything, but by many small groups focusing on different issues, we will together solve the problem and making the world a better place.

The problem is of course that ‘This Changes Everything‘ is claiming to present the path-way to solve the entire problem of climate change, by connecting it to economic growth and questioning its ideological foundations. The thing is, economic growth is not an ideological choice, but a survival imperative for the current system.

Therefore, no matter if it is monetaristic neo-liberalism or green social democracy, the system demands the repayment of debt, and in order to repay the debt more resources would have to be transformed to utilities. If the shark doesn’t swim, it drowns.

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Omitting the ‘shark in the bath-tub’ is a disservice, since it doesn’t correctly informs activists about the true nature of the socio-economic system and keeps them preoccupied with trails of thought that only move around in circles.

I am truly impressed by the engagement of First Nations activists who protest against the tar sands in Canada. I also share Naomi Klein’s sentiments that the reason for our destruction does not lie in human nature. Yet, I think that any failure to mention the problems with fractional reserve banking is going to hurt all those people ultimately, since even if they achieve their political objectives, they won’t be able to change the system if they don’t understand it.

 

“Moneyless” is simply a bad term.

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

EOS is a group that aims to build a post-monetary  [originally “moneyless”] sustainable Terran civilisation based on science. We want to build things, test things and show the world that we can live well in balance with nature and without money.”

I would argue that sentence serves to create confusion. While probably a majority of the Earth’s population has a relationship with money characterised by a sense of anxiety and dread for when the bills are due, there is another – significant – minority that are neutrally or positively disposed towards the concept.

For them, and also for many others – who too well are reacting with dread when hearing the term “moneyless” (since they are accustomed to a moneyless existence in a world where you need money to survive) – the message outlined in the quote above is not evoking positive reactions.

Ultimately however, we as a movement need to use language in a very precise and consistent manner, and having too much of a focus on money without properly defining money is a strategy that can lead to us being misconstrued or being interpreted as out of touch with reality.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with money today, from an ideological and political perspective, is that the general public does not know what money is.

TL;DR

  • Money was originally an organic invention born out of trade exchanges.
  • Nowadays, money is created through the issue of debt, which requires constant exponential growth.
  • That leads to the destruction of the Earth’s biosphere.
  • The EOS has devised an alternate system where we are basing the value of our currency on energy instead of market demand.
  • We intend to test that model, not implement it immediately.

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 Money as a result of barter

One of the most irritating misunderstandings an EOS lecturer could endure is when – after they have gone through the trouble of explaining Energy Accounting – parts of the public still imagine that we want to go back to barter. Therefore, it is important that the lecturer tries to explain our stance that we do not wish to return to a pre-monetary system but go forward to a post-monetary one.

Some people may even think that barter is better than using money, most likely out of aesthetic or cultural reasons (especially those who find Gift Economics to be a good idea). However, money arose already before minted coins, and before anyone called it money.

The problem with barter is that the sheer amount of goods tend to make trade very complicated. If individual A desires good X in return for good Y, but individual B (who possesses good X) doesn’t want good Y but good Z, individual A has to go to individual C who has good Z and desires good Y. Eventually, such organic markets tend to centre around a “key good”, either an actual good (like dried fish in medieval Sweden), or a symbolic token (like colourful pearls as in some Caribbean cultures) which by unwritten agreement and cultural norms become the good that is used as a currency to gain access to the other goods. Often, there were several currencies in operation at once in such systems, and they tended to vary regionally.

Money did not arise with coinage, but grew organically from society.

The reasons why kingdoms and city-states started to mint coins was to be able to pay armies and establish control over trade flows, in order both to be able to raise revenue to protect the population and to wage wars against neighbouring political entities. Another good thing with metal-based currencies (from the perspective of the monarchies) was that they were naturally scarce (unlike sea-shells) and did not decay over time (like dried fish and eggs).

The main problem with metal-based currencies during the medieval age, was that they were deflationary, meaning that money had a tendency to accumulate in the hands of major land-owners that provided the cities with food necessary for survival, creating enormous inequality and hampering trade. To counter that, kingdoms and city-states generally issued coins during festival years to stimulate trade periodically.

Money as debt

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Fiat money gradually evolved since the late 14th century, originally born amongst Italian banker families in the wealthy city-states of the Po Valley. It largely co-existed with metal (gold and silver) as an insurance security for centuries, until it finally started to stand on its own legs in 1971, following the abandonment of the Bretton Woods system.

I have explained in detail earlier about how this system is operating, so let me just reiterate it in a very short summary.

Banks operating globally, nationally, regionally and locally, are today providing credit to companies and consumers alike. These credits are actually multiplied from the banks reserves – meaning that the banks are actually lending out more capital than they have. Capital that must be paid back at interest.

This credit-based system demands constant economic growth, since money that is issued at must be paid back. Since you cannot create value out of thin air, economic production needs to grow to ensure the ability to repay loans. Of course, new loans are being issued continuously, guaranteeing that the total gross domestic debt of humanity always is larger than our gross domestic product, bonding us to exponential growth forever.

The problem

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Since economic production has to grow exponentially, that means that our collective effect on the Earth’s life-supporting systems have started to make said systems decay and degenerate at an accelerating pace. The climate is disturbed, the oceans are dying, soils and freshwater reserves are depleted and land-based eco-systems are being replaced and outcrowded by destructive mono-cultures.

This is not only a question of continuous destruction, but also of the creeping realisation that we’re causing a sixth mass extinction. At the current rate, we will move towards a global biosphere collapse by the end of the 21st century.

The challenge

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The Earth Organisation for Sustainability needs to be able to explain why the current system is deeply problematic and how it destroys the life support systems of the Earth. We are moving in the right direction, but overally, most people still believe that the current fiat-based growth-dependent monetary system is sound and see it as as natural as breathing air or drinking water.

The challenge must be to systematically educate the public about the facts of how the current system both has created the modern western civilization, and is about to destroy it. To create an environment where the system is no longer seen as accepted or natural or “the best possible system”, but as something artificial that has been imposed over us and which is not stable nor sustainable.

The current fiat system needs to be delegitimised, but it also needs to be explained.

If we just attack “money” as a concept, we will mainly attract moralists and technological luddites. Therefore, instead of stating that we want to abolish money, we should state as it is – that we want to explore the potential for an energy-based currency based around the capacity of the planet to provide for our needs.

We must be precise when we use language.

The Real Economy

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Right now, the air is buzzing with the rumours of the next financial crash. This is starting to become an autumn tradition in the more conspiracist camp. The Petrodollar is going down, it is time to invest in gold, weapons or canned food. This time, however, even mainstream newspapers are warning for an impeding financial meltdown – which everyone with the slightest understanding of the current system and of Fiat currencies know is inevitable.

At the same time, we must bear in mind that a Fiat system can theoretically be rebooted by the addition of credits which are pumped into the finance industry. When these credits are not corresponding to what increased growth rates are needed, another financial crash will happen, a recovery occurs and the economy stabilises for shorter and shorter intervals with higher and higher structural unemployment as a result.

As long as there is reason for faith in economic activities, the system can be rebooted again and again, despite its glaring similarities with a pyramid scheme. There is a relationship between the Fiat economy and the Real economy, though it is often vague and the two systems are standing on different foundations. While one rests on human estimations, gut feelings, optimism and wishful thinking, the other simply is.

This entry will be about what the Real Economy is, and what consequences it will have running it to the ground. Sadly, one of the aspects of the Fiat system is to incentivise economic behaviour that is serving to run the Real Economy into the ground.

TL;DR notes (because I like lists)

  • Since the Cambrian explosion, the Earth has formed complex multi-agent biospheres that are built around Earth’s natural cycles (sunlight, perspiration, rainfall, seasons), but which also are building themselves by slow but mostly continuous increases in complexity.
  • For all what matters, to have a human economy demands interaction with the Earth’s biosphere, and human activities will affect the biosphere.
  • Thus, the human economy cannot be seen as something separate from the biosphere in itself, but is essentially a part of what builds this planet.
  • This also means that the biosphere will affect human well-being, and that this well-being depends very much on how we treat the systems on the planet that are making the biosphere possible.
  • Ultimately, what we need now is to unlearn the cosmology of Individualistic Consumerism, and to approach the issue of what the economy is by looking at total resource flows and not just focus on the human activities.

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On the Real Economy

The Real Economy is not linear but a multi-agent system, meaning that each species and each individual is both on the receiving and returning end of the system, and the purpose – rather than growth – is for individuals and species to survive and improve their survival skills within this context of existence. The system is interdependent with the soils it has created, with the groundwater and rainfall and with the climate it is engineering.

The cycle of ice ages and warm periods are partially affected by the amounts of trees, binding greenhouse gasses. Colder periods lead to a drier climate which in turns lead to forest fires that are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing the average temperature. This leads to a moistlier climate that grows forests and bind carbon dioxide, slowing down the increase in temperatures.

A growth in the amount of vegetation increases the number of herbivore species, which creates a good opportunity for carnivores to increase their numbers as well, until the collapse of the herbivore population allows the flora to recuperate. As the carnivores are decreasing in number, herbivores can return to the fray.

This is the real economy. It has existed since time immemorial. As it gradually grew, it has transformed itself from a few one-celled organisms stewing in a primordial soup, into a vibrant dynamic equilibrium that can recuperate from mass extinction events such as the Cretaceous-Tertiary Meteorite that wiped away the dinosaurs. This economy is characterised by a slow, gradual increase of biomass and of complexity, off-set periodically by extinction events which could have destroyed complex life on Earth.

We can imagine a countless, countless number of Earths out there, tens of thousands of light years from us, where life has been wiped out by meteorite impacts, volcanoes, supernovae or climate change. There is perhaps an even greater number of worlds where life has never evolved beyond single-cell or even sub-cell organisms.

It is truly a miracle that our Earth has survived five mass extinction events and has built six biosphere regimes.

And this Earth is what allows you to live, to breathe and to aim for your objectives.

The economies of human civilizations, no matter how they look like, have all been dependent on the Real Economy, the Biosphere, and are thus – no matter if they want it or not – a part of it.

By Stella McCartney on Prezi

By Stella McCartney on Prezi

The Real Deficit

Often, we hear that many western economies are suffering under public and private debt, which can either be solved – within the framework of Fiat currencies – through either stimulus (to create growth that can allow us to grow the economy) or through austerity (cutting back the provision systems for the weakest members of society to save money). Often, these two policies are following one another, first a stimulus to the financial institutions taken from the tax payers, and then a punishment of the tax payers and the poor by tax increases and welfare cuts.

In the long-term however, only one deficit matters.

That deficit is marked by the Earth overshoot day, the day when our resource usage exceeds the ability of the planet to provide for our demands without the global biomass and biodiversity shrinking. This means that we have a global ecological deficit, which has grown above the limit since the 1970’s.

Five of nine vital life-supporting systems underpinning the biosphere are today being ravaged by the need for infinite exponential growth caused by the credit-based fiat system. The climate is being disturbed, the soils and the freshwater reserves depleted of nutrients, the land-based eco-systems are being outcrowded by artificial, linear production areas, and the oceans are being outright sexually molested.

All of this means that we are heading for a sixth mass extinction event, caused by our current civilization, within the next 100 years.

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The root cause

The root cause for this is actually what we think of as our “economic system”. The creation of “money” is – through fractional reserve banking – preceding the actual creation of capital. That means that our current system is reliant on credits, meaning that for the system to survive, money must be used to increase economic production, by creating demand for products and satiating said demand.

A reduction in growth rates is not enough, since the growth must at least follow the increase of the amount of debt in the system, otherwise interest rates will go up and the social stability of the system will be threatened. Thus, the system in itself incentivizes economic activities that are destroying the Biosphere, and is rewarding behaviour that strives to minimise costs in terms of investment and maximises outcome.

Environmental Economics of the type where the needs of the Biosphere (i.e the needs of Life on Earth) is placed below the needs of maximising economic growth, are a consequence of the perverse idea that an economic system which has developed for around 200 years is more essential that an economic system that has existed for 65 million years.

Economic growth has one good effect, and that is an increase in living standards. The only good argument left by growth proponents is that within the next 50 years, a person earning €1,25 today would earn €5 instead (and afford a car). That is however offset by the fact that economists generally have little knowledge of how much damage our environmental destruction would do on our eco-systems in the long run, and that the system will invariably collapse.

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Energy Accounting as an alternative

Energy Accounting is described in more detail in the article linked herein. We do not know how it will work out in real conditions yet, which is why we must test it. There are potential drawbacks and bottlenecks as well. The goal with Energy Accounting is however not just to install itself, but to fulfill three criteria which we need to fulfill to have a sustainable civilization.

Thus, Energy Accounting is designed as a tracking system, to keep an overview of the resource flows of the planet. It is designed as a post-monetary currency which aims to create a better balance between demand and supply – through creating a system where things do not have to be produced before there are willing users. It is also designed as a system which factors in the demand and supply curves of the Biosphere itself, thus incentivizing economic actions that are either neutral or beneficial to the well-being of the planet, while penalizing actions that are damaging to it.

Within the Earth Organisation for Sustainability, we are aiming for the testing of Energy Accounting, to see how aspects of it can work and how we can improve our Design.

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Summary: A strategy to claim the problem formulation initiative

We must – as a movement – always strive towards focusing on the Real Economy. While we must accept the existence of the crumbling Fiat system for now, we must work towards a transition away from it, by transitioning away from looking at the world through the lenses of the City of London and Wall Street.

The Fiat System ultimately relies on faith in its regulations. It will crumble, probably faster than the Biosphere itself. The challenge is to transcend the worldview where the greatest potential disaster is a stock market crash and a massive hike in unemployment.

How we do that is not primarily by questioning or accusing or being obsessed by the injustice of the current system, but by instead laying our focus on the Real Economy, and how we as a species are embedded in it and how most of us for the foreseeable future will be dependent on it.

That does not mean that we should not focus on social issues, but that we must find a way to integrate social issues into the narrative of the Real Economy.

The Earth Organisation of Sustainability does not deal with the binary world-view of eco-systems contra humanity. Instead, we view Life in itself as the most valued and cherished concept. Thus, what is good for the Biosphere is good for you, as an individual, and for us collectively as a species.

We must as a civilization make a conscious choice to accept the truth – that we are a part of the Biosphere and that we need to model our civilization in a manner that integrates it into the Biosphere and integrates the Biosphere into the infrastructure. This also means a life-positive outlook, where we have an obligation to design our societies so they allow individuals the freedom to express themselves, create, form their lives and achieve safety, meaning and liberty.

After all, as a system, the Biosphere strives towards more and more diversity and abundance. We should definetly try to mimic the beauty and splendour of nature.

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On Property

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Within the Anglo-American, and then specifically American political discourse, the dominant paradigm for around two generations right now is that the main guarantor of liberty (defined as the absence of physical force) is the institution of private property, and the main threat against private property and thence liberty is the state. While the purest expression of these sentiments reside amongst Market Libertarian elements, these thoughts have come to dominate a lot of the thinking within political economics in the west, and thence in the world.

This article will try to challenge that view, while not going in-depth on what property is, we will address the issues of property and security, property and its relationship to the state, and how property may be arranged in a hypothetical future post-monetary society.

TL;DR Summary

  • There are many definitions on the concept of property.
  • According to law, property is an exclusive and primary proprietorship to items and particular production factors.
  • The historical evidence point towards the ascendancy of the state as a consequence of property conflicts.
  • Therefore, the state as understood in the context of Eurasian political traditions have been primarily established to keep stability between property-owners and between the property-owners and the have-nots.
  • Property has a few characteristics in today’s context which serves to undermine the liberty and autonomy of majorities.
  • Property arrangements have to be fitted into local, regional, social, historical and before everything environmental contexts in order to help strengthen and protect individual liberties.

On Property definitions

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In most hunter-gatherer societies, the idea of private property is seen as ludicruous, mostly because people living on that level have no need for it. When agriculture started to replace gathering, it took centuries if not millennia for the concept of private property to emerge. To a large extent, it can be said to be population growth that was the driver of the movement towards property.

Early agriculture was only possible in very limited and concentrated geographical locations, leading to a concentration of people of diverse backgrounds into comparatively small areas. The surplus of agricultural production probably also attracted outsiders who either weren’t welcome to grow food (because all available space had been taken), or who weren’t simply interesting, instead settling nearby in the wildernesses and carrying out raids against the farmers.

Thus, the farmers probably formed militias to protect their surplus, which subsequently created the first state embryos. In some cases, bands of marauders overran the defences of the village communities, took their surplus and then formed predatory warrior aristocracies.

Regarding of which, already the earliest Law codes were centered on property, inheritance and the buying and selling of land, goods and services. In most cases, this property regulation was combined with cultural and spiritual institutions claiming some sort of divine foundation of exclusive ownership regulated by Law codes.

To a large extent, the State as an invention was a solution to the need of the codification of property rights, especially as society was segmenting into land-owning oligarchies and toiling farm labourers. To some extent, the state was both established to give those without property a sense of a place to turn to, to announce their grievances, but also to defend the interests of economic elites and keep peace between the wealthy minority and the impoverished majority.

These basic functions of the State are still innately connected to the legal structures and institutional norms of most modern states today, namely to protect property relationships and (informally) the elites that are supporting and in many cases constituting the state itself.

According to schools heralding from Classical Liberal Thought, property should be seen as a basis for “natural rights” which each human being is endowed with, and presupposes the existence of states or laws. This ideological construction is created to help support cultural barriers to prevent the state to confiscate and redistribute property.

There is however a self-contradiction resting herein, that property is both considered “secular-sacrosanct” (at least in the Anglo-Saxon and North-West European tradition) and as a concept formed by law – i.e by the state (with more or less direct representation of the people). Moreover, for a state to function, it needs to have authority over property and be able to tax labour, capital or land.

Private vs Public, Centralization versus De-centralization

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The until 2008 prevailing economistic paradigm in the West, called “Neo-Liberal” first by the proponents and later by the detractors held to its core that more private property, no matter in what form, was good for the economy as a whole, and thence public utilities as well as other commodities would work better in private hands.

In this regard, the Neo-Liberals saw mega-corporations and the neighbourly Ice Cream Kiosk as the same type of economic actor.

Socialists of the more hardcore variety have tested the implementation of “anti-capitalist” economic systems, based around state ownership of resources, infrastructure and businesses to varying degrees. The most all-encompassing of these experiments occurred in the so-called “People’s Democracies” during the Cold War. Command economies tended to cause mass destruction of social eco-systems and deaths of thousands to millions due to the collectivization of agriculture, ensure a rapid industrial growth but fail to move on to a consumer society (while still devastating the environment).

This, proponents of market capitalism are arguing, means that the free market is always superior in all regards to all other conceivable systems (a binarization of potential economic systems into two, planned economies and market economies).

Of course, simplification is very much what the art of politics is about, but no one is served by a politization and a simplification of how reality is(n’t) working.

Ultimately, we need to move away from a legalistic to an organic understanding of the economy, since the economy can ultimately be described as a series of interlinks that transforms resources into utilities and products aimed to be sold on a market. The market is one aspect of this chain, but is not either a legalistic entity nor a moral constant, but an evolving economic super-organism.

No one is desiring to replace the market with a command economy (well, almost no one), as the market retains a higher degree of adaptability and (generally) co-participation from the partakers. What we need to discuss is however how we can establish a post-capitalistic system while retaining the good aspects of the market. Therefore, we need to discuss property from a utilitaristic perspective rather than as an imperative.

The privatizations of the 1980’s and 1990’s in large parts of the developing world have (generally) grown the GDP of the countries involved, but GDP is not a very good determinator of wealth, if the growth goes near-exclusively to the top 20% of a country. Moreover, the very nature of these privatizations have been aimed towards gaining foreign capital by selling out utilities, public companies and natural resources to multi-national corporations.

1792This means that things that are necessary for a community to develop well and organically are sold out to entities that do not have any local basis whatsoever, and which are driven by the sole purpose to gather profit for share-holders on the other side of the Earth. This process creates a situation where people are often seeing their real autonomy deteriorate to the point where they are indirectly forced to migrate to expanding urban sprawls, leading to the formation of favelas and shantytowns.

To some extent, this process of creative destruction makes more labour available for sweatshop owners in countries favoured for industrial production. If we look at it with a sober perspective however, there’s a clear co-relationship between exponential economic growth of the traditional variety today, and the over-exploitation of the eco-systems. In short, what we need to do today is to consciously move toward a transition towards a system that is not reliant on exponential growth, while guaranteeing all human beings a good life.

Thus, concluding this segment, what we can see is that the utilitarian growth-oriented aspects of propertization of resources is in many ways disturbing local communities and destroying their opportunity for livelihood, which must be seen as one of the things that property advocates claim that private property in itself would guarantee.

The conclusion

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The conclusion is that property as a concept can be useful, but that it should not be defined in a manner that makes it an imperative metaphysical object of reveration since reality is not arranged around metaphysical concepts, but rather as an aspect that regulates human behaviour. In that manner, we must move beyond pure legalism and instead shape our relationship with our surroundings after local social, individual and ecological needs.

This means for example that natural resources should always primarily be considered the property of the people who dwell around the place where the natural resouce is located (unless it is located in remote or uninhabited locations). They should have the last word whether the natural resource should be utilized, by whom and in what manner. Above it, there should be ecological and social concerns that would be devised through statutes to help people shape the relationship with their surroundings.

Overall, what we can see is that the more remote control over resources become, the less autonomy and liberty is exerted by the local population. Therefore, it follows that both control through centralised command economies and by multi-national corporations primarily tend to disturb local social eco-systems (and also eco-systems in general).

The control of resources must be established on local level, through arrangements that include so many of the participants as possible in the decisionmaking process. This would also be needed to be regulated by statutes regarding human rights and social obligations.

The technate and property

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The Earth Organisation for Sustainability views it as a necessary step for human civilization to move on to a post-monetary society in the long-term. We must know how much resources we have available, and have systems installed that allows us to manage these resources intelligently.

Ultimately, the dominant production factors will be land and technology. Capital will basically become land (energy units), and will be used primarily to track production capability. A concept which will become more important will be usership, namely that citizens are granted time-based access to production capabilities. However, there is no reason to not assume should not be able to own for example project groups and similar.

There must also be a localism inherent in the model that seeks to it that decisions regarding people’s livelihood and lives are made as close as those affected by it as possible (if the local people however do not desire that amount of control they should be given the opportunity to thank no).

We must have a thorough discussion on how we should ensure the autonomy and liberty of individuals in the future, while we must bear in mind that the relationships and behaviours that we create during the transition process will affect these aspects of the technate in the future. Therefore, it is important that we grow organically.

On Socialism

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

As the recovery after the Financial Crisis fails to improve the conditions of the working and middle classes, the ideological-political hegemony of “supply-sided economics” and “market politics” have started to unravel. In Central Europe, this has led to a growth of right-wing conservative parties, while in southern Europe – in Greece, Italy and Spain – large left-wing movements have grown. Now this unravelling has started to reach the Anglo-American countries, in the forms of political leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn who are challenging the establishment hegemony within their own parties.

Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist”, has gained widespread support amongst progressive voters, and is threatening Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, while Corbyn leads the race to become the next leader of the British Labour Party.

While it is very uncertain if these two old males will eventually end up as representatives of their reputable parties, it stands clear that both enjoy a significant support amongst younger voters, and that this represents a trend where the political hegemony of an entrenched establishment is fracturing.

Even if the party establishments on both sides of the Atlantic are managing to stop this rebellion, it stands clear that the solutions of the 1980’s and 1990’s are ill-adapted to deal with the situation of today, and that it has opened up for alternative interpretations. Therefore, if the establishment continues to defend a system that cannot provide the young generations with what they learnt they should expect, it is not impossible that we within five to ten years will start to see neo-socialist governments gain power in major western countries.

The questions are: Will this be a beginning of a socialist or populist political revival in the West, will neo-socialist governments gain power and will they achieve their aims?

TL;DR notes

  • During the 1970’s and 1980’s, a political shift occurred from demand-driven Keynesian economics to “Neo-liberal” supply-sided economics, creating a political-ideological-economical orthodoxy which has dominated in the western and developing worlds since then.
  • The supply-sided economics have managed to create financial stability and growth until 2008, after which their reliance on credit has become more emphasized and apparent.
  • Despite a large influx of credit into the system and a recovery, structural and long-term unemployment have stabilised on a higher percentage level, and wealth has become more concentrated amongst the elite of societies.
  • Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are running on a platform espousing re-regulation of the financial sector, which they blame for the development for the last decades.
  • The reality is of course both simpler and somewhat more complex, and even if left-wing governments are elected into power, they will not be able to re-create the conditions of the Keynesianism of the 1960’s.
  • An improvement of the strategy would be a wider analysis, which would lead to policy prescriptions of yet deeper reforms pointing towards overhaul of the tax systems and the introduction of basic income schemes.

What is Neo-Liberalism?

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In general, people espousing Neo-Liberalism generally are disliking the term, since they either view themselves as ideologically committed classical liberals, or view themselves as politically neutral economists who just are advocating what they believe is the optimal solution for the economy. Detractors on the other hand, are viewing Neo-Liberalism as the cause for the reduction of western welfare states, unemployment, environmental devastation and much more. Most likely, both people seeing Neo-Liberalism as a positive development for western and developing societies, and people who dislike it or even hate it with vitriol would dislike this entry.

Originally, the Neo-liberal analysis originated from the University of Chicago, where Milton Friedman and other economists analysed the development of Keynesian economics which was the dominant paradigm during High Industrialization (1946-1973). The Keynesian model advocated that the state should take an active part in the economic development of societies by “smoothing out” the business cycle, by restricting the markets during good times and stimulating them during bad times.

During the early 1970’s, the western world entered a period of recession and “stagflation” (periods characterised by both high inflation and high unemployment). The Keynesian imperative had been to use the money supply as a way of allowing both high (nominal) wages and stimulating high employment, with the price of increasing the money supply thus increasing the inflation. It was however noted that the effects of these stimulus packages became smaller and smaller the more they were utilised, which the Neo-Liberals (this was before it became a slur word) meant showed that the expectations of the public was that higher inflation would neutralise the effects of wage increases, which meant that they responded by demands on more wage increases.

While the Keynesians saw unemployment as the big threat towards social stability, Neo-liberals tended to see inflation as the main problem during the 1970’s, since it undermined the savings of the middle class and thus their willingness to consume, thus in the end creating high unemployment.

The neo-liberals advocated more restrictive policies, which they interpreted as higher interest rates (by central banks reducing the money supply by swapping currency for bonds), thus reducing inflation, and more restrictive spending policies on the part of government, making cuts in social safety nets. Since most neo-liberals also were believers in classical liberalism in the sense of a smaller state, they also advocated lowered taxes (though that is understood as an expansive policy approach by Keynesians). The argument was that by lowering taxes for the wealthy and for the middle class, there would be increased room for private sector investments, and thus a higher demand for labour – reducing unemployment.

Initially, neo-liberal policies implemented in Chile, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries saw an increase in unemployment figures (due to higher interest rates). Growth did however rebound during the 1980’s, partially due to cheaper raw materials and partially due to capital deregulation and the new innovations within the Computer Industry, which started to transform the entire economy. In the third world, a giant debt crisis began during the same time, leading to social instability in many countries, due to higher interest rates.

Due to the capital de-regulations, the new technologies and the lower taxes for the highest earners, income inequality started to increase, and more of the new growth ended up in the top percentiles of society.

The cat might have been dark blue, but it did catch mice, and when left-leaning governments retook power in many western countries during the 1990’s, they had done so by transforming their programmes to not worry the middle classes, which increasingly had come to see these policies as in alignment with their interests. At large, however, the policies prescribed had abandoned the idea of restrictive monetary policies for the idea of cheap credit during the Happy 90’s. This was not only a vice of the rebounding middle class, but also of governments such as the US – which already during the 1980’s had increased government expenditures by taking loans.

In 2007-2008, the credit bubble finally burst, leading to a world-wide Recession. Governments across the world increased their spending by initiating stimulus packages in a Neo-Keynesian style in order to save large banks and capital markets, on which they believed that the economy had grown dependent. This intervention succeeded, but the gains of the stimulus packages as well as the recovery at large came to benefit largely the super-rich, while unemployment (as during the 70’s and 80’s) had frozen on a seemingly permanently higher level.

Moreover, the stimulus packages had been a large wealth transfer from the public to the financial sector, and had created or deepened deficits in the state budgets, creating a debt crisis in many European countries. Thus, austerity measures were either implemented by governments or de-facto forced upon them, in a manner reminiscent of how many developing countries had been treated during the 1980’s and 1990’s by creditors.

Hardly surprising, it is difficult for policy-makers, governments and wider establishments to defend the idea that banks and financial institutions which have tanked the economy through irresponsibility should receive an influx of money from the tax-payers, and that said tax-payers should then pay for their previous payment by tax increases, lowered benefits, wide cuts broad and deep into the economy and indirect effects such as higher prevalence of homelessness, poverty and unemployment. This creates an atmosphere where populist politics and politics challenging the established ideological hegemony can thrive.

We’ll leave the issue whether or not Neo-Liberalism has “caused” this crisis, or whether a failure to adhere to Neo-Liberalism was the cause of it. Cases have been made for both, and ultimately what matters is that things don’t follow the expectations any more.

What Neo-Socialists want

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During the 19th century, there were several socialist movements. Democratic Socialists, Marxists, Anarchist Socialists, Syndicalists and Utopian Socialists. As the 20th century dawned, with world wars and unparallelled technological advances, the social democratic governments of the western world generally embraced progressive government interventionism coupled with regulated capitalism – in short, Keynesianism, in some cases and during some periods more or less happily married with more “pure” socialist concepts.

While some commentators probably believe that political leaders like Sanders and Corbyn wants to outlaw private property and install totalitarian dictatorships, both politicians have stressed more than enough that they are democratic socialists, with Corbyn probably being somewhat of the left of Sanders – who have said that he strives towards a Scandinavian-style welfare state.Grease-grease-the-movie-512431_1920_1291

If we look beyond the policies intended to mobilise supporters, we would see a clear pattern emerge. Capital must be regulated and made to pay its share to society. With these regulations, both as a doorstop for predatory financial racketeering and as a way to gain funds, reforms could be made to benefit the working class and increase consumption amongst ordinary people, thus driving the economy to regain its confidence.

To a large extent, this can be seen as a conservative or even reactionary approach, in that these policies aim to restore the pre-1973 economic equilibrium to as much an extent as possible. What Sanders and Corbyn are aiming for is not some kind of communistic utopia, but a world which a lot of people remember that they have experienced during their formative years, the years when things looked bright.

In short, anger and nostalgia is what drives the support for candidates like these. And there is nothing wrong with these feelings.

What Neo-Socialists don’t get

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Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are both very honest leaders who strive towards a society they believe will increase fairness in society, reduce inequality and be better for the majority of the people. Their policies are hinging on an analysis where the development which they see as counter-productive can be blamed on the implementation of a worldview – Neo-Liberalism – and associated policies such as financial deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. If we roll back these reforms, they reason, we will reclaim some of the lost gains from the period of 1946-1973.

Alas, as a certain Russian has stated: “The struggle between Capital and Labour is over, and Labour lost.”

Due to new technologies, production can either be off-shored to the cheapest supplier, or – increasingly – automated fully, leading to a reduction of labour demand in the economy at large. This process has probably been exacerbated by the policies implemented from the 1980’s and onward until today, but will inevitably transform the economy into one where the demand for human labour has been reduced to a fraction of today – meaning that more people will either compete for less jobs that cover less hours than before, and either live on social security benefits (which rely on funds gained from taxes from those who are working) or grow potatoes in their backyards.

Progressives, Social Liberals and Socialists are to a large extent mentally locked to a paradigm that stipulates that taxes should primarily be levied as income taxes. If people are not hired to the same extent any more, due to reduced demand for labour, every subsequent crisis in the capitalist system will inevitably lead to higher long-term and structural unemployment – which would undermine the state’s ability both to gather income and to fund social expenditures.

Under these conditions, it is impossible to recreate the society which existed during the early 1970’s.

Alternate transitionary solutions

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The Earth Organisation for Sustainability is believing that this current form of civilization that we are having on Earth is destroying our eco-systems, not by accident but as a logical conclusion of how it is constructed. We are researching and striving to field test post-monetary models on how to arrange the production factors in order to achieve a sustainable future.

Having said that, we believe in a gradual approach towards a fully sustainable society. This means that we must discuss how money should be designed and used during the transition period, and identify policies that could help in the transition.

Ultimately, the process towards greater automatization should be welcomed as a way of reducing human labour and increasing human quality of life. During the current society, it serves to create a higher degree of uncertainty and a more predatory competition for jobs.

Thus, the idea of a welfare state primarily aimed towards making people find jobs under a situation of full employment is probably moot for our generation, and will only become increasingly unfeasible as automation marches on. Therefore, instead various income floor schemes have to be investigated and discussed.

The tax systems will also need to be reformed, as the shift from Labour to other production factors mean that even if the GDP is growing, the actual tax revenues may either decrese or not increase enough in comparison to the increased expenditures due to more retirements. Therefore, a shift from Labour to Land, Capital or Technology must take place under ordered forms.

If Neo-Socialists can discuss these issues, they will build a firmament on which they can realize many of their aims regarding human well-being and creating a new political narrative. Otherwise, the pendulum will probably swing towards Market Libertarianism, or in the worst case, Fascism.

Human utility

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

There can be said to be two internal structural crises regarding the transformation of the labour market brought by new technologies and the rationalization of the market structure itself. These two crises can be said to be ideological/existential and social. Of these two crises, I will devote this entry to the first, and often overlooked version.

The transformation of labour has meant not only a different environment, but that people – most often from the younger generation – have been forced by the external circumstances to readjust their behaviour, while many of the expectations regarding rights, social obligations, the personal future and the social role of the individual remain the same – which creates a foundation for increased mental fragility and a heightened risk for psycho-social problems.

This problem is mostly prevalent in the developed nations in Europe, North America, Oceania and East Asia, though similar trends can be seen amongst the middle class in the Arab World and the less developed nations of East Asia.

TL;DR summary

  • During the latter half of the 20th century, most western states developed social welfare models that gave broader protection to the people.
  • This was coupled by a period of sustained growth until the 1970’s when the majority of the population attained higher living standards, guaranteed employment and expanded social safety nets.
  • This created room for individualization and for the expansion of lifestyles and subcultures. In a very literal sense, people became liberated from the constraints of survival values.
  • Three generations have grown up under these conditions, and been acclimatised to them.
  • This presents a challenge now when the system is rupturing, and expectations both amongst the political leaders and the various groups of society is not aligned with this rupture.
  • This increases the volatility of the system.
  • It is unlikely a new stable equilibrium within the current socio-economic system can be established, due to exponential and ecological factors.
  • This volatility brings risks but also opportunities.

The age of the Middle Class

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After the Second World War, something happened – which we have come to take for granted now in the western world, but which was unfathomable to the generations who had gone through the two world wars and the Great Depression, namely a period of sustained growth from the late 1940’s until the oil recession of 1973.

This sustained growth happened basically every western country, and transformed the structural composition of the population. Production of consumer goods exploded, farming industrialization led to a sweeping wave of urbanization and sub-urbanization. From economies were only every tenth person had a car, we moved towards economies were one in two adult individuals possessed one.1950s-300x210

Soon, basically everyone owned a car, refrigerator, TV, radio, lawn-mower, stereos, and could afford vacation trips to other parts of the country and even abroad. Of course, in many countries – like for example in large parts of southern Europe and in the United States – there were large swathes of poverty, and stagnating communities as well. For the majority however, things looked increasingly brighter.

And jobs were readily available to anyone willing to have one. Though it was not easy to study at university everywhere, there was no necessity of it, since regular jobs paid enough to sustain a household and generally allow money for other expenditures. Thus, due to the abundance, the culture in western countries was slowly transformed – away from the values of traditional societies.

The new lifestyle market emerged due to and with part-conscious support from the marketing industry, and soon fashion in terms of musical preferences, clothing, brands, experiences and even diets came to be readily applied by the industry, transforming both the economy and the behavioural patterns of the people in the process. While this process can be seen as both emergenet and intentional (to some degree), it is not the focus of our post. The focus rather lies on the fact that three generations of westerners have been individualized.

Individualization

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As you can see on this map, the countries seen as building up the core of the western world are all in the upper right corner, and while some (like Ireland and the United States) are more traditional in terms of their values, they too value self-expression above survival. Cultural essentialists love to claim that these values to some extent always have separated the West from other civilizations (not entirely true, they generally sport the origin of western exceptionalism to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution or the Enlightenment).

However, several distinct transformations happened relatively recent, during the middle to late part of last century.

  • The choice of a romantic partner is moved to a later part in life, and parents and relatives do not any longer generally expect to have a say in the matter. Property and income is less pronounced in the choosing of a partner, though it still indirectly plays a role.
  • Sex is now a recreationary habit, while it before primarily was seen as a way to form a family. Children are no longer seen as an economic investment, but primarily as a way to cement a bonding between two adult individuals (children are also largely seen as an economic burden).
  • The social role of the individual in society is primarily defined by the individual theirself, and that is seen as the legitimate manner in which people define their roles in society.
  • Youths are acclimatised into this thinking through education, where a large part is played (unintentionally perhaps) by the social mores and fashions, and the pecking order organically established on the schoolyard.

I would argue that most of these transformations have been positive, and have served as a liberating force for the individual, who by theirself can make life-decisions that were previously either decided directly or at least largely affected by the expectations of the community. It is however quite easy to see how the struggle for survival creates the foundation for collectivistic values and social mores, while the lack of a need to struggle for survival creates the opportunity for the individual to blossom.

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There are however expectations which individuals in western societies generally are expected to achieve, and are expecting themselves to achieve. In a pre-industrial agrarian society, you are successful if you manage to hold on to what your forebears managed to build. In an early industrial society, you are successful if you manage to build savings to let your children have a better life. In today’s society, however, young people have been accustomed to, are expected to and are expecting themselves to:

  • Earn more than their parents did and receive better-paying jobs.
  • Make good for themselves by having a job and contributing to the economy.
  • Experiencing life and travelling at an early age.
  • Expressing their individuality and attain a sense of “uniqueness”.

These are all laudable life objectives, but the problem is that they are increasingly untenable for young people to achieve, especially in a situation where class differences are becoming more marked, the middle class is stagnating, low-skill jobs are less available due to automatization and the increasing competition of the developing world, high-skill jobs are not increasing in the numbers needed to absorb the increased number of youths with hundreds of thousands in student debt and degrees that lend them jobs on McDonalds.

Not surprisingly, this will cause protracted anger, especially as the system is crumbling more and more under its own self-contradictions.

The existential crisis of the Western Civilization

jeslacasse.com

jeslacasse.com

The social contracts of modern western societies generally entail that people have a right to housing, to food, to water, to electricity (apart from the rights from being exposed to conditions imposed by other humans which are less than desirable). However, these rights have de-facto not needed to be guarded that much since the truth has been that the vast majority of the people in western industrialized societies have been able to guarantee them for themselves due to employment – and those not able to gain access to these life-necessities have most often been caught up by social safety nets that have provided them with what is considered the minimum that an individual could expect from society.

I am not denying the fact that there are those who are destitute and truly homeless, but these are still – luckily – a comparably small group.

In general, the social welfare systems have been dependent on – no matter what country we are talking about – a full employment state, where the revenues are collected through income taxes, and a part of those revenues are redistributed to the part of the adult population that is unable to find work, either permanently or through structural or temporary unemployment. When revenues are not increasing in the same amount as expenditures, then the government must either raise taxes or shrink its obligations. Raising taxes generally reduces the availability for consumption. The prevailing orthodoxy since the 1970’s has generally been tax reductions, since these are presupposed to stimulate the economy by increasing consumption, thereby increasing the amount of readily available jobs.

viewsoftheworld.net

viewsoftheworld.net

Since the population pyramid in most western societies is skewed to the middle, with the largest population share being the bulk of middle-aged citizens and a flattening peak of old people, it is difficult for youths to affect the division of resources with this dwindling resource base, since it is likely that older and more well-connected population segments can negotiate to keep a larger share of the pie, while inexperienced youths find themselves with less and elss opportunities for jobs, housing and education as time passes on.

This has also largely happened, starting already during the 1980’s, and resuming during the 2010’s. Youths are gradually, but at an accelerating pace, thrown into a world that is more ruthless and predatory than that of their parents – of whom many have little understanding or patience for the sense of uncertainty today, instead meaning that youths have become soft like jelly and less prone to work hard and shut up – not realising that it is difficult to even gain a job interview when jobs are scarce and every job has several hundred applicants.

What is problematic is not that youths cannot fulfil their own ambitions, or the ambitions of their parents. It is doubtful if it can be said to be a human right to be successful within the paradigms of consumeristic individualism, and even if it was a right, it is evidently very much on a lower priority than the things that billions of people in the developing world are going through. What is problematic however is when people are living in lives of uncertainty and never know how the next month is going to look like. if they would have to move to another side of the country or if they are getting as many work hours as the previous month.

This is however problematic on a deeper level. If society cannot guarantee housing, income, safety and electricity to all its members, things which are pre-assumed by human rights definitions and national laws, it is putting the democratic concepts of the inclusionary nation-state in conflict with the values of capitalism.

In short, are human beings having an inherent value because of their humanity, or is their worth determined by their economic performance (and them being allowed to performed economically) inside society? Is it human rights that determine human value, or is it human utility, or some combination thereof – and how can we adjust internally in regards to this self-contradiction?

Short-term solutions

basicincome2013.eu

basicincome2013.eu

There are several ways to adjust to this crisis, and at least be able to prolong the social fabric of our societies some more decades than otherwise possible.

  • The shifting of the tax burden to other productive factors, such as capital, land, technology, or to consumption and production, which would mean that the expenses won’t increase (through social welfare) the same way when unemployment rises and revenues are decreasing.
  • The transformation of the social safety net into a simpler model that means that all human beings get money for necessities, without as many control systems to check if they are eligible.

Culturally, there must be changes as well. The awareness that we live in a different society than 1970 has not dawned upon decision-makers in politics, industry and media, especially as the majority of them have not experienced this transformation and what it entails for new-comers on the labour market.

Youths must also adjust their expectations and try to develop their survival skills and understanding of the current system. That does not entail acceptance, and youths must be better to understand the system in order to be able to properly channel their anxiety into the anger necessary to form a movement with political demands. These demands must however not be attached to just changes in how the redistribution patterns are working, but into systemic changes related to the establishment of the post-industrial service economy in the Western world.

However, while the biosphere is slowly collapsed by the joined efforts of humanity, technological development is

A protester carries a petrol bomb during a protest at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. Protesting high school students hurled rocks and bottles during a rally to mark the third anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager in central Athens. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

accelerating, leading to less and less labour hours needed to sustain the same production, meaning that new jobs are not created in the same pace as old jobs are vanishing. Those economies worst affected are those that entered the “High Industrial Age” (1946 – 1973) phase later than the early adopters.

One example is being Greece, which today is in a state of perpetual crisis, that only will deepen as the adherence to the flawed Euro currency system is basically leading to the country relenting what independence it has left in economic matters, and accepting probably this century’s largest redistribution of wealth from the people into the hands of financial capital. This also shows that the current political establishment and the current political paradigm is directed towards protecting the interests of the system before the interests of the people.

Summary

In the western world, technology – which was a liberating force during the previous eras of the Industrial Age – has turned into a factor that greatly upsets the social order and is forcing a change of the expectations that we have been accustomed to have. This does not mean that technological development should be stopped, in fact, technological development must necessarily be consciously utilised in the process of creating an integrated civilization that can monitor the environmental factors of the Earth and allow us to reduce our impact in as intelligent a manner as possible.

However, technology is a destructive force in regards to how it affects both the ways in which social safety nets operate and how the labour market is shrinking of available hours, leading to more competition horizontally and more strained relations both vertically and between generations.

The first thing that youths must realise is this relationship between technological development and the difficulty to land one-self a full-time employment today. Internalization of emotions of guilt, worthlessness and a sense of being meaningless is leading to the collapse of the self and is a certain path to becoming depressed and losing all the will to struggle. However, that it isn’t your guilt does not mean that you do not need to adapt to changed circumstances.

Finally, the Earth Organisation of Sustainability must talk about these issues and try to establish why our alternative is plausible and why it is essential to struggle, not only for the future of individuals, or or humanity, but of the future of our very planet.

BRICS vs the West

BRICS_heads_of_state_and_government_hold_hands_ahead_of_the_2014_G-20_summit_in_Brisbane,_Australia_(Agencia_Brasil)

By Enrique Lescure                 

Introduction

Francis Fukuyama coined the term “end of history” in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The bipolar world, divided between the Capitalistic and Socialistic blocs, was no more, and was replaced with a world characterised by unipolar hegemony by the United States, and the strengthening of supranational institutions aiming to create a world with harmonised systems pertaining the operations of markets – in order to consolidate and expand a system of globalised financial capitalism and the norms and values it was based upon. The latest incarnation of this strivance towards capital convergence are the free trade agreements of the TPP and the TTIP.

However, this narrative of greater global harmony and a harmonisation towards a world order characterised by the universal adoption of modern western values are challenged by the (re)emergence of major non-western powers, that arrange themselves with a web of cooperation agreements that circumvent the Western sphere.

Ultimately, the issue is about whether we should have a world governed by trans-national institutions that are built to support the current paradigm of a world under the increasing control of multi-national corporations, or if we should move (back) towards a world characterised by great powers with exclusive rights to “spheres of interest”. Neither of these two options seem to be very attractive, but understanding the innate conflict between the BRICS and the West would help us to understand what kind of world we are living in today and towards where we are moving.

Some hard, basic facts

D_GeR

Human beings throughout the world are largely organised in de-facto hierarchical structures which ultimately are built on brute force. There have been human societies which from the beginning have been egalitarian and peaceful, but those societies have generally been absorbed by aforementioned hierarchical societies. A hierarchical society is generally built on the foundations of an elite which exerts control – either directly or indirectly – over a state, which in its turn exerts direct control over armed civilian and military forces.

The purpose of most states is to uphold law and order and to maintain stability. A seldom openly expressed part of the “keep stability”-aspect of the state’s goals is to protect the interests of the elite and maintaining the status quo. Meanwhile, the general population would accept this as long as their own security and their ability to pursue their own livelihood is not infringed on.

This “power ideology” of preserving the elite and the state underlies basically all other ideologies – no matter what social and socio-economic system we are talking about. It is not pretty – in fact it is often very disgusting and horrendous. However, experiences have shown that abolishing the state through force often leads either to the breakdown of civilised society or the turn towards an even more violent state (consolidated states are often less repressive than newly established ones, mainly because newly established states have not yet attained legitimacy in the eyes of the population).

With this I would not claim that all states are equally tyrannical. For example, the Nordic states are less repressive in many regards than for example the United States, when it comes to the usage of force against their own population if needs would arise. The United States in its turn, is a far more accountable social arrangement than for example the Russian Federation, where officials and oligarchs can prey on ordinary citizens with impunity – and finally Russia is probably a far more safe society than North Korea, Haiti and the Islamic State.

However, the hierarchical power relationship exists in different degrees in all these societies, though it varies through times.

Ultimately, what has characterised the history of the world’s civilizations has been a struggle between the elites of different societies in establishing sovereign spheres of interest, or in case of small peripheral states like Sweden, Cuba and Qatar, establishing their own national sovereignty and ensuring the safety of their elite and citizens.

The United States found itself as the world’s hegemon during the 90’s, and moved towards strengthening international institutions and easening trade regulations during the Clinton Presidency, with the implicit goal of securing status quo by creating a supranational elite not tied to any particular nation-state, and to secure economic growth and thereby security by keeping the oceans open.

While the states of the world would renounce their economic sovereignty to multi-national corporations and supranational military_by_country_spending-by-countryinstitutions, the political borders and recognised states of the world would be protected by the international system headed by American leadership. There are two reasons for this, firstly to reduce the threats towards trade and stability, and secondly to attain tools to prevent aspiring regional great powers from carving out interest spheres.

This order rests on three legs, namely international treaties (a legalistic framework), continued economic growth (an insurance against political instability) and American military power (since the Gulf War a viable threat to aspiring regional powers).

What the BRICS are and how to understand them

index

The BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The BRICS can be understood as an economic acronym denoting five emerging large economies in the non-western world. It can also be understood as a collaboration between five regional great powers regarding economic issues. What BRICS ultimately is, however, can be understood in terms of the Eurasian landmass, where three of the four BRICS powers are not only located, but also are directly bordering one another. Two of the five BRICS powers contain almost ten times the population of the other three powers together.

However, if we want to understand the BRICS, we need to understand it as a part of the reapproachment between China and Russia, two regional powers that complete one another in many regards (Russia has ICBM’s and vast natural resources, China has capital and an oversupply of labour) and who also both desire to increase their influence in two regions – at the expense of the American-led world order.

This does not say that there are regions where both powers compete and where they potentially could clash in the future, but neither power is interested in a confrontation, mostly because both powers feel that their primary geopolitical problem is related to security and a sense of curtailment by the West – Russia in eastern Europe and China in the sea region outside of their Pacific Coast.

While India is economically important, the main reason for the inclusion of India in the cooperation is that India and China have been adversaries since China’s annexation of Tibet in 1950 and the Sino-Indian border conflicts of the 1960’s. While India has always had good relations with the Soviet Union and its successor state the Russian Federation, China has been an ally of India’s adversary Pakistan and has been perceived as a great threat to the north.

India – sheltered as it is by the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Arakans – is more concerned with keeping economic growth and preventing ethnic and religious separatism than with expanding their influence beyond their borders (though they have engaged themselves in neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the United States has generally not opposed the Indian sphere of interest very much).

Lastly, the inclusion of South Africa and Brazil is mutually beneficial both for the great Asian powers and for the non-Asian powers involved, since it will give the Asian powers access to resources from Latin America and Africa, and the ability to project their power there, while South Africa and especially Brazil are recognised as great powers and can gain increased investments from Asia, so to diversify the capital invested within their economies.

In terms of agenda, however, India, Brazil and South Africa are not aiming primarily to expand their spheres of interest, but rather to maintain themselves and secure their economic growth, whereas Russia and China are the two main powers with an agency inside the context of the BRICS.

What is the ideology of the BRICS?

Ultimately, the ideology of the BRICS is one which asserts the perceived right for non-western elites to replicate western neo-imperialism within their own spheres, to exert control of their context of economic growth, while still adhering to the values and norms of the growth-oriented model of globalization. Therefore, the BRICS cannot be seen as a progressive force in relation to the power structures of the world, since the aim is not to transform the power structures but to attain them and shape them after the needs of Asian and Third World elites.

At the same time, it is dubious whether the view that the United States is facing Russia alone in Europe and China alone in Asia is correct. While China is undoubtly taking advantage of the Saudi-created fiscal crisis in Russia, China would not strive towards the collapse of the Putinist regime in Russia – because that would weaken the Chinese position in a short time-frame.

What has brought China and Russia together has been the increased western security entanglements in the border regions perceived as vital by both powers. Nixon managed to coax China into an informal alliance with the US against the Soviet Union, through giving China what they desired (recognition and weapons), but nowadays, giving either China or Russia what they desire would lead to the jeopardization of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of key western allies (The Republic of China, the Baltic States, etc).

The future is dark and full of errors

Iraq-soldier-001

This decade began with the Arab Spring, which saw many dictatorships in the Middle East and Northern Africa collapse, with four states having turned into failed states. While economic growth and urbanization have brought hundreds of millions out of abject poverty, unsatisfied demands for political influence amongst the population as well as stress factors caused by the depletion of natural resources have driven and will drive societies towards the verge of political collapse.

This will increase the number of areas in the world where crises can emerge. Moreover, China and India are two societies which consist of entire civilizations, which have constantly increasing needs for securing their energy and food supplies – while both societies have political institutions badly adapted towards handling sudden stress factors. This could prompt more and more interventions in the future, and therefore increasing flashpoints between the West and the non-western world.

This is very bad, since what we need for the world in the future is not a race between great powers to deplete what natural resources are left, but a concerted effort by human beings, states, organisations and businesses to move towards a sustainable future for the human race. This can only be done through cooperation, sacrifices and a realisation that either we all will become winners together, or we will lose separately.

The EOS position

projourno.org

projourno.org

We denounce the idea of taking sides in a struggle which is happening within a narrative that is thoroughly based on the sham-work that is today’s growth-oriented paradigm. Yes, it is true that the Anglo-American and European powers have engaged in ruthless exploitation of Asia, Africa and Latin America for 500 years. And yes, it is true that within the BRICS powers, corruption and human rights violations are running rampant.

Ultimately, little of that will matter when we are down to our last fresh-water reservoirs, when the soils of the Earth are depleted of their nourishment, when climate change forces migrations of hundreds of millions, and when eco-system after eco-system collapses.

What is important is to increase our presence in social media and to convey a positive message of a realistic, attainable and better future for humanity, and to engage people to take part in the transition from our current paradigm into a new one that is based on the physical reality of our planet. This means that we must work to strengthen the legitimacy of international institutions, protect human rights and try to stay clear from cheering on one or the other side.

Our primary loyalty must under all circumstances be towards Terra, our common home.

stock-footage-people-dancing-together-around-shining-earth-earth-map-courtesy-of-nasa

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On Survivalism

govolontourism.com

govolontourism.com

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

During this century, there will be three major challenges that will undoubtly mean that whatever happens, we will live in a different civilization in a hundred years. These challenges can be summed up as ecology, society and technology, and each of them will serve to shift but also tear our species into differing directions – as well as forcing each and everyone of us to adapt to transformative circumstances.

If you are content with the current society and with its shape, that is bad news. Everything you have prepared for the future of yourself and maybe your family is put into jeopardy, and there is no way to know where we will be in ten years.

On the other hand, if you want to challenge yourself and improve on your skills, it does not need to be bad news, and may in fact be the catalyst that makes you take control over your right to choose your own destiny.

This post will try to connect what many people are finding hard to grasp, namely that what we cause in terms of degradation eventually will have not only indirect but direct and immediate effects on their ability to uphold their daily lives. It will describe what most political scientists today would see as an impossibility in well-developed western societies, but which I argue not only is possible, but also likely – namely a significant loss of complexity.

Or in other words, a social collapse.

The majority of the western world consists of an urban population used to having food, electricity, clean water, warmth and social institutions at least accessible, and for most people provided for what they expect to be their life. Sure, people are expected to commit their work in order to afford a livelihood, but most people are living within safety nets, where the main worries are either how they should maintain their income or if they can manage to become promoted to higher incomes. Yet, people are fundamentally dependent in a western society, on energy, global food transport networks, flowing water and functioning authorities.

If a social collapse occurs, the state will not be able to provide for infrastructure or guarantee safety of transport, and that would leave it to communities to manage themselves and their own affairs. This could create a significant and particular vulnerability in western societies, since westerners generally are not accustomed to be self-sufficient.

Therefore, it is of pivotal importance, especially if the amount of stressors multiply during the course of this century, that subsequent generations of westerners learn how to grow food, produce electricity, build and repair machines and also how to defend themselves.

Even if society does not suffer a loss of complexity, such knowledge and experiences can serve to increase self-confidence and skills which may be utilized both to improve personal well-being as well as preparing the soil towards the transition to resilient and sustainable communities.

Vulnerability

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

You are all familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Good. What I will argue is that this hierarchy can also be applied onto human societies. Most human societies during history have been constructed as pyramids, where the majority of people were born to give up their surplus in order for security, and in order for elites to experience the three uppermost levels of the pyramid. The rest of the population were left on the bottom two or three levels.

The same can be applied for human beings today, and worse. In most of the world, the state is a corrupt and distant entity which exist to protect the well-being of small elites, while most people are scraping on the barrels from the bottom of society. You all know of the favelas of Brazil, the slums of Monrovia, the destitution on the Indian countryside and the carnage of Syria. For most human beings on Earth, life is brutal.

Western societies during the 20th century reaped the fruits sown by 19th century industrialism and imperialism, and came to invent ways for the state to redistribute wealth from production and economic growth into general safety nets for all citizens, while the economic activities enriched a large middle class. While you who read this blog know that we have built our prosperity on unsustainable foundations and on a socio-economoc system which will destroy itself and the current biosphere, that is not the focus of this post.

Thing is, if security and physiological needs are taken as given, human beings will not learn how to survive, or how to cope when stressors multiply on those fronts. The risk emerges for anarchy to take hold, especially in an increasingly disparate, diverse and unequal context.

During the agricultural era, it was usual that agricultural societies experienced sustained periods of growth, followed by kpw0-i-6f49periods of decline and loss of complexity. Some civilizations, such as the Rapanui and the Mayans, never really recovered from their decline phases, while others – for example on the Eurasian landmass – experienced multiple growth and decline phases. Usually on this blog, we are searching for ecological factors on how to explain decline.

Ibn Khaldun (a North African scholar and political scientist who lived during the 14th century), searched for sociological explanations behind the rise and decline of kingdoms. Since climate measurements and statistics (apart from censuses) were largely unknown, Khaldun looked at the quality of the ruling families of the feudal and despotic monarchies of the Islamic world, and he discovered a pattern.

Usually [according to Khaldun], dynasties emerged from the harsh desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa and conquered civilized cities, setting up their patriarch as Sultan. As the generations pass by, the barbarian rulers are slowly integrated into the “decadence” of the cities, and become soft, until they are overthrown by another barbarian army/tribal confederation from the deserts.

The lesson from this is that exposure to hardships can ultimately make people superior at survival and adaption, while luxuries and opulence can turn people ill-equipped to deal with challenges. Even if people are alert and skilled, civilized urban life can reduce the ambitions of the individual and of the family into adaption in relations to the expectations of the dominant culture – which in our contemporary case eschews manual labour and views it as inferior to being an office clerk, an architect or a designer (conversely, I remember when I was a young lad and we had relatives who were diplomats visiting us – the diplomat in question could not figure how to equip or start a water hose).

Given that, political scientists – much alike economists – generally assume that advanced industrial or post-industrial societies cannot possibly collapse. They can get worse in terms of their economic performance, or their political liberties. But the thought of the Kingdom of Sweden (for example) turning into a dictatorship, or outright collapsing of the state institutions, is unthinkable. Only swivel-eyed extremists would assume that would be a possibility. The idea seems to be that if our society has reached a particular stage of development, it would most likely continue to improve, democratically and economically, because it has improved since the 1940’s, and if it is suffering a loss of complexity, that loss would be limited.

Of course, there are also political reasons why for example political scientists cannot make a statement indicating that our society can collapse – because that would empower those extremists who seek to overthrow the established order and replace it with their own ideology, and because it will lower the confidence of people in the system. Every system throughout history has been reliant on the myth of its own stability and the notion of an impossibility that it could collapse. It should however be noted that there are different and more sober – or maybe somewhat more paranoid – accessments within the security establishment and amongst military analysts.

Given that, the desire to have largely dependent and docile citizens who live in urban centres to maximise economic activities in the post-industrial service economy can contribute to making us more vulnerable, as well as our reliance on the Ricardian drive to increase the efficiency and growth rate of the economy by replacing local and diversified production with increased large-scale specialisation and dependency on imports. This would for example mean that if trade is disturbed in Europe, many smaller countries would not be able to feed themselves.

Therefore, wise survivalism may serve to increase the resilience and therefore the stability of society, and make people more adjusted and prepared for a transition towards a sustainable society.

The wrong way

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Mostly in the South of the United States, there is a large, predominantly white a semi-rural subculture of “preppers” and survivalists, either alone or organised in militias. This subculture is largely conservative and some off-shoots are even far right or outright national socialist in their outlook. The culture is characterised by:

1) A high degree of individualism; bunkers, escape tunnels and weapon stashes hidden under suburban and rural villas.

2) An emphasis on weapons, with a preference for terrain vehicles and semi-automatic rifles.

3) An emphasis on masculinity and target practice at conventions.

It is needless to say that this kind of culture views other groups with hostile suspicion at best, and as outright malicious at worst. This particular culture is also hostile to the government, to the United Nations and is very much existing in an information reality where environmentalism – even in its least radical form – is really a socialist ploy in order to expand government control.

Even if it wasn’t for it, an emphasis on weapons and martialism will attract the kind of followers that not only are willing to use weapons, but are hoping to use them, as well as increasing the likelihood for conflict. Thus, this form of Militarist Survivalism which is existing in the US is not something which should be held up as a good example or replicated. In fact, it will probably mostly serve to make collapse conditions worse in the long run.

The right way

theurbanfarmer.ca

theurbanfarmer.ca

There cannot be said to exist one right way to organise local communities for resilience, but there exist ways in which to improve situations. Local conditions can vary very much between different places, so different approaches must be taken by local groups in order to increase resilience.

Firstly, the community needs to communicate within itself and with its neighbours, and aim to establish friendly relationships, or if not possible, respectful and equal relationships with its neighbours. It must communicate with local political and bureaucratic authorities and try to establish as much common ground as possible with them. One important emphasis is conflict management and how to reduce the risk that conflicts between social and ethnic groups emerge. I believe that the EOS can play a significant role in such processes locally.

Thus, survivalism is not primarily a matter for the individual, but a matter for the individual within the context of a community. People must learn how to produce their own food and energy, and must form sharing networks and common information pools.

There needs to be an emphasis on knowledge and on what risks and opportunities can emerge when conditions are rapidly changing in the surrounding society, for example if trade is breaking down due to wars or ecological disasters. Routines can then be established and become the basis of exercises that intend to prepare the local community for disturbances.

As much as possible, survival should also be about inclusion, not exclusion. There must be broad values, a focus on solutions, and a high degree of transparency and trust. This also includes an immunity to exaggerations and rumours and a willingness and ability to try to verify information before decisions have been made. There must also be an emphasis on combatting grand conspiracy thinking, but not through control or stigmatisation of opinion. Rather, we must equip both the current and future generations with the means to identify and call out bad generalisations and flawed chains of argumentation.

Summary

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We in the developed world are now standing before a storm, and we are eating ice-cream. The EOS has a deep paedagogic challenge before itself, and we must not only improve our social media presence, but also emphasise how individual human beings and families can be affected by the stress factors caused by the collapse of our socio-economic system and of our environment. However, we must always be sober and eschew alarmism and defaitism – instead providing the people with the tools and with the confidence for them to be able to take control over their situation and establish local and regional resilience and sustainability.

Positive Survivalism is a powerful tool in this regard, but we must at the same time be cautious so we do not preach negative survivalism or contribute to the emergence of groups spreading ripples of destructive memes or messages. We must look to convey ourselves in a manner that can unify communities, individuals and organisations in trust towards the achievement of common goals.

This ability would be essential during the years ahead, when the common trust and strength of our societies can become strained beyond their limits by sudden calamities. The EOS must sow the seeds of cooperation and hospitality and act as a bridge between disparate groups, to unify them in the struggle to save human civilization.

Intelligent cities as a step towards a technate

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog. Ideally, it will mean the formation of a self-aware infrastructure that allows the public to have a full picture over our local, regional and global usage of resources. Such a system that monitors resource flows and includes the public to participate in the monitoring processes and the decision-making can be designed in various differing forms – but if the form is adhering to the definition laid forth previously in this sentence, the system can be called a technate.

This article will argue that the technological development in the spheres of information technology, and how it integrates with infrastructure and resource monitoring in terms of so-called intelligent cities – is an engine that drives society towards adopting the technate model as a standard for the future.

This is fundamentally a positive development, since it creates a model for data gathering that allows decisions to be made with better access to data and less flawed information, as well as creating a unified data pool which can alleviate some of the problems with multiple reality consensuses at the same time.

However, the transition towards a technate model also poses a few risks. For example, it might be used to control the citizens rather than to monitor the resource flows. Therefore, there needs to be a holonic model with checks and balances instituted both by design and through legalistic and institutional/cultural means.

What is a technate

gizmodo.com

gizmodo.com

What is a technate?

The shortest possible definition is a technical operational geographic area in terms of resources, infrastructure and technology. It is not a government, nor a socio-economic system (a technate can exist and support any kind of economic system adapted to modern-era and cybernetic-era technology), but basically infrastructure managing itself consciously. It can range anywhere from total centralization within the context of a singleton or The Venus Project, into anarchic de-centralization or holonic self-governance. So there is no single clear definition, and even if a technate is established and consolidated, that technate would undoubtly not be the same after a century has passed.

Within the EOS, we hold that forms should be adapted after functions, not the other way around, and the two limiting factors should be our values and the Earth. With this in regard, we do not believe that there will be a single date in history when the technate will be “declared”, just like the Industrial Revolution was not declared by a political statement or celebration.

Rather, what increasingly appears as the most realistic way for a technate to emerge is through an organic evolutionary approach, where information technology is integrated into infrastructure, appliances, vehicles, industrial resource flows, products and recycling centres, which means that what was previously an “unintelligent” economy driven by insufficient information gradually will become more and more self-aware, and the bottlenecks will be reduced to conscious attempts by industries to separate themselves from the grid or to conscious political decisions to protect traditional forms of industrial management with legislations and use of force. Another threat is of course viruses, which can serve to offset the transition.

What is an Intelligent City?

beinformed.com

beinformed.com

It is really difficult to really spot a difference between a technate and an intelligent city. In many ways an intelligent city as defined by most actors striving to establish such cities is what the EOS defines as a proto-technate, namely an incomplete technate or a hybrid between today’s industrial system and a technate.

Intelligent cities are cities which utilize the emergent “Internet of Things” to monitor the status of various functions in society, such as utilities, waste management, energy and collective transit. This allows for more information to be shared and decisions to be made faster and with better information at the disposal of the decision-makers. Here is a comparison between intelligent cities in China and the European Union.

What is needed in order to transition from an Intelligent city to a Technate?

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The only thing that is needed is that the current trends continue to their logical conclusion, in terms of depth and scope. In terms of depth, it would mean that we would strive to be able to monitor all resource flows and include better and better monitoring systems to improve performance. This information will not be used only to manage the current system as efficiently as possible, but also to transcend towards a more circular system by finding and eliminating bottlenecks and identifying areas where different actors can converge to create symbiotic interrelationships between for example food-, energy- and waste management, increase the level of participation in local communities and localise production to increase the resilience and autonomy of the citizens, as well as increasing the self-confidence of communities in managing their own destiny.

In terms of scope, we can not stay happy with only looking at the resource management of a city. No matter if a city is a local town or a super-metropolis, most interconnected cities in the the developed world are today consuming resources from the entire planet. We need to extend the monitoring of the flows to the original source of the resources, both to allow citizens to make informed and ethical consumer choices, and in order to extend sustainability beyond the city’s borders. Thus, we would get an emergent living data bank that would serve to increase our collective intelligence, empathy and wisdom and can help decision-makers from politicians to managers to citizens to make better and more informed decisions, and encourage them to take initiatives to improve the flow where they can see it is lacking.

Risks and challenges

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One of the main issues regarding this transition from industrial cities to intelligent cities to emergent proto-technates is the risk that it could serve to centralize power into the hands of unaccountable elites and that information rather than being open and transparent regarding the flows and regarding administrative accountability will be inaccessible for ordinary citizens through technological centralization into the hands of organised financial capital, and that the powers that be will use legal frameworks to shield themselves from public inquiries while utilizing the technology to install surveillance policies over the general population in the names of terrorism and intellectual property rights.

Another problem which shall not be omitted is when corporations assume the ownership of utilities and local natural resources, leading to the people being excluded from vital parts of their own lives. This would serve to threaten the social autonomy of communities and put the control into the hands of interested parties whose lives are not affected by worsening local living conditions.

What the EOS can do in this regard is to connect groups and initialize projects aimed towards utilizing these new emerging ways of using information technology into supporting local communities. We need to act as a transmitter of knowledge and technology to local communities in order to strengthen their confidence and their autonomy, and to ensure that technology is utilized in accordance with responsible, sustainable and transparent methodologies and goals. The people needs to be included in the transformation towards an intelligent civilization, otherwise there is a great risk that the new technologies would be utilized to cement the narrative of power we increasingly have seen emerge since the 1970’s.

Conclusion

thevenusproject.com

thevenusproject.com

Today we are moving towards an integrated society, where Information Technology soon will connect the infrastructure in an information flow. The Earth Organisation for Sustainability must actively and consciously emerge in this process in order to shift the emphasis towards inclusive technology that is utilized to increase the knowledge, participation and autonomy of local communities, in a manner which empowers individual citizens and give them power over their own lives.

The development towards intelligent cities is ultimately a positive force, but it is a force which must be introduced in a manner where all of society participates and shapes the future, rather than small elite groups. Therefore, our main goal at the moment must be to engage communities in projects that utilize technology, and form networks with said communities where they can interact and transform themselves to better adapt to the conditions of the future.

Our goal must be to play a substantial positive part in this transformation.

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