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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On politics

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

With regular intervals, we are contacted by people who appreciate the EOS very much, but wonder why we are not forming a party and engage ourselves in parliamentary politics. I feel that these concerns merit a response, since I’ve heard these questions numerous times.

The foremost response is that we do not at this point know whether The Design will work in its current form. We need to focus on being able to test it on a limited scale before attempting to implement any transitional plan in society at large.

That’s the main reason.

However, even if we for certain knew that The Design would work, there are still many factors that we must weigh in when deciding what strategies we should pursue when interacting with society. We need to establish a list of available options considering our resources and our ethical guidelines, and apply them wisely.

Overall, all indicators point that forming a party and entering parliamentary politics is one  of the least effective ways of distributing time, energy and resources for a movement.

TL;DR

  • Politics is by definition a zero-sum game.
  • Party systems with 2-10 parties tend to form and to become fairly stable and contain a predictable stage of parties.
  • Political parties are in today’s society generally prisoners of the concerns of their own membership base and the general public.
  • Mass media has taken over the role in mobilizing the masses in general.
  • By forming a party, you will marginalise yourself, but there are other strategies to attain political influence.

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Politics in western countries

Since the EOS as an organisation is based in Western Europe, we would definitely encounter the logics of Western politics if we decide to form a political party and stand in elections.

There are several different types of electoral systems in western countries, most of which implicitly seeks to create manageable parliamentary systems. In the Anglo-American sphere, the usual manner in which politicians are elected is through First Past the Post, a system which almost deliberately serves to reduce the amount of choice and force through situations where voters primarily seek to block the candidate they don’t like.

Other countries either use proportional systems, or mixed systems, usually with a limit for entrance into parliamentary politics of around 3 – 5% of the active electorate in every election.

That could sound like a small amount, but in a country with circa 10 million people, 7 million of whom are eligible voters of whom six in seven are voting makes for hundreds of thousands of votes. A quick glance on this chart shows how many votes parties in Sweden (a relatively small country) would need to get to be represented.

Moreover, the same kind of parties tend to emerge in most western countries. There tends to be a large left-of-centre party and a large right-of-centre party in most countries, whether they are two-party or multi-party systems. Even the smaller parties tend to have a similar role distribution in multi-party systems. You will always be able to find an ex-communist party, a farmer’s party, smaller liberal or conservative parties, a green party and a xenophobic party.

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 Coalition-building

There are several dilemmas of parliamentary systems, the foremost which is that politicians are supposed to be elected to carry out the promises to their constituents, but only are able to carry out said promises with the support of a parliamentary majority. I think we all have seen US presidents aiming to install reforms that have stalled in a Congress dominated by the opposing party.

In multi-party systems, minor parties usually have to choose between using their parliamentary platform as a stage ground for political campaigns, or to become the junior coalition partner in a government. The latter option often means that they have to give up 70-80% of what they desire in return for achieving 20-30%. It also means that they would have to accept things which are really detested by their voters (one example being how many green voters in Sweden reacted to the recent migration deal).

Ultimately, most western states (by which I mean European states) are run by coalition governments, headed by either a large left-centrist party or a large right-centrist party, supported by one or several minor parties to lock down the necessary parliamentary majority.

That is because most voters – unless there would be a complete crisis as in Greece – generally vote for the parties which are deemed most respectable and moderate. Most voters are as a rule supportive of the political consensus and want to believe in it since they have invested their mortgages and loans into the system.

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The Role of Media

Most people still are receiving their main source of information regarding the world from Television, Newspapers and online representations of mainstream media. Due to competition between privately owned media corporations, these sources are compelled to sell in “clickbaits”. Such clickbaits are often characterised by images of scantily clad representatives of the female gender, news about gruesome murders and celebrity news (the ideal is probably all three combined), all marked by deceptively attractive headlines.

These tendencies have increased in frequency and intensity since the mass consumption society was formed during the 1950’s. Nowadays, newspapers directed towards the working class mostly contain celebrity gossip, sex and violence. It becomes ironic when said newspapers in the same time present themselves as the defenders of human rights, decency, minorities and democracy, while they play an important role in desensitizing human beings regarding violence.

I would claim that the way in which mainstream media and “celebrity news media” choose and present their material for distribution is one of the greatest threats against the civic ideals necessary to uphold a functioning liberal democracy. Instead of striving to create a public spirit characterised by moderation, skepticism and critical thinking, this methodology strives to engage the baser urges of humanity, namely sex, violence and gossip – presenting it in an uncritical manner. The great danger is that it sends a message that it is not only “ok” to be anti-intellectual and driven entirely by impulses, but that it is somehow virtuous.

The clickbait culture also fuels a tendency to reduce one’s attention span (probably as an unconscious defence mechanism for one’s sanity) until most people have an attention span for less than a minute (which is damning for any political programme which demands five minutes or more to be explained).

This tendency has also crept into politics, leading to an individualization and celebritization of political discourse. It means that instead of focusing on important issues that will determine the future of our society, media is generally pre-occupied with emotionally engaging issues and demanding that politicians act immediately based entirely on emotional factors. This fosters a view on politics where politicians are assumed to just be able to make decisions whether we should have good or bad weather – which de-facto means that mass media is spreading an image of our systems in the west which has no relation with how our systems actually are built.

One example is when Barack Obama fails to pass legislation through Congress, and media is consequently painting him as ineffectual, omitting that the Congress is run by the Republican Party which had as a policy to try to make him fail in his reform programme during his first tenure in office.

Media also often reacts impulsively and generalises reality out of single cases. For example, if an immigrant is murdering two people, suddenly “all immigrants are coming to our shores and murdering people with knives and axes, and we need to close our borders otherwise we’ll be overrun by Islam”. The next week, maybe an immigrant child is drowning in the Mediterranean, and then the message is “we need to open up our borders and put down all Identity and health controls, for otherwise children will drown in the Mediterranean”.

If the perception is that the public wants emotional leaders who make decisions in relation to what mass media is presenting every week, politicians will adapt their public rhetoric and appearances with the discourse presented by media. This is a very tragic process and undermines the spirit of democracy.

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In short, mass media creates a culture of clickbaits to stimulate the baser cravings of the public. The public rewards media by buying newspapers, watching TV channels and clicking on articles. Since mass media also takes on the role of presenting reality, this gives them a legitimacy which they can use to influence the political discourse.

Often, mass media chooses to put the spotlight on certain protest groups, which may or may not represent a majority of the electorate. The politicians – which have learnt that their careers could stand or fall on the whim of the media houses – usually cave in to the demands of mass media, thereby awarding mass media extra legitimacy points.

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On the surface, this means that we live in a “Spin City democracy”, where the main concern of decision-makers is to be presented in good spotlight by mass media rather than to try to serve the electorate with some kind of consistent vision and fulfilling the spirit of their promises. Often, symbolical issues like religious clothing, nudity on bath houses, a student being discriminated against or males that are breast-feeding become more hot topics than really important subjects that will affect everyone. It can be discussed of whether such a discourse is an unintentional effect of the nature of the media landscape or a form of intentional conspiracy.

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 Really important issues

Really important issues, such as the European Union reforms, new surveillance programmes, international free trade agreements and foreign policy issues that regard the Middle East and Europe-Russia-relations… are simply not covered extensively.

That means that if a new political party would emerge and put emphasis on such issues, the public would simply not be able to comprehend such a programme since it doesn’t have the frames of reference provided by the media. It is not important whether it is an intentional design to keep the public away from important issues, or if it’s an unintentional consequence.

The Pirate Parties have suffered this fate, since the public perception of them is that they just are populist parties that want to legalize pirating of copyrighted material and pot, rather than that they engage in an important struggle against an emerging international surveillance state.

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Another way to affect politically

An observant reader might criticise my statements regarding western politics for being pessimistic. I mean that it is almost impossible for a new party based around serious issues that cannot easily be reduced to clickbaits to emerge as a serious player in national politics.

Also, it is nearly impossible for a smaller party to become a large party. If it refuses to partake in coalition governments, it cannot attract the moderate centrist voters needed to grow. If it partakes in coalition governments, it will either lose core supporters or attract supporters to the senior partner in the coalition.

It will also have to deal with  a hostile, indifferent mass media which want information consumers to be impulsive and have the attention span of fruit flies.

There is however a far superior way to engage with politics, and that is to form think tanks.

Think tanks act as political research facilities, political consultants and framers of political discourses. Parties try to contain some of the same functions within them, but are constrained by the need to win votes and pander to mass media. Think tanks can operate independently, and paradoxically engage larger groups of the electorate by courting political parties that already are established.

One example is how the libertarian activist group “the Freedom Front” in Sweden inspired the formation of both a libertarian political party and a libertarian think tank. The party at this day (the Klassiskt Liberala Partiet) have gathered less than a thousand votes, whereas the think tank during one period remote-controlled the Centre Party, a party with hundreds of thousands of votes.

The ethics of such politics are discussable, but then again, the ethics of the entire political system as it works today in a liberal western democracy is discussable.

If we engage in politics, we should definitely do so in a form similar to a think tank, not a political party. That means that we would be able to communicate with all parties in parliaments and operate trans-nationally as well.

The 15-11-24 Incident and geopolitical ramifications

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Not since the days of the Cold War have we been as close to a direct military confrontation between Russia and the West (represented by NATO) as today. The 2015.11.24 Incident I refer to is of course the event when two Turkish F16 planes downed a Russian Su-24. The graveness of the situation is accentuated by the fact that one of the two Su-24 pilots was killed by Syrian rebels when he landed (which directly contradicts the Turkish claims that the plane was violating Turkish air-space).

Theoretically, Russia could choose to respond in line, thereby activating Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, stipulating that if one NATO member is attacked by a non-NATO member, the other members of NATO have a collective responsibility to defend the attacked party.

Major wars have been initiated by minor incidents like these before. The First World war began due to the murder of the Austro-Hungarian heir. The Second World war ignited because of the status of a League of Nations-administered city on the Baltic Sea coast.

This is indeed a very dangerous situation. In order to understand what will most likely happen, we must understand the likely reason why this happened now, what the motivations are (since I as a political scientist strongly suspect that this was deliberate) and what the various actors hope to achieve.

TL;DR summary

  • Turkey and Russia have almost always since the 16th century, bar from a period during the 20th century, had competing geopolitical interests.
  • Syria, a heterogeneous powderkeg located between Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, has almost always been a region of contention between empires.
  • Russia is ultimately in a status of partial recovery from the hiatus of the 1990’s, while Turkey is an emergent great power.
  • Both Russia and Turkey are governed by de-facto autocrats who are partially building their legitimacy on a strongman image.
  • Russia and the West have supported different sides in the Syrian Civil War since it began.
  • The Bataclan terror attack in Paris has led to an increased pressure for West European powers to respond to the Islamic State, leading to talks with Moscow.
  • The 15.11.24 incident is ultimately an attempt by Turkey to prevent the emergence of a NATO-Russia consensus on the Syrian Civil War.

Background

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The Zaparozhye Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan *oil on canvas *358 × 203 cm *signed b.c.: И.Репин 1880-91

The Ottoman Empire, the precursor to the modern Turkish state, and the Moscow Tsardom, the precursor of the various incarnations of the modern Russian state, both emerged during the late 15th century as players in the eastern European periphery, the first one controlling the south-east corner and the second one the north-east corner.

Russia emerged in a state of constant conflict with Turko-Mongol khanates located on the steppes, crushing the Golden Horde and two of its three successor states – the Astrakhan and Kazan khanates.

The third successor state, the Crimean Khanate, was kept in suspended animation by becoming an Ottoman vassal state. With the support of their powerful backer in Constantinople, the Crimean Tartars managed to survive until 1783, when Catherine the Great abolished the Khanate and annexed it to Russia, initiating a colonisation of Crimea with ethnic Russians.

The accession of Crimea to Russia ended the phase when Turkey played offensively. During the 19th century, Russia made inroads in Central Asia, the Caucasus region and the Balkans, contributing to the liberation of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, and waging several large-scale wars against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1914 – 1924, following the re-ordering of the world after WW1, the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and the Orthodox Russian Empire was replaced with the Marxist-Leninist Soviet Union, which re-oriented the geopolitical aims of Russia west instead of south.

Turkey found itself as a minor player in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, desperately oriented towards western powers in order to modernise the country’s military and economy. With the exception of the 1974 intervention in Cyprus, Turkey has pursued a defensive policy engaged to the European sphere.

During the early 2000’s, the fall of the Soviet Union combined with the ascent of the moderately islamistic AKP, spelled room for a reorientation of Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions. Increasingly clear that Turkey would not become a part of the European Union within a foreseeable future (because of resistance from continental powers like France, Italy and Belgium), Turkey instead increasingly came to increase its diplomatic presence in the Middle East, trying to use its status as one of the strongest economies in the region as a way to increase its influence in the Middle East.

For a long while, Erdogan – then prime minister – moved towards improving the relations between Turkey and Iran, as well as the emerging Iranian sphere, partially helped by the 2006 Litani War between Hezbollah and Israel. This closeness between Iran, Syria and Turkey even involved joint military exercises.

All this, of course, was changed by the Arab Spring in 2011…

The Syrian Quagmire

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The Syrian Civil War began in earnest because Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, instead of negotiating with the protesters demanding democratic elections and reforms in 2011, decided to use force to scare people from protesting – evocating the memory of his late father Hafez al-Assad, who instigated the 1982 Hama Massacre, leaving possibly 20 000 people dead.

While Bashar al-Assad has failed to keep large swathes of Syria to slide out of the grip of the Ba’ath Party, he has managed to keep the Syrian state intact, partially because of the fragmented ethnic and sectarian build-up of Syrian society, where the dictator belongs to a sectarian minority – the Alawites – who predominatly can be found in western Syria. As the Syrian rebellion took on more and more ethnic, religious and sectarian traits, the groups that would be grimly affected under the rule of a more theocratic Sunnite-dominated Syria came to coalesce around the regime, in either outright collaboration or friendly cooperative neutrality.

Internationally, Syria is at the centre of a Cold War between three regional powers, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Traditionally, Syria has also enjoyed good relations with Russia since Russia still was the Soviet Union. The West, having seen an opportunity to get rid of a regime which is both extremely brutal and opposed to the 1979 Camp David peace accords between the Arab World and Israel, also involved, albeit half-heartedly.

In 2013, Russia and the West for the first time confronted one another about Syria, followed the Ghouta Gas Attack, with both parties sending fleets to the Eastern Mediterranean – covered in an earlier post at the EOS Horizon. I already back then warned that if the situation allows to continue with both sides increasing their support for the warring factions, it can escalate until the Syrian Civil War triggers a larger war.

In late 2015, Russia became the first non-regional actor to directly intervene in Syria, officially to strike at the Islamic State positions inside Syria, but de-facto attacking other rebel groups, some of which are supported by the West, Turkey, the GCC, or all of these actors. In fact, Russia’s strikes have been mostly directed against rebel positions near the al-Nusra-controlled city of Idlib in Syria.

One should however remember, that al-Nusra is a part of al-Qaeda, a group reminiscent… or rather nearly identical to the Islamic State in ideology/theology. In fact, the Islamic State was born due to a split with al-Qaeda, regarding conflicts over Syrian oil wells.

The role of the Bataclan Tragedy

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The Russian intervention which began the 30th of September 2015 after a formal request of the Syrian regime, already had changed the playing field. It had virtually ensured that no outside force would intervene against the Ba’ath dictatorship, and also changed the frame of the Geneva peace talks, where the Western line was that for a peace treaty to emerge, Bashar al-Assad had to resign as president, while Russia wanted to seek an arrangement where their influence in Syria would be preserved, seeing the continuation – at least for a few years – of al-Assad, as a precondition for this.

Following the Russian intervention, the West signalled – slowly – that it was ready to accept that al-Assad resigned later. Russia also signalled their willingness to compromise, stating that they did not seek to keep al-Assad in power but to “defend the sovereignty of the Syrian people in the choice of their leader”.

This trend started to marginalise Turkey, which has tacitly approved – during the course of the civil war – the growth of the Islamic State, and consistently seen Syrian and Iraqi Kurds as a greater menace than the Islamic State. Turkey has also stepped up as a patron of groups of rebels in northern Syria.

However, Turkey has not played a significant role as an actor in the Geneva talks between the West, Russia and Iran, and was thus already then marginalised.

The Bataclan tragedy in Paris, which left 130 dead and has shocked the European Union, has led to increased calls from the French government regarding a joint Western European intervention against the Islamic State.

The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, has used this opportunity to call for a collaboration between the Russian and Western interventions in Syria, partially to help drag West further towards the Russian position in the Geneva talks, and to set pressure on the continental powers to reduce the Crimea/Donbass sanctions against the Russian economy.

In fact, a meeting is planned to occur between Hollande and Putin in this week to discuss a joint strategy against the Islamic State.

The Batman Gambit of Erdogan

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No, I am not referring to the Turkish city of Batman, but to a Batman Gambit. That is a TV tropes reference to a strategic plan which for its success demands that all actors act in a manner consistent with that the machinator of the plan originally has envisioned.

It can of course be a genuine incident, the 15.11.24 incident that is. But that it happens so close to a major potential reapproachment between Europe and Russia talks against it, especially since the Turkish regime does not want to be further marginalised from the Syrian theatre.

Thus, Turkey has done the unthinkable. It has downed a Russian Su-24. It has downed a Su-24 of a nuclear weapons-equipped state with inter-continental ballistic missiles.

If the Turkish military did  – as I suspect – this intentionally, the purpose would be to mar the talks between Hollande and Putin, most likely by provoking a Russian counter-reaction which can lead to a minor conventional military conflict between Russia and Turkey. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, this would effectively then prevent the reapproachment between West and Russia, and serve to help Turkey keep some of its influence in northern Syria.

The problem of course is, what if Putin chooses to ignore this?

What will happen?

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Vladimir Putin has a popular image amongst both his admirers and detractors as a warlike macho leader. What we tend to forget however, is his background within the Soviet Intelligence Network – largely still the same people which surrounds him. Thus, the Russian regime does not think in terms of tankie philosophy but in terms of blocking western incursions into the Russian interest sphere, by freezing conflicts, and then try to gain  or keep influence outside the Russian sphere. The important thing is not military bravado, rather it is considered a measure of last resort.

In fact, the 15.11.24 incident can be utilized by Putin to further marginalise Turkey within NATO, and to speed on the Euro-Russian alliance against the Islamic State, which is contrary to what the original intention of the idea to down a Russian Su-24 was aimed to achieve.

So, most likely, we will see at least a symbolic number of French and other West European jets being allowed into Syria, either from the Charles the Gaulle Aircraft Carrier, or by using the Russian airbase in Syria. If this cooperation becomes formal, then Turkey would not be able to shoot down another Russian plane without becoming even further marginalised than it already is.

There is however a wildcard.

If there is a risk that this incident was approved by the United States, that means that the situation gets more complicated. That could mean that the US could exert pressure on France to not cooperate with Russia in Syrian air-space, leading to an increased risk for “incidents” to occur.

What ought to happen

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The Ba’ath Regime in Syria is truly reprehensible, as is the Islamic State and many of the internationally backed rebel organisations. However, it is clear that the competing geopolitical aims of major powers until now have served to not only keeping this conflict hot, but also to gradually escalate it, contributing to the partial collapse of Iraq, the destabilization of Lebanese internal politics, and the current refugee crisis in parts of Europe.

Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the war is stopped at this point. It can either be stopped by an intervention from a foreign power, or through a peace accord.

It is doubtful if  Russia has the capacity to be that foreign power, and an intervention of the opposing side could lead to a major global conflict.

A peace accord however is possible, and there is only one major source of 200px-Bashar_al-Assad_(cropped)contention, namely the role of one man – Bashar al-Assad. If he doesn’t resign, neither the opposition nor the West wants to accept a peace treaty. If the west doesn’t drop its demand that the president resigns, then Russia and their allies refuse to accept a peace treaty.

Ultimately, the issue of Bashar al-Assad has to be removed from the table, either by his resignation or the resignation of the demands that he resigns. If and when that occurs, it will not spell the end of the War in Syria, since there – apart from the Islamic State – are hundreds of rebel groups that do not comprise the official Syrian opposition. If there is a peace treaty signed in March 2016, large-scale hostilities can (and probably will) still continue for several years, even after the inevitable destruction of the Islamic State.

Nevertheless, what must be done is to prevent an escalation of the war to a regional or global conflagration. Therefore, it would maybe – despite the 15.11.24 incident – be prudent to include Turkey in the peace talks. Either that, or Turkey must be completely relegated away from Syria as an actor.

No war will continue forever, even the Hundred Years War had to stop. The sooner we stop the Syrian Civil War however, the better for the world.

We need to focus on the global ecological threats, rather than on silly geopolitical issues that needlessly serve to kill hundreds of thousands.

The case against advertising in public spaces

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I have previously argued that the current “western” civilization is not older than circa 1950, and that it is mainly characterised by a concept which I have termed “consumeristic individualism” (but it can equally easy be termed “individualistic consumerism“). In most traditional societies, a person’s identity is formed centred between ethnic heritage and family lines, religious belonging and profession (which most often is inherited). In the modern western civilization, identity is formed around consumer choices, which both serve to construct an identity and to create an incentive for people to both produce and consume, since consumption demands access to money, and with little ability to consume goods that signal status (cars, new cellphones, designer clothes, expensive travels, club memberships at exclusive exercise clubs), the social status of the individual is suffering.

Proponents of the current system are claiming that this current system is really what would naturally form when the vestiges of traditional social-hierarchic societies and patriarchal norms are broken down. People then tend to become ambitious consumers who naturally crave the kind of society that for the second half of the 20th century best was exemplified by “the Big Apple”. Thus, it would – according to said proponents – be an infringement on liberty to restrict the “natural development” of the consumer society.

Even when everyone knows that the current society, with its need and focus on exponential economic growth is building up wealth that is unsustainable since it depends on the destruction of the biosphere, the solutions proposed are generally that individuals should conform to other consumeristic patterns, and instead of for example travelling to Mallorca, go to an expensive ecological coffee-shop and drink a cappuchino made from expensive Nicaraguan beans. That could also serve to separate the young middle class, Homo Hipsteriensis, from the behaviour patterns of their parents (since consumeristic individualism is about a permanent distance from the culture even of the immediate forebears), and of the “unwashed working classes”, who enjoy American Idol, fast food and cheap travels to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria.

I would not, however, argue that consumeristic individualism within the context of capitalism, is equal to “human nature”, and that it in fact – like every other major culture and civilization on Earth, is largely artificially formed and then organically evolved. Thus, we need to see it not as a “passive” absence of social control, but as an environment which has been actively engineered to produce certain behavioural patterns.

TL;DR

  • Modern Western Civilization owes its existence to a fusion of psychology and marketing, namely public relations.
  • This means a continuous appeal to reach the subconscious of the public and try to make it susceptible to behavioural conditioning.
  • This conditioning, in the case of our current civilization, aims to make people buy goods and services which they otherwise would not have felt they would need.
  • Another effect is the creation of a sense of inadequacy in people, an inadequacy which can be “cured” through the appropriation of a certain ideal which is available for money.
  • The identity that is formed is also dependent on the adherence to certain consumeristic norms and to the values and fads of the group that the individual in question is trying to “mirror”.
  • We need to start to question whether people without consent should be exposed to marketing in public spaces.

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A short historical background

Advertisement has existed since the foundation of civilization, both in the form of notifying people of the availability of goods and services they crave, and as political propaganda. During the early 20th century, a massive socio-technological transformation occurred with the advent of mass information – in the form of film, radio, TV and telephone communications, making the world far smaller.

It can be said that two new kinds of civilizations emerged from these technologies, namely the “totalitarian civilization” and the “consumeristic civilization“. Even if this is a subject of an article which will come later on, I believe that technology shapes society more than society shapes technology (even if there is a self-enstrenghtening chicken-egg process there). The ascent of mass information technology made possible both the mass democracies and the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century. If pre-industrial leaders, such as the emperors of Rome, China and India, or old absolutist European sovereigns as Louis XVI, Charles XII or Pyotr Velikiy had access to modern information technology, their states would soon have started to resemble fascist totalitarianism.

I believe that it was a matter of time, given the way western society was structured during the early 20th century for mass media to being used to improve the market shares of companies. Another recently discovered science – psycho-analysis – was employed to pioneer more efficient marketing strategies. Two of the pioneers were Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann, who both defined the theories around Public Relations and also engaged in this emergent market as well.

Previously, before the 1920’s, advertising had largely been a question of making consumers aware of the existence of products and then try to appeal to their rational minds with a text purporting to show the alleged health benefits of for example nicotine-related products. After the 1920’s, it became more a question of appealing to the subconscious. Instead of an image of a box with cigarettes, the consumer was presented with a poster depicting an attractive female moviestar smoking Marlboro, with a minimum of text.

What had been a way for companies to gain comparative advantage during the 1920’s, developed into a full-scale MTE1ODA0OTcxNjAzMTAxMTk3civilization during the 1950’s. This was partially due to the expansion of the welfare state, which gave the western working class access to the ability to pursue the attainment of subcultural status items. Combined with the acent of Television, this meant that popular music, celebrities and choices associated with their lifestyles were emulated by millions of youths.

Nowadays, three generations have grown up under individualistic consumerism, and a fourth generation is currently growing up under it. During the 1950’s, with a population still roughly balanced between the countryside and urban centres, subcultural patterns were mostly marked by music taste, age (youths) and certain fashions in terms of clothes.

Nowadays, in the most developed and americanized western countries (the Anglo-American and Scandinavian regions), far more things have become a matter of subculturalization and consumerism. Often, we fool ourselves to believe that consumerism is just a matter of quantity and the individual, when the truth is that it has become a tool for socialization in the contemporary Western world (as well as in the most developed and urban parts of what previously was called the Third World).

Today, subculturalization has branched out to contain musical taste, fashion clothes, what exercise routines you have, what TV shows you like, what news sources you get your news from, what kind of places you travel to when you have vacation, and your political opinions. The ascension of the Internet has served to further compartmentalize reality, allowing people to build self-reinforcing echo chambers and thus homogenize themselves in smaller and smaller cliques. This has also led to subcultures creeping upward in terms of age groups – meaning that today there are entire groups of professionals who largely share the same traits in terms of taste.

The risks with this development

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There are several problems with this kind of development. There is one which is obvious and which has already caused suffering for millions of people, especially young women. Then there is another, which is less overt but which risks affecting the ability to reason and to act long-term. The third challenge is a matter of identity, and is the most subtle of these problems.

The first problem is the overt focus on beauty, youth and (when it comes to women) slenderness. The sexualization and idealization of the young female body, which is existent all over public space in urban areas, creates not only a desire to own new bikinis, handbags or cars, but also a desire in the female viewer to strive towards these ideals. Not all females are however able to conform to these ideals, and this can lead not only to suffering but to mental problems and self-harm behaviour, up to suicide.

The second problem is a matter of information. Nowadays, an average human being is receiving far more information than our pre-industrial ancestors could ever imagine to receive. Even if your awareness doesn’t know of it, our minds register and store all information regardless of its utility. This means that what we are seeing and experiencing around us, no matter if we want to be affected by it or not, is stored as memories and associators. Today, the window for advertisement to catch the conscious attention of the individual has shrunk to a matter of seconds, since people (predictably) have needed to be able to forcefully avoid the kind of information that they will not need. The massive quantity of information has forced through this adaption.

Also, the clutter of information makes it difficult for the ordinary media consumer to build up their ability to see medium- and long-term trends in terms of social development. Rather, reality turns into one giant, fluid “present“, that seemingly becomes more and more senseless. That makes it difficult to form opinions regarding social development and politics.

The third problem connects to the socializing aspects of individualistic consumerism, namely that individuality has become a matter of categories and physical attributes. If human beings are confusing external attributes with any form of inner essence (to external attributes we can count skin colour, sexual orientation and gender), and relate the consumption of particular goods and service to that purported essence, we will soon constrain the ability of human beings to grow and develop character. This uncertainty can stunt human beings and keep them in a permanent state of adolesence.

Ultimately, it also means that when people form their opinions around matters, they often will think of how trendy the opinion is to focus on, how it relates to the group the individual aims to belong, and to the subcultures shaped by mutual reinforcement from the subcultures themselves and mass media, which categorises and helps to market subcultures that originally were authentic. So for example, a Social Liberal may be supportive of actions intended to curb climate change, but doesn’t actually care about the issue itself in any other regard than that it will yield her likes on Facebook and Twitter. Likewise, a conservative might post images that make fun of public healthcare, without even having an idea of how public healthcare works in their own country. This is made possible by the subculturalization of political opinions and the construction of self-imposed echo chambers.

All these three problems, in different ways, are making it more difficult to sustain a rational public discourse (at least regarding the “public” bit). They all are making it more difficult too to focus on what our current civilization is, and why it is problematic in relationship to the planet, since everything turns into an issue about the ego, and the ego’s relationship to other egos.

Sanitizing public space

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The Brazilian city of Sao Paulo recently banned advertising in public space, and it is only to congratulate that decision.

Of course, the decision to ban out-door advertising can be accused of being “authoritarian”, “statist” or “communistic”, but in fact, it is the kind of decision that actually serves to extend the autonomy and liberty of the individual. The reason why is that most of the individuals living and visiting a city have not actually consented to be exposed to massive billboards of public advertising. They may passively consent to it, because they generally have taken it as granted. But the people of middle age European cities generally passively consented to (and cheered) the display to severed heads impaled on poles.

If people want to expose themselves for advertising, they should be able to enter malls or shops. Companies do not however have any right to try to affect the subconscious minds of people and try to condition them to certain behaviours.

This also puts the kind of environmentalism that preaches that we need to change consumer behaviour by consuming in an intelligent manner. That environmentalism is kind-hearted, but is naïve in its relationship to the existing civilization. In short, they tend to view the current world that we have today as a result of the consumer choice, rather than to view the consumer as a concept created artificially within the context of the current civilization.

We need to transition towards a sustainable future, characterised by devotion to Life on Earth, empathy towards all living beings and enlightenment. That means that we need to build up an education system and a society that strengthens individual character and mental resourcefulness, builds on autonomy and ability to understand and master knowledge, and which is centred around an inclusive and life-focused culture.

It takes at least three generations to build a civilization, and in order to save the Biosphere, we not only need to stop the current civilization from devouring it, but also build a new civilization. That requires several pro-active steps and the evolution of a new culture within the context of networks that we build up and support.

But it also must mean political steps in order to curb and restrict aspects of the current civilization. These steps must be designed in a manner that they respect individual choice and autonomy.

I can not however see how limiting clutter from the public view is a breach of individual autonomy.

The beauty of the holonic understanding of reality

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

The Universe can be defined in many ways. What is clear is that there are different levels of realities, which are interacting with one another. Matter is arranged in atoms, which taken together turns into molecules. These molecules arrange themselves in larger objects, such as grains of sand, rock, driplets of liquid, single-cell organisms or cells belonging to larger organisms. This diverse symphony of matter forms eco-systems which form a biosphere that constantly develops through evolution – a neverending symphony of beauty and colours.

This way of arranging reality can be described as Holonic. Each layer of reality can be studied as a whole in its own right, but at the same time is but a part of successively larger and larger wholes, eventually binding even the tiniest hydrogen atom together with the Cosmos that creates these physical laws.

Within the Earth Organisation for Sustainability, we believe that human society is profoundly holonic in its characteristics as well, and must be understood from several different perspectives. That shapes our outlook on what principles should be followed when we consciously evolve the human societies of the future.

What we must understand is that we live in a diverse world, and the future human civilization must reflect and build on the positive aspects of that diversity.

TL;DR

  • Ultimately, our understanding of reality is shaped by generalisations which subconsciously are derived from the contemporary society.
  • The holonic philosophy states that reality can be understood as autonomous interacting units on various levels.
  • It has been applied very much within programming, robotics and engineering since the 1990’s.
  • The EOS Director Andrew Wallace suggested that it should be understood as both a way to understand human society and a way to design it.

Understanding reality

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Human brains are very complex organs, but the human mind is not evolved to understand all the details of the world, but to secure the survival and well-being of the human individual. Therefore, humans tend to almost unconsciously generalise their understanding of reality around them, trying to find patterns (this is not characteristic of all humans, many people on the autistic spectrum for example can only understand the world in terms of all individual details, without assigning any meaning or order to the details).

This form of continuous generalisation interlocks our observations of nature and society with our personal experiences, our interactions with others and the culture within which these interactions occur. That means that during every era and in every culture, a unified cosmology tend to be shaped both from the observations of nature and of the social, technological and cultural progress of said society.

During the 17th century, the medieval moralistic views of nature as a mirror of the interior psyche of human individuals was gradually replaced with a mechanistic understanding of reality. The body was just another machine, the cosmos was a giant clockwork and God was – instead of a King-like figure, a universal clock-maker and scientist who had attuned the Universe and shaped natural laws. This view also influenced other aspects of society, some for better, some for worse. The penal code, child-rearing, mental care and education were transformed after this mechanistic interpretation of reality.

It can also be argued that the ascent of Darwin’s theory on natural selection – albeit fundamentally correct – was influenced by the economic orthodoxy of Liberalism in 19th century Victorian Britain. Large-scale collectivist ideologies flourished during the mass-production era of the early 20th century, probably because society as a whole was increasingly understood as a centralised industrial process.

So, ultimately, there will always be many different ways to view reality, and the dominant manner of understanding it is always interlinked with the social, technological, political, economic and ecological realities of the contemporary era.

The case for a holonic understanding

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Like all other understandings, the holonic understanding of reality is popular because it lies in tune with the contemporary era – that is undeniable. While the philosophy itself began to emerge during the middle of the 20th century, it gained popularity as software technology and robotics started to develop into more and more autonomous systems during the 1990’s, moving away from the centralised model and emphasising self-organisations and organic evolution of structural systems.

Moreover, the holonic understanding of reality means the affirmation that central control should not be needed, and that de-centralised and holarchic systems in fact often are more resilient, since you can remove individual units and even entire super-structures, but the smaller entities will regroup and recreate working systems relatively fast, in comparison to systems of government which are so centralised that they strangle more basic units and thus creates atomized and very fragile civil societies.

Holarchic systems are characterised by emergence, in that the interactions of many independent agents serve to build and create eco-systems. In that aspect, holarchic systems are reminiscent of markets. One vital difference however is that markets tend to be characterised by a gradual centralisation of capital and ackumulation into the hands of a few very large and centralised agents, which from then on will dominate the market in question in perpetual competition. Moreover, the current global market system tend to transform nature itself into centralised, linear and vertical structures of mono-cultures which exist to perpetuate exponential growth.

Therefore, when we are engaging the environment in terms of our interrelationships with it, we need to conceptualise it as consisting of multiple agents all striving to survive and thereby creating a dynamic equilibrium which is defined by beauty and diversity. While this creates resilience, it also means that changing one aspect of the system will invariably transform the system itself through a domino effect.

Often, the thinking of our current civilization is structured around quantifiable measurements and a graduation of different agents in relation to their performance and utility from a human perspective. We must realise that this thinking has destructive qualities which are threatening the diversity and well-being of both eco-systems and human socio-systems.

What is a holarchic society?

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All societies are holonic in their character, since they consist of multiple agents – individuals and small inter-linked groups – which are trying to pursue their various interests. In order to ensure the functionality of the system, most larger human societies tend to form states and associations – institutions – which can be said to be both structures and institutions. The structures are the bureaucratic and corporate entities in themselves, and the institutions are the behaviours and norms which create respect for the structures. There are competing institutions in most societies, especially the hundreds of pseudo-nation-states in what was previously colonially exploited territories. These states contend with trying to replace, crush or co-opt existing tribal, spiritual and cultural institutions which prevent the establishment of strong states.

States and similar entities tend to be hierarchic in their structure, and aim to monopolise the use of physical force as well as the right to punish individuals. This supports and creates a by-effect where states strenghten and form elites which are simultaneously isolated from the general population as well as securing exclusive access to the major part of the resources.

The advent of new technologies that have connected the Earth have created a transnational global corporate and financier elite, which is more and more liberated from civic and social responsibilities connected to their various places of origin. This has left a minority of the Earth’s population in command of the majority of the production potential of the human civilization.

This is fundamentally a very destructive process, since the destruction of five life-support systems of the planet are affecting the majority of the Earth’s poor, while the elite that is ultimately in control of the means of production have the resources to shield themselves from the effects of the system which they support.

Also, it is underpinned by the practice of centralisation. Centralisation creates bottlenecks where a small minority gain access to large quantities of resources, which they eventually will use to further their own aims, no matter what kind of economic or social system we are talking about. This practice will also serve to reduce responsibility, since the suffering caused by the effects of failed decisions will not affect the individuals making these decisions. If we want, we can summarize the history of governance throughout the world with that.

A holarchic system, on the other hand, is forming and shaping itself continuously in relationship to the emergent and social structure of the human society itself. That means that holarchic societies generally are small, and consist of close-knit groups of people sharing values and common interests. In general, this tends to foster cohesion, low inequality and a sense of community and civic responsibility amongst the participants.

On the other hand, holarchic societies can be fraught with nepotism, tribalism, vindictive and revenge-based honour justice, xenophobia and social stagnation.

The question is, are such characteristics inherent in small-scale de-centralised communities, or are they a consequence of third factors, such as culture, patriarchy, feudalism, ethnic and sectarian inequalities, poverty, illiteracy and inbreeding? I would argue that there exists a substantial risk that a local culture can develop traits which are destructive and which singles out individuals who are deemed eccentric or morally reprehensible for social exclusion and in some cases physical punishment or even death.

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Given that, there are a multitude of benefits to localism contra the type of globalism we are seeing manifesting today. Societies with a high degree of self-sufficiency and a sense of community are better equipped to handle crises, and are more resilient. It also means that solutions and reforms will be adapted after local economic and social structures. The most positive trait from my point of view, however, is that localism distributes power and civic responsibility across society and give more people influence than in more centralised government- and corporate systems.

The EOS Vision for a holonic future

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The globalists are right in one regard – namely that in order to manage the challenges of the future, we would need a one-world system with the ability and the authority vested in it to answer the challenges of climate change, soil deterioration, freshwater depletion and the destruction of ocean and continental eco-systems. The planet’s biosphere is in peril, and we are risking a mass extinction where three quarters of all species can go extinct (which will eclipse the last great mass extinction 65 million years ago).

The question is, what kind of global system will it be?

The Earth Organisation for Sustainability believes that human beings are incredibly resourceful, innovative and able, if they are given the opportunity to flourish and the knowledge of how their actions affect the surrounding reality. While some issues indeed demand concerted global efforts to curb, decisions ought to be made not only as close to the affected parties as possible, but preferrably by as many representatives of the affected parties as possible.

We also believe that power should be distributed between human beings. Large political entities, like the United States, the European Union, India, China and Russia, cannot possibly achieve the same level of democratic freedoms and accountability as smaller political entities could. Even though the city of San Marino had elected itself a fascist dictatorship in 1923 which was in power until 1944, its amount of repression was minuscule – partially because the captains were neighbours with most of their subjects, and partially because the state did not have the capability to repress people in the same manner as the Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy or the Soviet Union.

Proximity creates influence. Even in democratic societies like Sweden, inhabitants of the capitol enjoys a closeness with the political and economic decision-makers which other inhabitants do not, thus creating an inequality of access and opportunities. If we instead imagined that every county in Sweden functioned as a state, there would probably be less of a drive for people to migrate to Stockholm, and the decisions would also not favour Stockholm at the expense of the rest of the country.

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Having written that, the EOS envisions the future way of governing the Earth as consisting of an Earth Confederation consisting of thousands of free communes, city-states, arcologies, nomadic seasteding societies and voluntary associations based around principles of direct and distributed democracy. These would join up in confederacies which would administer various aspects of political power on the level that the individual political entities deem the appropriate. For example, thirty states can join up and agree on administering their education system jointly, or agree on mutual regulation of river systems together.

This means that there will be numerous levels of intermediary decision-making entities, local, regional and continental, between the individual statelets and the world confederation – meaning lots of minor confederacies.

For this system to work, it is required that all participatory political entities in the world confederation project agrees on certain conditions, namely a charter (possibly based around the core tenets of the Ideology of the Third Millennium and the Three Criteria) which would stipulate that no community may stop citizens from emigrating and rules that forbids such things that are in violation of basic human rights. This constitution will be centred around ethical principles which all participants must uphold (though principles should not be conflated with active policies).

Of course, we cannot simply think away the current system of nation-states, but what is realistic to strive towards is a process characterised by more localism, direct democracy and distributed power. If we want to build a sustainable future, we must create the conditions where human beings can take control of the transition process and direct it. Information is power, and if humans are given the means to understand and manage their surroundings in relation to the ecological crisis, the responses will also more and more come to represent what the situation demands.

No human being is all-knowing, so the more who are empowered to partake in the transition towards a sustainable society, the more likely it is that we are moving in a more correct direction.

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.

Refugees: Present and future

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Out of soon 8 billion people, around 50 million are refugees. That means that for roughly every 150th person on Earth, there is one refugee. Even though the numbers of wars have decreased generally since the 1950’s, there are more refugees than ever on Earth, and a lot of the refugee situations have been permanented – that means, refugee camps have turned from forests of tent into jungles of concrete, administered by the UNHCR and other organs, and the inhabitants have for several generations been trapped in a “ghost existence”, barred from their right to nationality, to travelling and in many cases to find a meaningful existence even within the confinements of the refugee camp. Many refugee camps are characterised by corruption, crime and violence.

Worse, many millions of refugees are living entirely outside of the system, undocumented in host societies which most often are unwilling and incapable of giving them basic human rights (remember, most refugees are in what until recently was termed “the Third World” (now being called “the Developing world” or rather “the Majority world”). Internally displaced people cannot flee the zones of conflict and are exposed to the horrors of war.

Worse even, is that there is a high risk that the problem of permanented refugees will grow during the 21st century, this time due not primarily to war, but to destruction of eco-systems and climate change. Therefore, it is essential that any form of transition which we – no matter what – must undertake, should transcend the established forms of thinking and problem-solution and approach the refugee crisis holistically on a global level.

First, the TL;DR summary

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  • The main cause of permanented refugee crises are failed or fragile states, as well as the idea that refugees should primarily return to their place of origin.
  • The global nation-state system is inadequate in managing refugee problems, due to the very logic of nation-states.
  • Climate change can easily increase the number of refugees world-wide five times, and will change the regional conditions on the planet, increasing crops fertility in the north and south while reducing it in the traditionally most productive region on the Earth, the temperate zones.
  • Refugees need to be integrated into the zones they settle as soon as possible.
  • The logical thing would be to create systems that allow people to redistribute their numbers to “regions of development”, while protecting the rights of settled communities to their own values and identity within the constraints of basic human rights and individual freedoms.

Refugee crises historically and contemporarily

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Refugees have always existed. Even before the industrial age, massive wars were fought and hundreds of thousands were displaced, as in China during the fall of the Tang and Song dynasties, or in Europe during the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War or many of the other political and religious conflicts throughout the continent. Just one thousand years ago, Asia Minor was culturally Greek and Armenian, and the Turks had just entered Iran from Central Asia and converted to Islam. Entire populations in Europe such as the Avars, the Celts or the Khazars were either expelled or genocided from large swathes of territory, or forcefully assimilated into new ethnic constellations. There were also refugee populations that moved into and between European countries – for example the Walloons who fled France for Sweden in the 17th century, and the Roma community throughout Europe, which has migrated from today’s India during frog-leaps for little over a millennium.

After the Second World war, millions of Germans and Poles were moved west, and around a million Finns were moved from Karelia into Finland proper. One could expect that Europe would be cluttered with refugee camps up until this day – yet no one today talks about Silesian refugees in Germany or Karelian refugees in Finland as a matter-of-day contemporary political fact.

Some might like to attribute this to some claimed innate European ability to organise societies. However, if we look at Europe in 1945-1950, we would see a continent largely impoverished and in ruins, receiving massive aid from the United States in the form of the Marshall Plan. The influx of credit and machinery opened up the opportunity to rapidly rebuild and develop the Western European economies following the war. Even though the Marshall Plan only provided a small fragment of capital transmissions, it proved enough to restore confidence in the European recovery. As the economy recovered from a very low level, the refugees were needed as labour in the reconstruction of European towns and European infrastructure.

If we instead postulate that the Marshall Plan had not been initiated, the recovery would have been much slower which could have permanented or semi-permanented the refugee crisis. If the refugees instead of staying in Europe had moved to the Americas, it would also have effected Europe badly since it would have meant a labour shortage during a time when the European machine park and infrastructure necessary to build machines was damaged. Also, the European refugees in North America would have had to integrate to a labour market which – despite being feverish hot – could hardly take in millions of people at one go, thus affecting both the time it would take for the refugees to be integrated and the wage increases for all workers. However, developing the European economy was good for the US and Canadian export industries and led to an americanization of Europe which led to a massive European consumption of US culture.

The situation today is not comparable to the world of the 1940’s. Today in most of Europe, North America and East Asia, labour is on its way out as a production factor, and the economy is becoming both simpler and more complex. Soon, the four production factors will become three, and then at the end of this century (if we do not destroy the biosphere) two. This means that even if developed economies grow, the demand for labour is not growing indefinetly but rather fluctuating, for a long-trend in a slightly downward motion (within twenty years, half of the jobs in developed economies will vanish, while the replacement rate has not increased in the same amount).

The world today is characterised by uneven development as well. We have previously mentioned on this blog that all levels of human societies are existing simultaneously in our world today. Ten million human beings today are for example stone age hunter-gatherers. Billions are living in feudal agricultural societies. Many societies are collapsed or rapidly growing industrial-age economies. And then the most developed societies are in a transition phase towards post-labour economies. This means that the skills learnt by adult peasants from agricultural feudalized societies are difficult to adapt to the needs of an industrial economy – and the more so to emerging post-labour economies (which themselves have not yet solved or even been willing to solve the contradiction of social safety nets adapted for industrial mass-labour societies under the emergent paradigm). While just a small trickle of the world’s total number of refugees have arrived in developed economies, we can already today see a trend of alienation, unemployment, anger and social exclusion.

Yet, what we can learn from the displacement after the Second World War was that it was solved in a comparatively very smooth manner by an influx of capital and technology, as well as a massive demand for labour. While it is unlikely that the demand of labour would emerge in today’s economies – developed and developing apart from those totally wrecked by war – it stands clear that investments and resource transfers are necessary, and that interventions – rather than to be primarily directed at the refugees themselves – should be divested into the economies as a whole to create the space to include those newly arrived.

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Nowadays, unlike during the 1940’s, refugee crises tend to freeze in time, the first being the Palestinian exodus of 1948-49. There are still people today living in refugee camps who are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those original Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. The refugee camps in their turn have been transformed into crammed towns, characterised by poverty, statelessness and few opportunities to live. Yet, these refugees are living comparably good lives in comparison to the populations displaced from Afghanistan, the wars in Central Africa and recently Syria.

When such situations emerge and the fabric of society collapses, resulting in the collapse of the state itself when the base of the social order is removed, results in the emergence of black holes in the globalized nation-state system established during and after de-colonization. The world today consist of roughly 200 “nation-states“, but most of these nation-states are not founded on nationality or any other form of sense of common identity. Rather, most of these states are the remnants of colonial territories in old maritime European empires, consisting of either pseudo-racially based hierarchical systems imposed by the imperialists, or of internally suspicious or even hostile tribal nations that often exist on all sides of the border in various sub-state institutions. Thus, many of the world’s states are relying on the passive consent of the population rather than on active support, and when there is a weak sense of nationality, there is a risk that violence can erupt when resources turn scarce or when elites are struggling for state control.

Many states in the world can thus aptly be described as time bombs set to detonate. And some have already detonated.

I am of course referring to Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Right now, the Iraqi state is collapsing as well.

Other states in the developing world have collapsed partially during their years of independence, but are still having a central government trudging on. Some have even recovered somewhat. There I am primarily thinking of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Tajikistan, Colombia, Haiti and Ethiopia. Most of these states are however fragile, and fluctuation on the raw materials market or in the grain and rice prices can create shocks that destroy many years of development in one go. These states can very well collapse if they become unstable again.

There is also a third category of states, namely time bombs which have not yet burst. Countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. Most of these states are very large, with humonguous populations, and just if one of them would collapse or become more unstable, the crisis could spread in the near regions and also worsen the situation in poorer, less developed neighbouring states, especially as fourth-generation cross-state insurgency groups like the IS are developing and taking hold.

Climate Change and state fragility

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The process of climate change points towards the direction of a relatively warmer climate, as well as an increase in carbon dioxide. This points towards a wetter and warmer climate in some regions, and drier and hotter climate in other regions. Traditionally, the population of the Earth has generally been concentrated in a belt from South-East and East Asia to Western Europe, the so-called temperate zones of Eurasia. Most of the great civilizations you’ve read about in history have been located there.

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The thing is, this region will become comparably less habitable for human  beings if climate change is accelerating, affecting glaciers in the Himalayas, droughts, changing monsoon patterns and affecting the sea level and habitability alongst the coastlines. Thus, resources would either need to be transported to these regions, or the population would have to adapt by either consuming less or shrinking (through emigration, or in the worst case-scenario, a population implosion due to epidemics, resource wars and genocides). Due to the relative poverty of many of the economies in the region, we can expect that the number of climate refugees grow to exceed the number of war refugees currently in the world, by several factors.

6m_Sea_Level_RiseAs you can see on this map, the regions most vulnerable to changed sea levels are also those regions that tend to be populated, especially Bangladesh, the Nile Valley Delta, the Niger Delta, the Yangtze Delta and other great cradles of civilization. This would not displace tens of millions of people, but hundreds of millions of people. Of course, there is the possibility to build great dams and walls to adapt to the changes – and that would most likely be done around large cities in the developed world (and possibly China). But impoverished countries like Bangladesh and poor countries like Nigeria have little resources to invest in such a transformation, and thus would most likely suffer collapse and near-total displacement into nearby regions, which themselves will be coping with their own problems.

This domino effect could risk an increase in armed conflicts and ethnic cleansings, leading to a situation where Syria-like civil wars burst up in fragile states all over the world, leading to anarchy and chaos.

How to address the refugee issues

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Everyone knows that our system for managing refugee crises today doesn’t work. It creates a culture of helplessness, dependency and vulnerability where it works. Where it doesn’t work, it subjects millions of people to lives short, nasty and brutish. Even though the entrepreneur Jason Buzi’s recent proposal to create a “country” for all refugees is – for all accounts – unrealistic and utopian (there needs to be significant aid to that country, it needs infrastructure and an educated population to manage that infrastructure), it still can be seen as a step in the right direction in terms of how we discuss these problems. As for the EOS perspective, it needs to be discussed amongst the EOS members, members of our affiliate organisations and of course within the Board – but these are my own personal notes in this regard.

  • Refugee camps and refugee shelters shall be standardised on a level that allows electricity, fresh-water and education, and shall primarily be run in a democratic manner by those who inhabit them, though with as much support as necessary from the organisation responsible for the sites.
  • Education, gymnastics and mental counseling should be available and of a high quality. There should also be a minimum of delineation between the camp/shelter and the surrounding areas, allowing the refugees considerable freedom under controlled forms.
  • Large refugee camps shall be counted as international subjects, thus giving stateless refugees a passport that can allow them to travel and set up residency in other places, or study in other places and return.
  • There must be a concerted effort to intervene in conflict zones and to predict where conflict zones can emerge. In terms of collapsed states, this means that the primary concern should be to end the conflict as soon as possible, and force through a settlement. If it is judged that there needs to be an external policing force there, they shall always be mandated by an organisation with global responsibilities and influence from actors representing as many human beings as possible. Such a global organisation can also delegate the mission to either one or several regional peace-keeping forces.
  • A larger share of all defence budgets should move towards international crises to reduce them, since they present the largest political threat against regional and global stability today.
  • All forces assigned with keeping or establishing peace should be subject to the IPCC or equivalent organisation.
  • Instead of trying to build or support dysfunctional nation-states, the forms of government established should be fitted towards 1) the will of the local population, 2) the complex needs of the region, 3) the need to protect human rights, through distributing power in a de-centralised manner.
  • When a state or territory has collapsed, there must be efforts to rebuild it and engage displaced people in the reconstruction efforts.
  • If there is a need to relocate a large population a long way, it must be met as a logistical issue and treated holistically, which means that it must be taken into consideration  how the relocation will affect both the region where people are leaving and the region where they are entering, in relation to how large groups we are talking about and the ecological, social and economic factors in both regions.
  • There must be created legal and safe ways of people to move, acclimatise and settle.
  • When looking at refugee crises and refugees to relocate, there must be efforts to ensure that vulnerable groups such as children and females (in often very patriarchal social contexts) are given extra focus.

Regarding the for every day increasing risk that the entire population distribution of this planet will shift from the temperate to the sub-arctic regions, that would need to be addressed by establishing “regions of settlement” in the sub-arctic and sub-antarctic areas – especially then areas with low population density given the damaging effects that mega-cities have on the environment. Thus, Canada, parts of Oceania, southern South America and eastern Siberia would probably need to be transformed into regions of settlement, to absorb at least a part of the problem.

Ultimately, what has caused the refugee crisis that millions of people currently are suffering is an inadequate nation-state system imposed by a “one-size-fits-all” view on human organisation. If we want to avoid collapsing states or lawless black-hole territories, we would need to focus on more inclusive, communitarian and localised solutions for distributing control and guaranteeing civil rights.

BRICS vs the West

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Push and Pull

foodwaste_flickr_sporkist_640

Photo by Sporkist

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

A surprising move by the French government has seen the ban of food waste in supermarkets. While this undoubtly are positive news, which are putting the focus on the practices of food management within the retail industries, there are also problematic aspects with this approach. I will take the opportunity to use this post to discuss some of the problems with punitive policies, and also to offer the contures of a more holistic approach.

moral

Moralism & Practical repercussions

The concept of morality has been an integral part of human social interactions for all of recorded history, and probably during the entire period of human sapience. Morality affects both laws, but also the institutions forming around our legal systems. It affects unwritten rules and etiquette, and provides a common cultural framework within which a culture is developing its values.

You may already have understood that there is a difference between morality and moralism as concepts. A moralist view of the world is defining the world from an antropocentric perspective in which actions generally are defined as good or evil, and where good actions should be rewarded and evil actions punished (moralists tend to weigh on punishments). Thus, the important thing is not the consequences for the greater good, but the intention of policies. For example, strict anti-drug policies may not work, but they send a signal that society does not accept “aberrant behaviour”.

Often, we imagine that moralism is the realm of political and cultural conservatives, who hold to social views where for example inner city neighbourhoods fraught with crime, poverty and violence are seen as entirely a result of bad upbringing, absent fathers and a lack of faith in scripture. I would not make any statements on where moralism is most usual, but it tends to varies between periods in time. For example, during the 1980’s and 1990’s, we have had “moral panics” regarding metal music, veganism and role-playing games (from evangelical fundamentalists), while during the first decade of the 2000’s and increasingly during the 2010’s, we’ve seen more moral panics regarding gender issues, racial issues and the issue of immigration.

When an issue has become a moralist issue, it is difficult to hold an adverse opinion on a matter, since the one opposing the “good” position is suspected of being tainted by evil.

That’s not saying that moralists cannot have good points, for in most cases, they strive towards a better society and they are putting the focus on for example social ills. But the discussion that is created around the subject tend to become increasingly shrill and symbols-focused, which reduces the ability to access the practical situation on the ground and build the foundation for an inclusionary discussion. This kind of dialogue – which really is a monologue from one party – can turn into a moral panic, especially if there is one “offending group” which is seen as representatives of evil. This can lead to a witch hunt, in which people’s personal lives and integrity are harmed. If the moral panic occurs from more than one direction, the results can be catastrophic.

However, to return to the retail policies of Valls’ cabinet, it seems to me at least as symbolic measures that are hitting on a seemingly random point in the linear resource chain. Firstly, a lot of food is thrown away or destroyed during the production phase, which is incredibly wasteful in its own right, especially as the food industry is more and more reliant on mono-cultures for every passing year. As you can see on the image below, every staple has an own linear chain like this, and at every stage, you can be sure that resources are wasted.

Food-Supply-Chain

If the French government has not anchored this new policy in the retail industry, the results will be that the retail industry maybe will buy in less food (as the best possible result), but that will affect other parts of the food production chain, and transport the waste there. Sadly, farmers are often in developed countries subsidized to discard food. The retail industry can also adapt by for example giving away excess food as aid to developing countries or to homeless people. But giving away the food as aid would probably hurt farmers in the Third World, outcompeting small family farms and inevitably replacing them with cattle ranches or mono-cultures (producing grain mostly used to feed cattle and sheep), contributing heavily to both freshwater waste, soil erosion, dependency on fertilizers and climate change.

So while this policy probably has both pragmatic and moralist foundations, it seems at the moment to be a random swing aimed at an industry which has immoral practices.

A holistic approach

energy-sustainability21056

The Human Civilization can be defined both as an integrated network of eco-systems and as a super-organism. Our cities are visible as crimson and greyish spots from space, our monocultures have transformed Europe, China, North America and the Amazon Basin. To understand human activity on Earth and how profoundly it has transformed our planet, we must move away from an individualistic approach where we view the society as a fixed entity and the one with the choice how to act – the conscient agent – is always an individual.

We must understand that society is more than our consumer choices, more than our political or lifestyle choices, and even more than the culture we were born and raised in. Human civilization is – from a physical perspective – an intricate web of resource flows, and the infrastructure which both makes these flows possible and also is a result of their current. Civilization is an emergent meta-organism. Now, I am not saying that civilization is “evil”, nor that all civilizations (both real and imagined) are the same.

However, without a realization that food waste is a part of a civilization based on a destructive way of utilizing the environment, rather than an aberrant outlier in an otherwise “good” civilization, we would just continue to create new ecological crises until we’ve exhausted the ability of the planet to maintain an advanced human civilization. One central problem is of course that governments – as one of the commanding tops of what can be called the consciously organized part of Civilization – must base their existence and legitimacy around the idea that our current civilization is ultimately good and at least better than any conceivable alternatives. Cultural memes are also largely centered around reinforcement of norms and values that will support the existence of the civilization and its structures (given that, western civilization has undercurrents that allow for criticism in certain directions, this criticism can later be applied and included into the process through democratic and academic means, thus creating a greater degree of adaptability than in other cultures).

To return to the main point, policy-makers must realize that ecological issues (avoid the term environmental issues) are not just a policy area amongst others, but the base on which civilization rests. Therefore, a thorough set of ecological policies must be arranged in such a manner that they have a profound effect on all activities inside the Civilization, and with a good overview over not only resource flows, but also financial flows and population flows.

The goal of such an approach would be a long-term transition towards a sustainable circular economy which can exist within the limits of nature.

Push and pull policies

graphicdesign.stackexchange.com

graphicdesign.stackexchange.com

Governments can not alone form or lead the transition. It requires an integrated approach from political leaders, financial leaders, community leaders, civil society, non-governmental organisations, economic actors, grassroot groups and individuals and families. What governments can do is however to install the legal framework to affect behaviour amongst different segments of society.

Such frameworks can be designed  to punish bad habits or rewarding good habits. Punishing bad habits can for example be to increase taxes on fossil fuels, or on companies selling fossil fuels, or to outright ban certain practices (another example would be to reduce or take away all parking spaces in city centres). Rewards can be to install subsidies for green energy solutions, or to reward car owners for swapping into eco-friendly cars. It can also be to for example create free public transit.

Given this, we need to discuss how an effective transitional approach would work – and that is depending on two factors. Firstly, how grave is the ecological situation right now within the area you want to affect positively (I advice you to look into the article about the Three Criteria for an elaboration on information-gathering). Secondly, exactly what kind of transition do we want to foster?

The direction of for example subsidies or taxes, or more legalistic measures like outright bans would shape the outcome in some way, and the question is how large ripple effects one could get.

What is certain is that both push and pull methodologies are necessary within the framework of today’s financial system in order to make effective transformations possible. In general, bans are not advisable, especially not of processing aspects of industrial systems (of which the retail industry is an example). Rather, it would be more effective to tax unsustainable food management practices and make additional fines if the industry is not compliant.

Then it is of course a matter of how large taxes there should be. Ideally, for example the meat industry should be taxed with so high – even punitive – tax rates, that it ceases to be able to operate. That will sadly have adverse effects on everyone from butchers to Argentinian gauchos and Fast Food employees, but unemployment is ultimately an insignificant problem in comparison with the future of the Planet.

There does however also need to exist rewards, and investments into alternative ways of managing resource flows. Instead of just focusing on aspects of production, we must analyse the energy weight of entire production chains, and policies should be shaped after the realization that our civilization is an integrated physical system. Therefore, revenue taken from the processes that are damaging the planet could be invested into projects that facilitate processes that are either neutral towards or would improve the long-term well-being of the biosphere.

Ultimately

The Earth Organisation for Sustainability has come to the conclusion that to create a sustainable civilization on Earth, we need a way of managing resources that is profoundly different than today’s. We need to know how much resources we can take from the Earth, we need to arrange these resources within a circular economy, and we need to provide basic sustenance to all human beings.

But to reach that point, to go from here to there, we must employ the available tools of the current system, both to create new tools, to manage and reverse ecological decay, and to transition our socio-economic system. Only by employing a holistic approach can we reach constructive results for the future of our planet.

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