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.

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.

The Internet of Things: A Proto-technate

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via inoviagroup.se

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

It becomes increasingly clear that the future we are shaping for tomorrow will be considerably different from today, and that the 21st century can potentially become even more dramatic than the 19th century in terms of techno-social development. While the future is indeed shifting, we can see two competing trends which will shape the future. The first one is the increasing exponential pace of ecological devastation, which threatens to destroy the current biosphere and usher in a new dark age for humanity. The second trend is exponential technological development, in terms of computational capacity, information technology, miniaturization, bio-tech, renewal energy and space research development.

These trends will undoubtly transform not only our civilization, but our planet as well. Therefore, it has never been as important as now that we establish a common ground on which we can shape the future existence of the human species and its interrelationship with the planet. To a large extent, social and technological development is not intentional, but a result of emergent processes – meaning that when a new technology is introduced, it will change the way in which human beings interact with the environment and thus eventually transform society and even – in the far perspective – human culture.

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is far from impossible to see towards where technological development could lead us if taken to its logical conclusion. While some are believing that the history of the human civilization is deterministic and will naturally lead to its end-state – the post-1991 realignment in most cases – that is only appearing to be so. In fact, while emergence strives to flow like mighty currents, we fundamentally do have the power to steer it towards the direction where we can see the optimal goals from the perspective that our civilization has chosen to embrace.

We argue that one of the potential logical conclusions of the implementation and development of the Internet of Things is the establishment of an intelligently managed and integrated infrastructure. Such an infrastructure can be utilized in order to create a near-total overview over the usage of resource flows, energy, trade, production and distribution. Thus, from the emergence of the Internet of Things, a technate can be formed.

TL;DR Summary

  • Integrated computer technology and miniaturization means that applications can interconnect to optimize communication and information to optimize functionality within various fields.
  • This process leads to the formation of intelligent cities, which in their turn will interconnect with one another and form larger and larger networks.
  • Eventually, this could mean the establishment of a global integrated network which allows for a total overview over energy-, infrastructure- and resource management on our planet.
  • This would present a great opportunity to exponentially increase our ability to manage resources sustainably while providing a good quality of life to all human beings, but also increases the risk for totalitarian centralized control.
  • Therefore, it is paramount that we establish a dialogue on whether this transition is desirable, in what way it should be implemented and how we could ensure popular influence over the transition process.
  • Fundamentally, the struggle is about who and how technology should be controlled during the 21st century.

Technological determinism and evolution

via kryptonradio.com

via kryptonradio.com

It is easy to imagine that the world we are living in today is the natural consequence of capitalism, industrialism, the scientific revolution and parliamentary democracy. To some extent, it is also true. For example, the rationalization process that the growth-oriented economy initiates when it transforms eco-systems into mono-cultures is the direction towards which the logical conclusion of Smithian Economics point. However, some characteristics of our current economy are to a large extent dependent on co-incidences.

One example is the ascendancy of the private automobile. Motoring has for three generations been such a natural part of western civilization that most people generally are taking it for granted. In the United States, a large part of the surface territory consists of highways, parking lots and the suburban regions made possible by the culture of motoring. The reliance on combustion engine cars have greatly affected climate change during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

However, neither the culture of motoring or the reliance on fossil-based fuels was a historical inevitability. During the early 20th century, there were cars that were powered from various differing sources, and it was not at all certain that the combustion technology would win the techno-evolutionary competition and become the dominant energy model for transport during that era. It was due to a series of historical accidents and investment patterns that this model won out.

Another example of a historical co-incidence was how the wild horse was hunted to extinction in North America during the older Stone Age, but how a small group survived on the Eurasian landmass and was domesticated. If the horse had gone extinct in Eurasia, or survived in the Americas, history as we would have known it would have been entirely different.

Thus, we need to look at technological development not as deterministic, but as evolutionary. Technology is developed on the basis of what has been tried before and proven to work, and thus constantly improves with baby steps. When new technological areas are discovered, the same process generally applies to them (unless these new technologies are outcompeted by established rivals that achieve the same aim). This also means that we can consciously choose what technological development we want to emphasise, and to a limited extent direct what effects on society this progress will have by consciously adapting our infrastructure to the future we are setting the course for.

On the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things can be defined in many ways – one of the simplest if to say that it is an observed trend. More and more, the minaturization of applications have allowed for a digitalization of previously non-digital technology. This means that the operational intelligence of everyday household items and infrastructure will increase, and that these items will be able to be a part of a large communications network.Picture-6

If this technology becomes widely available in the market, we can imagine that it would not be unusual to see integrated homes, which reminisces of the kind of computerized homes seen in old sci-fi shows from the 1960’s, where people are operating their home environment through their voice or through small chips placed inside their own bodies.

Let us think further. These systems can make homes inter-communicate, allowing for example a more optimal energy distribution between houses within the same neighbourhood, or why not integrated fire warning systems, that would alert the nearby homes of a fire in an application? Or what about integrated waste management systems and automated aquaponics production systems within every habitat, as envisioned by Alexander Bascom?

Eventually, there will be smart cities where all of the infrastructure consist of fully integrated systems, that can monitor energy and resource usage, set up alternative plans for resource usage or assist in the making of such plans, and also to some extent self-manage.

This interconnectedness will grow out from the cities, connecting through power grids, roads and railways, and eventually entire states and continents will be interconnected. This will inevitably – if taken to its logical conclusion – make the existing economical, social and political power arrangements outdated and lead to a complete transformation of not only the human civilization, but of the very concept of civilization itself.

Eventually, what will emerge will be a planet united through a network which allows for the transparent overview and the centralized, de-centralized or integrated management of energy and resources. In short, humanity will be within the reach of establishing if not The Singularity, so at least a Singleton.

The risks of neo-totalitarianism

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While there are many causes to celebrate aspects of the ascent of the Internet of Things, there are also profound risks that need to be analyzed and put into context. The foremost of these risks is the issue of power. Already today, we are seeing tendencies towards a greater and greater concentration of wealth and power in supranational financial institutions and in multi-national corporate entities.

If such structures are given control over the Internet of Things, we would most likely see a very predatory process, the reduction of popular sovereignty and the increase of surveillance and centralization. What could become a system that can help save the biosphere and empower humanity, can under the wrong conditions instead become a virtually un-overthrowable neo-totalitarian Brave New World scenario.

Therefore, the role of the Earth Organisation of Sustainability – and similar organisations aiming for a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable world – should be to increase the availability of this knowledge, but also of the applications and the ability to construct the applications themselves, to the general public and to local communities, within the context of a consciously evolving proto-technate.

What is a proto-technate?

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A proto-technate (a term defined by dr. Andrew Wallace), is a consciously evolving infrastructure management system, which includes and empowers all participants through transparency, de-centralization and constant availability for education. The system is evolving by learning from its previous mistakes, and the goal is increased sustainability, as explained in The Three Criteria.

This means that the control of the Internet of Things within the context of a proto-technate would be given not to corporations, governments or supranational institutions, but to local, voluntary groups that would utilize these technologies to manage their own local environment and the sustainability of their neighbourhoods. This would also allow for a more diverse array of solutions adapted to the local and regional needs of communities and individuals.

In the city of Umea, we in the new EOS Board are aiming to establish an intellectual and practical centre for the development and utilization of technologies to be adapted for the transition towards a sustainable society. The first step would be the establishment of an eco-lab in Umea, through which many local groups – as well as the public – can become connected and learn how to make their imprint in the process of developing and implementing techniques.

Ultimately, if we have a vision of how the world should look like in 100 years, we must work locally and together with individuals and communities to make this a reality. Our main goal in this respect should be to help ensure that the control of the knowledge and the new technologies is in the hands of the people and that it is used in a context of forming a sustainable civilization.

On Survivalism

govolontourism.com

govolontourism.com

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Or in other words, a social collapse.

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

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

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

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

Vulnerability

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The wrong way

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

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

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

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

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

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

The right way

theurbanfarmer.ca

theurbanfarmer.ca

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Intelligent cities as a step towards a technate

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

What is a technate

gizmodo.com

gizmodo.com

What is a technate?

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

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

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

What is an Intelligent City?

beinformed.com

beinformed.com

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

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

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

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

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

Risks and challenges

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

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

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

Conclusion

thevenusproject.com

thevenusproject.com

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

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

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

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Push and Pull

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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.

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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

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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.

P.S – also do not forget to Like our Facebook page.

The Three Criteria

17 MAIN VIEW

imgkid.com

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

The Earth Organisation for Sustainability is not built around a specific programme which we slavishly believe should be implemented. Rather, our Design is intended to be broken and transformed during its progress, so it would adapt and form around the experiences we learn during its growth. When the Design is implemented, we will likely see it evolve around differing needs and conditions, locally and regionally, and would thus likely see regional adaptions, and would likely forever evolve, though the pace of evolution might differ between periods.

Likewise, we who are going to implement the experiments in sustainable ways to measure resources, flows and consumption patterns would also grow and learn during this process. In this way, being a part of the EOS is very much alike being a gardener.

However, there need to be criteria that should be fulfilled. The important thing is not how a system is working, but that it achieves the minimum goals that it strives towards. What is at stake is our beautiful planet, and sustainability is not only about cutting back, but also to find a way within which future generations can thrive inside a flourishing biosphere.

Our mission

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Our mission is to find models within which we can create sustainable conditions for life on Earth. This means that we must ensure both ecological sustainability, and the future well-being of the human species on Earth. This all derives from a bio-centric view where Life is seen as the most valuable and dignified thing in the Cosmos. As a sapient species, with the ability to create culture, art and civilization, we have a duty, and that duty is to create conditions in which Life can blossom and reach its potential.

To be an EOS member should not only be to possess a card showing that you have paid a membership fee. It also signifies that you are an individual who by your will have taken up this mission – the mission to protect Life on Earth. There are no easy ways however, and even if everyone shared that sense of devotion to life on Earth, we would face stark challenges which would make us grow and learn as human beings.

But what we need as well are concrete, practical criteria which we could make our judgements from. I would not so much write about ideology and values in this post as about some minimum criteria for a sustainable civilization on Earth.

1: Understanding the Earth

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In this era, we will soon be nine billion individuals on this Earth. We have transformed the larger part of the Earth’s land surface to suit our needs. Our current socio-economic system, built on maximising economic growth as fast as possible, has devastated the biosphere, and we are right now in the beginning phase of what can be termed a mass extinction.

What needs to be known is of course how much, where, and how.

There needs to be a much better oversight over how much resources we are using, how much resources we can use, how to optimize the use of the resources. We also need to monitor eco-systems in real-time, so we can respond to disturbances quicker than today and with more knowledge of the situation locally. We need to understand where resources are harvested, and where they are going, and where they could return to nature again.

If there is limited data gathering in a situation like today (and for the foreseeable future given how much we have wrecked), there is higher likelihood that we will do wrong and accidentally wreck the ecological progress we want to support.

This knowledge needs to be transparent and available for everyone, a living library of the Earth, accessible through every media, open to reevaluation. It would become the basis for a common, unified understanding of the Earth for ecologists, biologists, agronomists, economists and human beings from all over the planet.

We need a basis for a common worldview, and this worldview must be rooted in our physical reality.

Some may interject that we did not need this before the industrial age and that it is sufficient if everyone strives to be sustainable. The problem with this is that we have 9 billion people on this planet soon, and they all should be given the basis for being able to thrive on Earth. They need energy, utilities, housing, education, healthcare, recreation and community participation, as well as private space. That guarantees that we would need to use the resources of the Earth – and that implies that we need wise stewardship of the planet.

2: A circular economy

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It is not enough to monitor resource flows, but a constant process to reduce resource pressure. Also, infrastructure would need to be redesigned to be adapted to optimal usage, upcycling, recycling and downcycling. This would reflect itself in changed production patterns, transformative usage of utilities, more local and regional production  (thus less need for transportation) and lastly – and most controversially – a redirection of the priorities of the economy.

In terms of production patterns, we should look towards producing things that are durable, modular and upgradeable, which would lengthen the life-cycle of products and reduce their ecological impact per unit. We should also look towards using space more effectively in production, for example in that different groups could use the same factory installment to produce different things during different hours of the daily cycle. This would reduce the amount of bottlenecks. This would also imply more open source (which I will expand on in a future post).

In terms of food production, we must strive towards diversifying production and ensuring food sovereignty as far as possible to every region. We need to reduce land usage, by reducing our dependency on animalic foods. We need to opt for a wiser usage of fresh water, a resource becoming increasingly scarce. We also need to grow more in cities and in vertical farms, and to transition from highly destructive mono-cultures as soon as possible.

In terms of utilities, we need to reduce our reliance on roads, parking spots and using space, by increasing reliance on designing societies where people can walk or bicycle, and where public transit is available for everyone. We also need to improve the sewage systems and design them with the thought of making human waste a valuable addition to the production of food, rather than something which should be flushed down into the sea (contributing to the strangulation of marine lfe).

And lastly, we need to reduce consumerism, or altogether replace this culture with a culture which accentuates other values. This is a process that must grow from the inside of human beings, and which must blossom through communities in a voluntary and participatory manner. However, a movement towards this can be helped by removing or reducing the amount of commercialised information in public space – information intended to make people maximise their consumption.

EOS wants to move a step further, and would like for things to only be produced when people actively are asking for them.

3: A socially sustainable civilization

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For a depressing majority of the Earth’s population, life is about survival. Human beings are degraded, over-worked, outcrowded and forced out of their own lives into situations where their natural creativity and curiousity are unable to blossom. For billions of people, living on Earth is a horrible struggle against hunger and privations, and this condition is not only inflicted on those who suffer through it, but on their children as well.

By creating a world based around the needs of exponential growth, we have created a world where life – including human life – is primarily seen as an engine for this growth to continue.

While the moralistic imperative that everyone should be equal in terms of material wealth can be rightfully questioned from many angles, there are many people on this Earth which seem to have been deprived from their right to food, to fresh water, to education, to healthcare, to clothes on their body and roofs over their heads.

A sustainable civilization needs to provide an income floor, on which all human beings should be able to stand. That does not imply that everyone should be equal, but there should be a minimum standard under which no human being should sink. No one – especially not a child – deserves to be starving, homeless, illiterate or denied access to healthcare.

Ultimately, life should be an opportunity for every human being to grow and to reach their own highest potential, not something which they are forced to endure by artificial lack of resources.

Human beings deserve to live, and life should be more than mere existence.

This also means that all mature human beings have the right to form their own values and opinions, to organise peacefully and to be free from religious, sexual, racial or political persecution, and to be able to participate both in their communities and in the human civilization as a whole in a manner which gives them considerable influence over their communities and control over their own lives.

As we learn how to use resources more wisely, and as new technologies are implemented, all human beings should be able to partake in the progress, because civilization is our common heritage, not the property of an elite.

Summary

nasa.gov

nasa.gov

The three criteria can basically be summarized as:

1: A continuous survey of the Earth

2: A circular economy using resources within the Earth’s limits

3: A universal basic income

If we have achieved these criteria, we would have reached a form of sustainability. Of course, there is also a fourth criterion, and that is to achieve the above-mentioned three in a manner which reflects the values of the society we want to create. We must use ethically sustainable methodologies grounded in values that respect and uphold Life during the transition process towards a sustainable future.

We are living during the most awesome era in human history, and have been given the opportunity to prove that we are a truly intelligent and sapient species.

Now all we have to do is to organise and save the planet! So what are we waiting for?

The implications of Brexit

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

From the global perspective, this British election was of profound geo-strategic importance. For many years, a lot of Britons have not felt that membership in the European Union is a part of their cultural identity, and fears of federalism has created a Euroskeptic movement which is larger than in most other large European countries. While this euroskeptic opinion has grown, the United Kingdom has played an important role within the European Union, especially in terms of limiting the federal outreach.

This was especially clear during Blair’s administration, when the United Kingdom could be said to be one of the poles of European cooperation, and the “leader” of both the Northern and Central European member states of the European Union. During the leadership of the Brown and especially Cameron cabinets, the United Kingdom has moved more towards domestic issues, while the Franco-German federalist leadership has been subsumed by a growing German hegemony over the continent.

This shift, caused by the Financial Crisis of 2008, could determine the outcome of the first half of the 21st century, in terms of geopolitics, economics and actually a wide range of other issues, including environmental ones. To return to the subject at hand, Britain is voting on whether or not it should remain a member state of the European Union.

The subject of this article is not so much on the British election as on the effects of a potential no to continued membership in the European community, how it would affect the Trans-atlantic link and the future for treaties like the TTIP, the sovereignty and security of European nations and the future of European federalism, and I will also explore the negative and positive implications of this, and whether what is weighing over.

The Early History of the European Community

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Already during the early 17th century, some scholars proposed the idea of a European Union (as an alternative to the Catholic-dominated and perpetually declining Holy Roman Empire). First in the early 20th century a stable intellectual and meta-political movement formed for the eventual unification of Europe. This “Pan-Europa Movement” was composed of members of the European elites, both conservatives and liberals, nobility and intellectuals, who were concerned both with the current horrors of the First World War, the rise of Soviet Communism and the vision of world peace and a unified Europe. There were also connections to the Esperanto movement and to cultural and literary personalities throughout the European continent.

After the First World War, three things stood clear. While European Imperialism was still secure in Africa, the Middle East and the regions around the Indian Ocean, a big hole had been shot into European identity, which had been connected with the idea of progress. The slaughter of the trenches had demoralized European culture and created a void where many movements competed – sometimes violently – to fill that void.

Pan-Europa did never as a movement penetrate into the working classes of Europe, probably due to being a movement which attracted mainly eccentric nobles, conservative anti-communists, representatives of the liberal intelligentsia (there was an overlap between Pan-Europa and the Esperanto movement for example). I will also briefly note that there was an overlap too many movements which were more or less… odd in their approach, for example Sörgel’s Atlantropa project.

While the Pan-Europa movement certainly did exist, it did not have any lasting impact on any large European political party. And soon, the seeds sown by the First World War erupted in the Second, and Europe thoroughly destroyed itself as a civilization.

In the ruins of the war, the seeds of the Pan-Europa ideas found nourishing soil, as it stood clear that if Europe instead of consisting of mutually antagonistic nation-states, had been organised in a federal super-structure, the Second World War could have been averted. Also, Western Europe had – as a cultural sphere – been reduced to its smallest size since the 9th century, when Charlemagne had ruled.

In 1949-1951, the first steps towards European integration were taken with a very pragmatic approach, the formation of a common steel-and-coal community between six European countries, comprising the approximate extent of Charlemagne’s Empire. In May 1957, the European Economic Community was initiated, between France, West Germany, Italy and the Three Low Countries.

Power struggle: Gaullism vs Euro-atlanticism

Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle

In 1958, France was deeply embroiled in the Algerian Liberation War, and the French Fourth Republic was on the verge of a political collapse. During that crisis, the constitutionally legitime leaders of the country called on de Gaulle to take power and end the war in Algeria. De Gaulle did more than that. He ended the weak Fourth Republic and instituted a Fifth Republic, with stronger presidential powers. He could not turn back the winds of change however, and by 1961, most of the French Colonial Empire had been lost.

To compensate for this loss of direct influence in Africa (it should be noted that France still keeps significant influence in most West African countries), France turned towards Europe in order to strengthen this influence. In this regard, de Gaulle strived to strengthen the EEC, not primarily as an economic but as a political entity, imagining it as a bloc with the potential to challenge both the United States and the Soviet Union. A key part of this continentalist approach was to keep the United Kingdom outside of the EEC, since de Gaulle suspected that the UK would try to reduce the political clout of the EEC and prevent France from dominating the cooperation or to further European integration towards greater federalism. Also, he feared more American influence on the EEC.

De Gaulle’s vision was a Europe “from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals”, including the Russians but excluding both the Americans and the British. This ran totally counter to the American strategy for a future Europe that could be both complacent and stable, namely “keep the British in, the Germans down and the Russians out”. De Gaulle’s federalism did however end where French nationalism began, and he could not accept the idea of a common European army as a counter-weight to NATO, fearful of losing (control of) the French armed forces the French nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (which itself had a sagging economy, while being a western country during the greatest growth period in human history) repeatedly sought membership in the EEC, but was repeatedly blocked by de Gaulle. To counter this, and also to create a more liberal form of free trade arrangement, Britain joined up with the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland to form the European Free Trade Arrangement, a structure which never became too influential and which eventually was dissolved in the 1990’s, when half of the EFTA members had joined the EEC.

Britain itself joined the EEC in 1971, after de Gaulle’s death. What blocked French dominance in the EEC of 1971-1993 was not so much American influence through Britain as American influence through West Germany, which was becoming the largest economy of Western Europe. Despite that the Germans accepted to play a subservient role to the French within Europe, they could not rely on France for their strategic defence against the Soviet Union (one cornerstone of French nuclear strategy in the event of a Global Thermonuclear War/Soviet invasion of Western Europe was to nuke the Russians in West Germany as they passed through it). Also, French presidents following De Gaulle were less consistent and in many ways had a weaker position domestically, and could therefore not increase their level of dominance within the EEC or the WEU (an “alternative military alliance to NATO”).

The Third Gulf War and effects on European Federalism

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Institutionally, the 90’s and 00’s strengthened the newly born European Union in a significant manner, from the Maastricht Treaty to the implementation of the common currency to the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. However, politically the Union was immensely damaged by the failure of the common foreign policy during the initiation of the Third Gulf War in 2003, also known as the Iraq War.

During the late 1990’s, there were many strong visionaries in the three major European powers at the time, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Chirac (the then French President) desired European federalism and French elites saw the idea of moving towards a “United States of Europe” as inevitable. Schröeder, the German Chancellor, wanted to establish closer economic ties with the Russian Federation (which at that point still was very weak), while the British Prime Minister Blair desired a “Europe a’la Carte”, where European states themselves could decide on what arrangements they wanted to opt-in or opt-out from.

Chirac’s motivations were political (European federalism to create a Non-American western superpower), Schröeder’s were financial (benefit the German economy by having better trade relations with Moscow, and also probably due to his own personal growing interests in Russia), while Blair’s interests were based partially on protecting his position (Euroskepticism was greater in Britain than on the continent), and maybe also on preventing the foundation of a European Federation or any other arrangement which included the Russians but excluded the Americans. Britain’s interests in this case co-incided with the interests of many smaller North and Central European nation-states, which did not desire French or German hegemony on the European continent.

It is possible that had there been no war, or had Britain not joined the war, there would be (for better or worse) a different EU today. But Britain joined the war against Saddam’s Iraq, together with countries like Poland, Romania, Italy and Denmark, I.E countries which were peripheral in the European Union or which desired less federalism, contra countries like France, Belgium and Germany, which for different reasons saw increased amounts of Federalism as a solution for what they identified as their geopolitical and economic challenges.

The intensity of the propagation for or against the Third Gulf War led to such outrages as the French stating that Poland and the Baltic States “had missed a good opportunity to shut up”, and the US Congress officially renamed French Fries into “Freedom Fries”.

What we tend to forget is that even if the Third Gulf War today is seen as a folly which the US and “the Coalition of the Willing” chose to engage in, by 2007 Schröeder and Chirac were both gone and replaced by more Pro-US-leaning administration. For all what it was worth “New Europe” had triumphed over “Old Europe”, geopolitically-wise, and the result of the Third Gulf War for Euro-American relations was that it was shown that France and Germany had weaker capacity to draw support for their foreign policy within the European Union than the United States. For all what it was worth, Europe had truly become a Europe á la carte, and Blair’s policy had (perhaps through unintentional means) largely become successful.

British Euroskepticism

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Euroskepticism has been growing at a steady rate in the United Kingdom since the EEC “imposed” the Metric system on the country. Nowadays, those who desire to leave the European Union are leading with 15-20% above those who want to stay.

Blair’s successors, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, have been unwilling or unable to focus as much on the issue of the European Union as their predecessor, and British influence is low (despite the conflict in Ukraine, where Poland, Romania and the Baltic States can rely more on Britain than for example Germany, because Britain has consistently been more skeptical to the resurgence of Russia than continental powers).

Also, the events of the early 00’s are forgotten today, at least in Europe, due to the events of 2008-2010. The Eurozone Debt Crisis left the United Kingdom untouched, due to the UK not being a part of the common currency. The role the UK could or wanted to assume in this crisis was already from the start limited, and having their own economical problems to think of, the United Kingdom became insular and unable to assert the situation in Europe.

The Debt Crisis saw Germany rise up as the main creditor of bankcrupt European states. While this has neither been popular amongst the Greeks or the southern Europeans, it has cemented a financial power-base and thrown more power into the hands of the German chancellor any-time since 1942. I would reject on the strongest the Stratfor notion that the European Union is dead. Rather, the crisis has signified that continental Europe is dependent on Germany, but also that Germany is dependent on the economy of Europe as a whole. This necessitates German management.

The public opinion of the United Kingdom is not noticing the full extent of what is happening, namely that the Eurozone today is forming into what it was designed to prevent, namely German hegemony on the European Continent. The British opinion is too hammered by domestic conflicts today, and it remains a risk that Scotland can leave the United Kingdom.

If the British opinion even exists on the Eurozone debt crisis, it mostly galvanizes around viewing Greece, Italy and Spain as countries with historically irresponsible governments, and the Germans as doing what they could to save the day (most likely, people are also grateful they are not a part of the Eurozone).

Within a few years (if Britain manages to move itself together), there will be political voices that would object on the strongest towards the emergent German hegemony on Europe. Nevertheless, no matter what German, American or British decision-makers want, the German hegemony is an economic reality, and could eventually serve as the basis for a Federal Europe arranged after German geostrategic interests (which ultimately was what Germany intended to achieve in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945).

If Britain remains inside the European Union, they can serve as a counter-weight and stall this development, but if the British public are voting yes to a “Brexit”, they will have rejected all ability to influence the continued process. This does however not move in line with American or British interests, since the American interest has been to prevent or stall the rise of rising powers, while the British interests since the reign of Elizabeth I has been to prevent any single European power from emerging on the continent.

Therefore, unlike what some people are proposing, Britain has an immense role for geo-strategy in the near future.

Positive or negative

archdaily.com

archdaily.com

Only three powers have the potential to dominate the European continent today and achieve hegemony. Those are The United States, Russia and Germany. Out of these three, Germany has the best geographical position in terms of potential economic and political influence (though the worst militarily). A Europe that is in peace and with a low risk for war, will naturally tend to favour a power located where Germany rests.

Right now, the economic crisis of 2008-2010 has shifted Europe a step closer to German hegemony, at the expense of smaller states and Non-Eurozone members. If the United Kingdom chooses to leave the European Union, it would be very difficult for any constellation of powers to prevent a German hegemony. Therefore (my estimation is) David Cameron and Angela Merkel would do their outmost to prevent the Brexit.

Firstly, the United Kingdom would – outside of the EU – naturally gravitate towards the Anglo-American and Anglo-Oceanian powers, and would have a position on par with Canada and Australia visavi the United States.  It would also be isolated from the European continent, and unable to stop the rise of an eventual European Federation under German financial and political control.

Germany, on the other hand – at least under the Merkel chancellorship (and probably within the entire German political establishment) does not want to dominate Europe, and would want to anchor their power in the consent of at least major economies like France and the United Kingdom. A Brexit would move Europe closer to a state which they for political and emotional reasons are finding abhorring.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves, how would a European Federation under German suzerainty look like and constitute itself?

It is impossible to say. Today’s Germany is not Hitler’s Third Reich, but a democratic federal republic with broad autonomy for the länder (states). One thing which could be said apart from that which is positive, is that Germany (while sadly still being dependent on coal) has a positive track record on energy, and there is a large environmental movement in the country.

Another positive thing with a more multipolar world is that different types of models can be tested through the imposition of differing values on large-societies. A European Federation, free from the more Smithian and Lockean heritage of Anglo-American political values, could value other factors above the free market and above the interests of mega-corporations (which are the top beneficiaries of today’s form of globalisation). One such factor is the environment.

As you know, EOS believes that de-centralization is an essential thing for the establishment of a sustainable civilization. But perfect worlds do not exist, and we must work with models that are realistic should they be imposed on us, and try to find the positive things in the development that we can work through. Therefore, the risk for a Brexit does also signal a trend where Europa and the United States are diverging from one another, which isn’t necessarily an inherently negative thing – at least not from an environmental perspective.

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