Review: This Changes Everything

TCE

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

All except one.

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

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

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

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

No Logo

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

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

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

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

Klein’s thesis and solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flaws of Klein’s solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For a more comprehensive description, see this entry.

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Happy 46th Earth Day

nature-balances-herself

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

For 46 consecutive years, we have celebrated Earth Day, and yet the status of this planet is worsening. On the sixth Earth Day, in April 1975, we were in the process of the first overshoot of our global footprints. Since then, we have used up a larger and larger share of the Earth’s diminishing reserves, crowding out eco-systems to replace them with linear activities.

We have all the opportunities in the world to change the course, and a lot of things are undoubtly done. What is happening now however is that improvements are local and implemented within either regions (by political demand) or within companies (due to genuine convictions and green marketing), but in the same time, things like fracking and tar sands are exploding on the market, the cattle industry and meat production beats all-time records, and the main concern for decision-makers within both the western sphere and the BRICS sphere is how to maximise economic growth.

What forces are genuinely interested in saving this must plead, beg, work hard for little to no economic gain and almost apologise for struggling to save the lives of all of us, while those who are more responsible for the current state of our world would never have to worry about being homeless, about having to move around or whether they would have to buy food or medicines.

This post is devoted to those heroes of our time.

The tale of Alexander and Ann-Sofie

Alexander Bascom and Ann-Sofie Svensson. Alex and Ann-SofieA young couple in Umea, Sweden, who are passionate about innovation and aquaponics, they founded Green Free Will back in 2012, and sought resources to realize their dream of constructing automated biodomes which would transform our entire relationship with food. Their tale is one of love, struggle, many setbacks and triumphes.

Entering a collaboration with the Earth Organisation for Sustainability, Green Free Will was awarded an agricultural development grant from the European Union, which however took a long while before it arrived due to the bureaucratic structure of the application. When it finally arrived, we were all overjoyed, and so the construction could commence during the late summer of 2014.

Today, I feel privileged to announce that the last part of the grant was recently transferred to EOS, and is now transferred to Green Free Will, so they can do the last work on the dome before the next phase of the project begins. It fills me with happiness that Green Free Will’s project will receive a much needed morale booster.

Alexander’s and Ann-Sofie’s story is awesome, though not unique. Everywhere throughout the world, there are idealists struggling both to make their household economics hold together, and to initiate revolutionary innovative projects that will change the way we look at the world. This vanguard of the garages is a bright hope for humanity during Earth’s darkest hour in 65 million years.

One of the purposes of the EOS is to cooperate with and help people who burn for projects to realize them. As a small organisation, we sadly do not have unlimited resources. By helping us, you will help people like Alex and Ann-Sofie and organisations like Green Free Will to network and expand.

Ultimately, what we all are struggling for is the very foundation for our existence. In this matter, you are either for life or for death.

So thank you Alex and Ann-sofie, Richard, Jonathan, Stefan, Maria and the others! You are making the world a better place!

Biodome Project Update

Biodome

The collaborative project between Green Free Will and EOS has finished the first stage of the Umea Biodome Project, which is also a EU-funded LEADER project (thankies EU)! The foundation and the “skeleton” of the dome are ready. Now we only need panels there.

The second stage of the project will see the insulation system established, the aquaponics installed, and the third and most challenging part will be the computer systems that will regulate the climate and atmosphere of the interior of the dome, amongst other things.

EOS and Green Free Will is aiming for a meeting to discuss – amongst other things – the future of this cooperation.

The main challenge will be to acquire funding for stage 2 and stage 3.

Enrique Lescure, Director of the Sequence of Relations, EOS

For more on this, check this.

Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism

"Caging Humanity" by Don Davis

“Caging Humanity” by Don Davis

Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I would like to use this article as a continuation of my previous article, Reality? What Reality?

The subject however would be what differentiates an organisation that is moving towards a post-capitalist discourse, such as EOS, with organisations based around anti-capitalist views, to which we can count everything from Marxism-Leninism to the Alt-Globalization Movement and #Occupy.

Or put more eloquent: What is the difference between an outlook based on science and one rooted in emotional resentment.

What do we mean by Capitalism?

Capitalism, like all words that evoke emotions, has as many definitions as there are proponents or discontents. These definitions are not singular ideas framed around the concept, but are drawn from competing cosmologies which often are mutually hostile.

To take two extremes, we can look at the Market Libertarian position vs the Marxist definition.

The Market Libertarian definition, to which we can also count the Objectivist definition, is that capitalism is productive human action, free individuals that agree on whether they want to buy or sell products and services on a free market. Ideally, all markets should be free and unregulated, and this would produce – per the theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo – the highest possible level of human well-being. Capitalism in short is individuals making free decisions. All cases of repression and poverty do not stem from inherent flaws in the market, but either from individual weakness (something which proponents of this worldview tend to be quiet about since that position would alienate potential followers), or (more usually) from regulations of the market.

The Marxist definition is that capitalism is a specific system of production, based around a hierarchical concentration of wealth and power. This system has succeeded similar systems in the past, such as Slavery and Feudalism. What separates Capitalism from Feudalism is that while Feudalism is centered around Land, Capitalism is centered around Capital – the concentration of possessions. The Capitalists are providing capital to start up companies, and strive to pay as little money as possible to the Labourers, who are those who are producing the actual value (see the Labour Theory of Value). Thus, the profit of the owner(s) represent (according to Marx) a theft of the productive potential of the labour force.

Capitalism will eventually, according to Marx and Engels, have so many contradictions that it will lead to an inevitable worker’s revolution and a system based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will develop into a classless society where all the means of production are owned collectively by the people.

It says itself that two so wildly divergent cosmologies would appear as monstrous before one another.

The Cosmology of the EOS

What is Capitalism, according to the EOS?

It is a form of socio-economic system built on the intrinsic need for exponential growth.

The goal is to maximise profits for capital owners, and is made possible by fractional reserve banking (sorry Austrians), which allows credit for investments and production that can grow the size of the economy. This leads to increased standards of living for most people, even though those who already have the most access to capital are those who benefit the most.

The problems with this system is that it relies on maximising exponential growth in a mostly closed economy, the planet Earth. This will eventually exhaust the planet’s ecology, unless the system invents ways to create abundance (which ironically also would make Capitalism obsolete). However, given how stark the situation currently looks, with the energy crisis, climate change, soil depletion, freshwater depletion and a mass extinction looming on the horizon, our best hope is to actively pursue ways to move away from exponential growth.

Why Post-capitalism is inevitable

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Everything is transitionary, and even if society today does not develop much in a year, you can safely be sure that society has changed dramatically during your life-time in comparison to how it looked when you were born, no matter what decade on the 20th or 21st centuries you were born in.

Moreover, humanity has existed as a species for 200.000 years. Agriculture was invented 12.000 years ago, and industrialism and modern capitalism co-evolved a little bit over 200 years ago, which is 0,1% of the course of the entire human history on Earth. To claim that Capitalism is a universal truth much like gravity and never will be replaced by another system is rather an emotional than a fact-based statement.

In fact, what we can say for certain is that Capitalism will be replaced within the next two centuries, and that there are three possible scenarios for how it can evolve into something else.

What is Post-capitalism?

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Post-capitalism is not a vague concept like Communism. In fact, it is even simpler.

Post-capitalism is whatever system of production and distribution that succeeds Capitalism. It is not intrinsically better than Capitalism, nor intrinsically worse. It is simply put a society which do not longer fulfill the criterion for Capitalism, namely exponential growth, either because it has found other ways to generate wealth and well-being, or because it has exhausted itself to the point that only survivalism is an option.

Since we – as a planetary organism – have followed the general trajectory of Limits to Growth, we can be sure that a lot of us would experience Post-capitalism firsthand during our lifetimes, which may – if we fail to take action – be an experience we would like to avoid.

There are three alternatives for the future, I would line them up with the least likely first, and then proceeding down to two feasible alternatives.

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I. Fusion power, asteroid mining and space colonisation solves all our problems, thanks to American and Chinese governments and mega-corporations. This leads to such an abundance that Capitalism is gradually replaced with Post-capitalism, either through institution of basic income and cooperation from progressive elites, or through a struggle from the masses to achieve that future. Eventually, this will lead to a post-monetary society.

Unlikely, not because we lack the capability to initiate those changes, but because the inherent unsustainability of the current system is so large, and these new techs are so underdeveloped that we would probably reach a collapse before they are profitable. When that happens, resources will be moved towards security rather than innovation, and we would end up in…

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II. A global ecological collapse, that will lead to a global socio-economic collapse and a collapse of living standards across the planet. This will lead to such a collapse that there will be a massive loss of complexity in society, as more people will have to focus on survival rather than producing economic, cultural, institutional or scientific value. In short, there will be a new dark age.

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III. A conscious transition towards a post-growth society. This would mean that we on all levels, as human beings, strive to establish sustainable relationships with our surroundings. On the micro-level, it could mean urban farming, recycling, seasteding and rewilding. These acts would however not be enough to counter the second scenario if we do not reverse monocultures, the dependency on fossil fuels and the institutions which exist today which are built upon the idea of limitless exponential growth. Eventually and if successful, these grassroot networks of conscious individuals and groups can form a global civilization of human creativity, which can achieve the first scenario.

So… when we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability are evaluating the future, we can see three different types of Post-capitalism take hold. What is important for us is not the labels of a socio-economic system, but that the system in question fulfills the criteria of being able to create and distribute wealth while not destroying the foundations of that wealth, our beautiful planet.

Post-capitalism vs Anti-capitalism

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While protests and direct action oftentimes are necessary in order to create the foundations for political change, we cannot let primitive emotional responses take over our approach. Anti-capitalism is per definition such a primitive emotional response, and oftentimes built not only on noble emotions such as compassion and solidarity with disenfranchised groups in society, but also on ressentiment and puritan moralism.

Ressentiment and puritan moralism are gateways to absolutism and totalitarianism, and are unacceptable deviations for a movement such as the EOS.

Of course, it is true as anti-capitalists claim that Capitalism in itself bears a responsibility for the situation we are in, as the current ecological crisis wouldn’t exist if not for the exponential growth system. But it is also true, as pro-capitalists say, that without Capitalism and Industrialism, we would live in feudal societies with very low standard of life and probably worse social conditions.

However, we don’t owe Capitalism to let it continue to exist only because it allowed an unprecedented standard of life in the western world during the 20th century.

Anti-capitalist attitudes are unproductive for a movement like the EOS, since we cannot preoccupy ourselves with real or perceived injustices. Instead we must move on to discussing how the transition to the unavoidable post-capitalistic society should work out, and how we all humans would want that society to provide for, and what it can provide for.

Ultimately, a large role will have to be played by progressive-minded capitalists who have realised that we are moving towards an abyss. These brave individuals, who have realised that we are moving towards an ecological collapse, are a huge asset for the future, because their influence can be used to a great extent to assist with the transition.

Summary

Post-capitalism is inevitable, but it is up to us all to steer the process in such a manner that we don’t end up in a situation that no one in their right mind would want.

The flaws of democracy are the flaws of the market system

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

The excellent Blog Borderstone did recently outline a series of problems with democracy, related to aspects of voter behaviour and how political parties exploit that behaviour. They also suggested a few alterations to the democratic system, which would mean a function similar to the “consumer ombudsman”/”consumer authority” that would limit the amounts of “bad advertising” political parties are engaging in. I would argue that while I agree with Borderstone that there are major problems with voter behaviour, any set of solutions should really focus primarily on the voters, rather than on the political parties.

What comes first?

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This really says it all.

Democratic Elections are really just another form of a market system. The goal for any political party, or political candidate for that matter, is to scramble enough votes to be able to exert policies (and on the flopside, try to maximise the social status and the income of the participants, if we are subscribing to a more misantropic view of humanity) which benefit the voters.

To be able to achieve this, political parties should be able to reach enough voters to be able to make a difference. This means that the goal is to grab the attention of the voters. Politics is a complex subject, but to be able to gain attention, any political party must be able to generalise and comprime information in such a manner that they can attract just the amount of voters they need to be able to exert influence.

One of the great revolutions of the 20th century, was the birth of mass media and the mass entertainment industry. A typical human being in a developed economy receives as much new information daily as a farmer in the 18th century received during an entire year. While it can be argued that most of this new information is consisting of junk, it is still grabbing the attention of the individual and creates intellectual processing.

i_can_has_cheezburger_1_Thus, there is an ongoing evolutionary struggle within the sphere of memetics, to be able to occupy human minds with information. Billboards, signs, news headlines, adverts, TV channels and Internet are the battlefields of this struggle, which is about control of human psychology.

Just like in nature, evolution strives after achieving the greatest possible outcomes with the necessary, optimal means. That is for example why humans and most animals have just two eyes, because two eyes are optimal for being able to determine where is up and where is down. Three eyes could achieve the same thing, but the third eye would be superfluous (unless you’re into New Age).

Regarding mass media, which is reminding of democratic politics in more than one way, newspapers for example need to attract buyers. This has led to an increasing emphasis on things which engage people – namely celebrities and sport – which are things that humans are biologically hardwired to understand.

We might be irritated about all these “news” about which celebrities have divorced, about scandals on Ex on the beach and “infotainment” programs such as Deadliest Warrior, but ultimately it is we as a collective that are responsible for programs such as Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Biggest Loser. Certainly, many people are preferring shows like Cosmos and Vetenskapens värld, but since things like reality shows and infotainment is existing, it shows that there is a popular demand for things like that – since that is what people want.

Why do people like to consume crap?

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Because it’s cheap.

And no, when it comes to dumbed-down information (which often is flawed and appealing to emotions), it is not a question of money. Rather, it is a question of time and mental capacity. It is easier for the brain to just accept the information that gets filtered through, than to analyse it from all viewpoints and to come to a conclusion based on a combination of reason and values.

Also, it is cheap in the terms of not wanting to be proven wrong. Often, successful parties operating in a democratic system are ascribing to certain cultural or social identities with conflicting interests (I will return to that and explain why I think an ombudsman is a bad idea later), and individuals do not want to be proven wrong. People who are on the left on the political spectrum might want all social problems to be defined as environmental constructs, while hard right-leaners might want everything to be genetic. There is also this large group of voters who have low education, low ability to learn and/or very little interest of taking information.

Those people have voting rights too (and they should have that, because if not no one would take into account their interests, especially not within the framework of a free market system).

Given that, my conclusion is that the current level of political discourse is the result of popular will.

Revisit the market analogy

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The free market does not want you to take responsibility, but neither does it care about you.

It becomes very dangerous when that kind of ideology is influencing the democratic discourse. Since the 1950’s – when consumer capitalism became established, the market has increasingly come to define not only our way of working and eating, but also our identity. To a large extent, this has led to a breakdown of civic ideals in western societies, and (what Marx warned about) the commodification of the human identity. This means that we – primarily, in all aspects – are treated foremost as receptors, consumers, and not as actors with an own will.

We should really all feel very insulted when newspapers, TV channels and political parties speak to us like if we were children. They are treating us with contempt, and their view of the public is told through the quality of their programming. And to a very large extent, I would suspect that being fed information that doesn’t challenge us, nor contribute to our intellectual development, has gradually come to reduce the quality of our ability to understand information.

When democratic elections start to work after the same principles, it becomes really dangerous, since it can make the public unable to detect hidden dangers, or be able to withstand demagoguery. It can be discussed if this process is some kind of aware progress towards a society run by international elites, since an uninformed, disinterested electorate can make it easier to enact treaties such as ACTA, TTIP and MAI. Western democracies today are really run after principles where both the dominating parties (usually a left-centre and right-centre party) are striving after the same long-term goals in economic and foreign policies, and then it is of course “good” if public participation is reduced and politics as a whole are “dumbed down”.

What is the solution then?

participative-leadership

The course that EOS sees for the future is direct-democratic within the context of voluntary confederations. However, this remains a distant goal in the future, and even if introduced, such a system would possibly have the same problems as our current systems, and might degrade further since a direct democracy in the hands of an electorate which has learnt to constantly be fooled by messages which are directed towards children rather than adults can yield some frightening results.

An ombudsman would however be a bad idea too, as well as laws limiting what politicians might send out for messages. It would lead to constant legal proceedings, where rival parties would accuse one another before court of misleading adverts and of lying, and it can serve to destabilise societies further, when polarising issues such as immigration, climate change and economic issues emerge. Also, if the state in question has a dominating party, this party would have the resources to legally persecute their opponents, thus creating a semi-democracy or an authoritarian state.

No. The best route forward is probably to encourage people to think, to create a society where more is demanded than that we should pursue our identity through consumerism. It is paramount that both children and adults learn about scientific reasoning, and about logics and especially logical fallacies. Of course, all people would not be able to fully master these processes, but if a significant amount are, and if such behaviour is promoted amongst the public (instead of the ideals presented by Jersey Shore and America’s Next Top Model), then we would be a significant amount of way ahead.

This course is a very good initiation to that world, by the way.

What does post-monetaryism mean?

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Since 2008, the terms “post-monetary future” and “resource-based economy” have been floating around the web, appearing on comments to articles, youtube videos and blog entries. I am writing this entry partially to – as we say on Swedish – “bone out” what should be meant with post-monetaryism. I do not write this to define Energy Accounting as the only or ultimate formed of proposed post-monetaryism, but rather to create some broad basic definitions of what a post-monetary system, as opposed to a pre-monetary or monetary system could be defined, so a flexible agreement on the definitions can finally be reached.

I have meant to write this article for a long time, and the reason why is that I have observed on Facebook and on other places of the Internet a lot of individuals who are either putting forward new age and conspiracy-related proposals on how a post-monetary system would look like, or people who in the 00’s would have defined themselves as “anarcho-primitivists”/”green anarchists” and claim that we can establish a post-monetary system through gift economics, passive technology or “upgrading” to a hunter-gatherer society.

This post is not meant as a critique of anyone else than those individuals.

Pre-monetary systems

Pre-monetary systems have been the dominant systems for most of the existence of sedentary human civilization, and also dominated during the pre-civilizational era. Even until the 19th century, most of the economy of advanced civilizations such as Europe, China and the Middle East existed on a pre-monetary level – the farm, the village, the local town. Most people consumed what they produced, and could not trade their surplus because there was no surplus. Prior to industrialization, most people simply had to use most of their energy (in terms of their physical energy) to endure.

The local village economies were most often built on gifts, sharing or barter. We should note that most goods produced – tools, clothes, herbs, food – was goods that could easily be entirely assembled in their raw components and produced by one individual or a small group of individuals. The materials were most often collected from the immediate surroundings, and there was not much trade with the wider world.

Monetary systems

With arising cities, division of labour came into being. For comparative benefits, different trades started to arise 5000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and the Nile Valley. This led to a gradual increase in the amount and number of goods, and thus to an increasing complexity in the systems. Since humans are adaptable, gradually one good, no matter if it was beer, salt or any form of metal (whatever there was more of than needed in the system) arose to become a sort of interim good for individuals to obtain what they desired. In 13th century Sweden for example, inter-county trade was conducted with salt as the dominant currency. Thus, even without money, currency regimes arose naturally.

Money as legal tender is a method of institutionalising a currency and centralising the control of the issuing, minting and/or printing, to secure the pre-dominance of institutions. Such institutions have often arisen a long time after the currency system in itself has been established.

The two characteristics of monetary systems, which can be summed up here, is that money allows for increased trade and for market economies to establish themselves, and that money allows the accumulation of wealth. This later aspect has led to a massive divergence in wealth between different social groups in most developed and developing nations. However, the establishment of national and international trade and national currency regimes can also be said to have contributed in a greatly positive manner in the matter of technological development and increasing access to water, housing, food and medication (though the increasing inequality also contributes vastly to destroying the conditions of life for perhaps a majority of the human population).

Eventually, monetary systems reaches a point in economic growth where human labour is increasingly replaced with automated labour, and where the exponential growth moves over a tipping point where the planetary eco-systems are starting to become exhausted. We are living at precisely this juncture in time at this point in 2014 CE.

Post-monetary theories

The truth is, there are probably countless theories floating around since at least the 19th century on how post-monetary systems could or should be arranged. Most of these proposals are stemming from convictions, opinions and aesthetic tastes amongst philosophers and pseudo-philosophers alike.

What I would like to offer is a definition of a post-monetary system which can – in a broad way – set it apart from a monetary system. The first marker is that a post-monetary system does not exclude accounting. On the contrary, it must rely on accounting.

Even the RBE concepts of Jacque Fresco must (theoretically) rely on a type of accounting. The main difference is not the non-existence of accounting or calculations, but the idea that these functions should be relegated to AI’s, which work within a cybernated planned economy. While some RBE followers will disagree on this, it shows more that they should read more about the theories which they are proselytizing.

As for myself, what I would like to offer to this discourse is a simple definition which can be read like this: A post-monetary system is an advanced system of economic calculation where the unit of exchange has transformed into a unit that cannot be accumulated over longer periods of time, and/or where other functions of the thing which we used to define as “money” has transformed beyond recognition. It is not moving back to barter or pre-monetary/pre-civilizational models. It exists within the context of a society that advances towards automation, and is based on the needs of such a society.

This definition is in my opinion more beautiful, broad and inclusive than either the both vague and sectarian RBE definitions, as it is including concepts from time-banking, ParEcon, RBE, to Energy Accounting and Labour Accounting. It also purposely excludes the New Age and Anarcho-primitivist definitions.

Post-Monetary

Biodome Fundraiser

Green Free Will at work!

Introduction

The Biodome Project progress can be followed on http://enggreenfreewill.wordpress.com. The construction team are doing an awesome work. However, one of the problems we have encountered with the LEADER support grant we’ve received has been that we have encountered demands on additions and elaborations to the reports we send in to explain how we’ve used the part of the grant we received first. The result is that our payments are delayed by constant demands on more and more specifications.

If we do not receive our next payment, we can have trouble finishing the project as it stands, and we are risking to be liable of the grant. This is not how it should go, because we have all struggled very hard with this project, a project that is non-commercial and aims to create a better world.

The Biodome in Lögdea (on Swedish)

The goal is to build an automated experimental biodome with an aquaponics system, connected to a computer system that can alter conditions inside the dome after the changing needs of the ecosystems inside said dome.

What do we need?

We would need 60.000 Swedish Crowns to complete this stage of the biodome and pay our costs. That is 9000 USD and around 6500 Euro.

We have already received 1000 SEK during the early stages of this fundraising, and that money would go to compensate some of the practivists of Green Free Will for their gas costs driving to the site for voluntary work. Needless to say, that is a small fraction of our costs.

Re-funding

If we receive our next part-payment from the County Board of Vesterbotten, we can refund your donations as “private expenses”, so you can get your money back. Note that we are not sure when the next part-payment will arrive, or if it will arrive, given the experiences taught us by the process until now.

That is why we are asking for a donation and not for a loan.

How do I pay?

You can donate a sum of money through Paypal or to our official bank account.

Our official Paypal adress is: andrew.wallace[at]technate.eu

Our bank account number is: 8420-2 903 584 947-1 (Swedbank)

The future needs your help!

Enrique Lescure, Sequence Director of Relations, EOS

The Way Ahead

Galaxy

“If fear should win our hearts
Our light will have long diminished
Before it reaches the farthest star” ~ Ronan Harris, VNV Nation

My name is Enrique Lescure, and I am a board member of the Earth Organisation for Sustainability – EOS, and has been active within the network since 2007.Energy Accounting, Earth Organisation for Sustainability, EOS

Maybe it could be seen as pretentious to say that we – we who are alive today – perhaps are the most important generation that has lived during the era of humanity on Earth. That the decisions that we make – or not – during our lifetime, will affect life on Earth during hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions of years?

Our planet has gone through five mass extinctions during its life, the last one caused by a meteor hitting the sea at the Yucátan Peninsula 65 million years ago. It ended the age of the Dinosaurs and led to the rise of the mammals as the dominant terrestrial forms of life.

While I am writing this, almost all eco-systems on our beautiful planet are put under an unfathomable stress. Complex ecosystems are replaced by mono-cultures. Heavy metals, chemicals and particles are poisoning air, water, earth and organisms alike. The rise of CO2 has been caused by emissions of fossil fuels into the atmosphere. The seas are dying. The quality of the soil is being destroyed. If this development continue, it will spiral into a sixth mass extinction event.

I am sure that you who are reading this know about this.

You also probably do know that this is caused by the current civilization that we have created.

The question is: How should we solve this?
Answers are varying. Politicians are speaking of bans, taxes and subsidies. Businesses and scientists are speaking of technical measures. Grassroot organisations are speaking of solving local problem. The complexity of the issues can seem overwhelming.

Though all these issues are really symptoms of a main cause.

What is then that main cause?

The main cause is that we have created an ecologically and socially unsustainable civilization, founded on a debt-based monetary system dependent on exponential growth. Today we are using around 135% of the renewal capacity of the Earth.

We must solve all issues with climate change, sea destruction, heavy metals and mass deaths amongst animal and plant life, and each of these problems present an enormous challenge for all of us.

The main challenge however is to reduce our usage of resources from 135% to below 100%, which means a level where the biosphere can start to recover after decades of exploitation.

I was aware of many of these problems already when I studied at high school.

Thus I started to explore ideas aimed at solving the environmental deficit we are experiencing today. I started to see that the green movement relied too heavily on changing the behavior of the individual, as well as changing details of how the systems are working today. The alternative green forces, anarcho-primitivists, deep-greens and eco-fascists, were on the other hand focusing on misanthropy and on unrealistic visions of a pre-industrial world.

At the end, my search led me to establish contact with students, engineers and researchers from many countries, who shared similar ideas on how we should proceed. Our goal was aimed at creating a realistic, tangible model on how to combine a high-tech civilization with social and ecological sustainability.

Thus we created EOS – the Earth Organization for Sustainability.

EOS was founded as a research- and grassroot network, producing a blueprint for a hypothetical sustainable civilization. This is a (well… relatively) short text called “The Design”, which is describing our ideas.

Our thoughts are the following: We are aiming to create a model for handling the Earth’s resources in a more rational and ecologically sustainable manner. In short, this proposed model is based on a) a continuous survey of the global renewal capacity, b) that all human beings get to own a share of this renewal capacity, c) that they from their share can allocate their resources to what they want to be produced for themselves, d) and that the production is determined by where the consumers are allocating their shares.

In short:

• There is a ceiling that limits how much we can use – the renewal capacity of the Earth.
• All human beings are entitled to an income floor and an income ceiling.
• No products that people are not actively asking for should be produced. This also means a radically lowered amount of working hours.

We are not aiming for a command economy, but for a libertarian, de-centralised and federated system characterised by common communication networks. Neither do we want no growth, as growth in income and living standards under a system as it is proposed by us would be a result of environmentally friendly applications and more efficient ways to utilize resources.

How realistic is our model then?

As a research network, our approach is moving towards applying scientific methodologies on socio-economic systems. Therefore, our goal is to work together with local communities, associations and groups of individuals and test aspects of the design to see how well it works in the real world, to change or scrap what doesn’t work and evolve organically.

Ideally, we aim to also strengthen local communities to increase local resilience and together form a model that can bridge the ecological crisis awaiting us, and help humanity move towards a more evolved and mature civilization.

The most important foundation of our work is that we are striving towards a sustainable world, and that we during our journey are basing our work on ethical methods that strengthen human rights and diversity.

We can all together create a civilization based on sustainability and human creativity, a stable foundation for the values which our descendants one day hopefully will spread beyond the stars.

My question to you is: What should we – humanity – become, and how should we become?

The Biodome Project 2014

dsc02411One of the greatest challenges of the future, in a world affected by peak oil, damaged soil and climate change, is how to ensure our food. We stand before the greatest challenge that humanity has ever encountered. There are 7 billion people on the planet, and many of them are today dependent on an agricultural sector which is dependent on fertilizers based on chemicals and fossil resources.

There are, however, alternatives. Organic farming for example.

But for organic farming to become an alternative to the prevailing paradigm of large, monocultural fields, it needs to become less labour-intensive and be able to feed billions of people. That is why I found the ideas of Alexander Bascom and Green Free Will so intriguing when I first heard about them.

The idea is to contain a self-regulating aquaponics system within an automated geodesic dome. This system will simulate an eco-system, with an artificial river floor world, filled with small aquatic animals, and a plant bed where vegetables, fruits and beans are grown. There will be a computerised regulation system inside the dome which would adjust to a number of variables – climate conditions, atmosphere, bacteria levels, nitrate levels and water levels, and change the conditions of the dome to keep a dynamic equilibrium. This choice represents the reality, where vegetables and fruits together stand for around 80% of the human calory intake, whereas aquatic food stands for 20% of the proteine intake for most people. Since soil will not be used, and the plants will be fertilized by organic manure produced by the aquatic eco-system, the internal eco-system will be sustainable, and will only require a minimum of external nutritional in-take (mostly iron).

EOS has joined its forces together with Green Free Will, to make sure that this project is realised.

Our aim is to raise a small, experimental prototype dome, made of plastic composites and located in Lögdeå, near Umeå.

And we have received a grant which is covering a part of the cost. The grant is delivered by URnära, a LEADER project which helps with agricultural development in northern Sweden. The grant is covering the construction materials for the dome and the initial wages for the two project leaders, Alexander Bascom and myself. However, a condition for the grant is co-financing from other entities – from individuals and from associations and companies. Also, the grant does not cover the foundation digging, the aquaponics system nor the computer hardware and software.

The grant is on 34.035 Euro (300.000 SEK), while the total cost of the project is 177.011 Euro (1.560.000 SEK). We have a deadline until the 30th of June 2014 to have the Dome up.

You have an opportunity to help with achieving food sustainability, combine innovative new systems to make high-tech organic farming. The aim of this project is not to make a profit-driven enterprise, but to help individuals, communities and peoples achieve sustainable farming. Imagine roof-tops, private and public gardens and communities centered around dome-farming. Imagine a future where people once again can grow clean, unpolluted food in a sustainable way any time they want during the year, no matter where they live. This project has prospects from everything from ordinary gardening, to humanitarian aid, to space exploration.

Our paypal address is biodome2014@gmail.com

Contact person is Dr Andrew Alexander Wallace, Spanngränd 13, 906-28 UMEA, SWEDEN.

CURRENT NEEDS: 300.000 SEK/1.560.000 SEK

 

 

Energy Accounting


Image

This is another one of the series of proposed articles for the updated EOS website. It delves into the subject of Energy Accounting, which can be pretty complex to explain. I have tried to be as concise and clear as possible, given that this subject is unfamiliar to the overwhelming majority of people.

Introduction

 

Now when we have established why we don’t appreciate the current monetary system, we would like to offer our alternative. Before we start this segment, we would however like to remind you that we do not aim to dogmatically enforce our views on the world.

 

EOS is aiming to utilise research, science and testing to allow alternative systems to emerge and evolve in harmony with the needs of the participants and of the environment. We feel that is necessary in order to provide a social environment that would treat it’s participants with respect and dignity. Nowhere do we claim that we know this would work, but we believe that it offers a potential way out of the gridlock which the human species have got stuck into.

 

We also want you to keep an open mind while reading this article, even if the conclusions can seem radical. We are building our conclusions on how the planet is working, as well as on our values, our views that all forms of life should be treated in such a dignified manner as possible, that we need to balance our needs with the needs of the biosphere, and that all human beings should have the rights to a minimum standard of living.

 

We mean to form a realistic model of how such a mutually beneficial relationship can be established between humanity and the Earth.

 

The Earth’s renewal capacity

 

For the last 65 million years, we all living beings who have had the privilege to enjoy the fresh water and fruits of the Earth have been living under what we could call “The Eocene Biosphere”. It is an ecosystem which is characterised by two features.

 

One: The dominant form of animal life on most of the continents of the Earth are mammals.

 

Two: The climate has been characterised by warm periods and ice ages following one another in a cyclical pattern, regulated by humidity and vegetation.

 

The biosphere is working in a circular system. In the natural world, there is no landfills. Instead, everyone’s waste is someone’s gain. The system is self-renewing and de-centralised, composed of multiple emergent agents that consist of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and the networks that emerge out of their interactions.

 

This system gradually establishes dynamic equilibriums, where an abundance of plants leads to an explosion of herbivores, which leads to a subsequent growth in the number of carnivores. Often, there are interlinked webs of thousands of different species, making up different ecosystems.

 

The biosphere is materially consisting of biomass, which consists of all accumulated organic matter on the planet. Under natural circumstances, given that the system is not enduring a geologically volatile period or a period of rapid climate change, the system is generally adding new biomass to itself, thus growing. This new biomass is generally generated in the world of plants, where sunlight, water and minerals together are an important part of the individual nutritional cycle of a plant.

 

However, for the last decades, this natural order has been upset by the linear growth-oriented economy of the current human civilization. In the year of 2013 for example, we had already consumed up the equivalent of all the biomass the Earth could generate during that year at the 22nd of August.

 

In general, this rate of global ecological cannibalism is creeping 14 days closer to January every passing year. By that point, we will have surpassed the planet’s ability to regenerate itself with one year.

 

Thus, EOS has concluded that it might be wise to base the new socio-economic system on the Earth’s renewal capacity. By directly tying our accounting system to the Earth’s renewal capacity, we hope to be able to receive direct information on how to better manage our common resources.

 

The Energy Survey

 

We imagine that the society in the future, in order to feed the billions of people on the planet, would still need to be a society with a technological infrastructure, and that technological progress will continue. The reason for this is both realistic and humanitarian. We cannot feed more than one billion people if we would return to an agrarian economy on a global scale, and we can only feed ten million if we moved back to a global hunter-gatherer production system.

 

However, a technological system has a few benefits when it comes to the rational evaluation of the available resources. It allows us to gather data and information, analyse it and have a more transparent an open evaluation than ever before.

 

Therefore, we believe that the best way to move forward is to be aware of what we can do, and what effects that would bring to the environments. We must measure and compile data from all ecosystems on a constant basis, as the situation of the Earth is so dire now that we need to survey the status of local eco-systems.

 

But more than that, and central to this article, we hope to establish a global network that can gather data about the renewal capacity of the Earth on a yearly basis. This process will be called The Energy Survey, and will determine exactly how much we as a species could collect from the planet without depleting the natural foundations for life on Earth.

 

Energy Accounting

 

The new form of currency which we want to test as an option are called “Energy Credits”, and they will represent fractions of the total renewal capacity on Earth translated into the emergy cost – in short what energy it will take to extract resources, produce items, transport them and then recycle them.

 

That will represent the cost factor of the new socio-economic system, which will mean that all prices will represent the actual environmental costs, at all segments of the product cycle.

 

Moreover, since the total amount of energy credits should represent the total amount of renewal capacity on the planet for a certain period of time, it would be impossible to utilise the system to overexploit the resource base of the planet.

 

The line is that the share should be divided as such, that one part will go to maintaining infrastructure, another one (which will be the largest) will be distributed directly to the citizenry, and a third part will be “reinvested” into the biosphere, which will mean a biomass net gain.

 

This system is called “Energy Accounting”.

 

Basic Income

 

It is too early yet to discuss exactly what proportions should be allocated to the three different areas of distribution, and it is most likely that if the system is implemented, the proportions will wary in accordance with the interests of all engaged parties.

 

What stands clear however, is that a large part of the energy credits distributed to citizens will be consisting of universal basic income for all citizens. It is a core tenet of the values of EOS, that no human being should be homeless, starving, freezing, thirsting, or deprived of healthcare and education.

 

Human beings have differing backgrounds, talents, interests, personalities and levels of intelligence. Under this current system, people are punished because they are badly adjusted to the needs of the labour market, often through no fault of their own. Even in developed nations, there are many homeless and mentally ill people who are abandoned on the streets.

 

Nobody deserves to become ill or die due to their social incompetence or physical disability. All human beings deserve to have basic dignity.

 

Consumption, how?

 

People receive their income in accordance with the rules that the citizenry have agreed upon.

 

Then the question arises, is there any difference in how trade and exchange is supposed to work in comparison to the current world?

 

Yes, there is a difference.

 

Under our proposed model, the consumer allocates shares of her energy credits to various goods and services. Instead of each actor paying money to the prior actor in the product cycle, from consumer to raw materials extractor, the consumer allocates energy credits which represent the environmental cost of the entire product cycle for producing and transporting x numbers of a particular product.

 

This means that the demand – or the will of the citizens – will have a larger influence over the supply side. The consumers will decide, through their allocations, what will be produced, and from which producers they want to purchase their products.

 

On the other hand, there will be no advertisement in the manner there is today. It would make no sense at all to try to actively encourage consumers to increase their rate of consumption. Moreover, goods will be assembled only when requested by the consumers. We believe that such an organisation of production will serve to decrease the production of for example electronic products, cell phones, fashion clothes, magazines and other products, especially as many products in today’s world are never sold or used.

 

 

Reduced labour hours

 

With the vastly decreased production rate, and the production ceiling, there would be no more needs to try to increase demand and thus the production rate of the good. Moreover, with the system of Energy Accounting, employments would not anymore be founded on the principle of maximising profits, but rather on the principles of maximising social utility. This can be used to reduce unemployment significantly (we will return on that issue in the next article), especially within the sectors of education and healthcare.

 

If more people are gainfully and meaningfully employed within a sector, the labour hours of all the participants can be reduced. They will be able to spend more quality time with their family and loved ones, and more time in pursuit of their interests and passions. In short, they would have more time to fulfil their human desires.

 

On the other hand, several sectors will shrink and disappear. This will of course serve to free more labour to be employed in gainfully productive jobs.

 

The ramifications of this should of course however be left to the local communities to determine, as our proposed alternative to this current system – as you will see in the next article – is characterised by a high degree of de-centralisation and organisational flexibility.

 

When it comes to barter between individuals, it is best left to the regulation of the local communities as well.

 

Wise growth

 

This new form of socio-economic system that emerges through Energy Accounting will probably have slower rates of growth in more than a few sectors. This does not however mean that there will be zero growth.

 

Rather, the amount of energy credits – or rather the purchasing power of said energy credits – will increase as new technological innovations are arriving, which are making production, transports or resource extraction more ecologically friendly.

 

Of course, the existence of such a system would stimulate inventions that would save energy and reduce the amount of materials used in production. In short, stimulating more sustainable ways of utilising energy.

 

Summary

 

Energy Accounting as a design offers several potential benefits, both to the well-being of the biosphere, the harmony of the communities, and the quality of life of human beings. These benefits are the following:

 

Ecological

 

·         Real-time awareness of the state of the planet.

 

·         A production ceiling marked by the renewal capacity of the planet, ensuring that the biomass is not degraded and that biological diversity – Life as we know it – would not be harmed.

 

 

·         The cost of the product in terms of purchasing cost will reflect the environmental stress exerted over the environment.

 

 

·         Cheaper relative costs for purchasing more environmentally friendly products.

 

 

·         Total balance between demand and supply, through a demand-driven economy.

 

 

·         A decreased production rate.

 

 

·         Stimulate innovations that reduce the energy usage and materials, and increase the sustainability of goods and services.

 

Social

 

·         A guaranteed basic income for all the participants in the system.

 

 

·         Guaranteed housing, healthcare and education.

 

 

·         Reduced labour hours, allowing for more time to be a human being.

 

 

·         No forced long-term unemployment and social alienation.

 

 

A scientific path forward

 

EOS is aware that this system is untested, and that there are many questions that remain unanswered. For example, we do not know how human incentives would respond to this new socio-economic environment. Will people for example – during the end of an Energy Survey period – consume frantically to not lose their remaining energy credits? Or will people try to avoid work?

 

We are not a political movement, and do not aim to try to introduce this system tomorrow on a global scale if we had the chance. That would be highly irresponsible and immature. It could lead to unprecedented disasters, and actually to consequences that would damage both the Earth and the human race even more, and bring us farther away from our goals.

 

Instead, we aim to test Energy Accounting on a limited scale, during different conditions, to be able to judge what parts of the idea that works and what parts should be adjusted or abandoned altogether. Any adverse effects would happen in a limited environment. Our goal is to allow Energy Accounting to evolve and develop itself through the interactions of networks of humans, collaborating with one another in a voluntary and rational manner.

 

We are also aware, that if Energy Accounting is ever implemented, it will look different – perhaps even alien – to the current design. That does not bother us. We embrace evolution and development.

 

Energy Accounting does neither, if ever implemented, represent the final step in the evolution of the human civilization. Rather, it would then just be a step towards another, hopefully superior way of managing resources. After all, we would one day stretch beyond the Earth, and throughout the stars.

 

Final words

 

 

The important thing is that the new system, during the time it is implemented, should fulfil the two core objectives.

 

First: That no more should be taken from the Earth than what the Earth can replenish.

 

Second: That all human beings are given access to basic standard of life.

 

Hopefully, the 21st century will be the century when we eliminate the triplet evils of poverty, illiteracy and famine. Despite that we are facing an environmental challenge, greater than any before, it remains the hope and conviction of EOS that humanity can unite and overcome Her adversities and help a better human civilization to emerge.

 

We can do better than we are doing.

 

And we can become better than we are.

 

Or else our light will vanish before it reaches the farthest star.”  – Ronan Harris, VNV Nation

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