The Global Climate Treaty

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

TL;DR

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

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What is the Greenhouse Effect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Effects of antropogenic climate change

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate change as a political issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Elephant in the Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Actions that can be undertaken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Long term Geo-engineering

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

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

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Review: This Changes Everything

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

All except one.

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

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

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

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

No Logo

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

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

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

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

Klein’s thesis and solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flaws of Klein’s solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For a more comprehensive description, see this entry.

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Real Economy

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

TL;DR notes (because I like lists)

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

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On the Real Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Stella McCartney on Prezi

By Stella McCartney on Prezi

The Real Deficit

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

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

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

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

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

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The root cause

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

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

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

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

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Energy Accounting as an alternative

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

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

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

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Summary: A strategy to claim the problem formulation initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Survivalism

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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.

On the urgent need of a new reality consensus

Multiple-Universe

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

No human being has a complete oversight of what objective reality is, but instead understand the world from the collective input of information that all members of that human’s local community share amongst themselves, as well as from the output provided by society, and what organised society has deemed worth to put their focus on in their presentation of reality.

This presentation is most often formed in the context of a grand narrative, which most often is focusing on the preservation and continuation of the memetic transmissions that help to cement the cultural framework of the civilization and its values.

The issue is to identify the core of the current mainstream reality consensus in the Western Civilization, and to identify in which ways this reality consensus is helping to destroy the planet’s environment and ultimately it’s own civilisationary host as well.

After that, the issue is to discuss on what values and focus a new reality consensus should be formed.

The chatter in the tree

Fighting_Like_Cats_and_Dogs_2_by_wldjeepgrlCampuses, cafés, kitchens and reddits are all filled with discord and irritation. The others do not simply understand. If everyone just could agree, we would solve all the world’s problems. Yet, all the others are holding incomprehensible beliefs based on baseless scare-mongering and weird ideals. Especially if they have studied strange courses at the University.

There are of course many humans who hold no strong opinions and who, for various reasons, decide they want to follow the majority or simply disentangle themselves from having to care about worldly matters. This author could not put any blame on them. It seems that in today’s world, people are often leaving debate rooms more puzzled than when they entered, and in a state of mellow confusion, and no issue is ever really resolved. Hardly surprising, a lot of people react by actively and aggressively trying to make the proponents of new ideas shut ut, just so they do not need to think over new ideas and concepts.

Why do people attain and embrace wildly divergent ideals and norms, which build the foundation which they then base their political and social values on? No one is really sure, and most likely it does have a variety of sources, socio-economic, cultural, experiences and even genes can play a part. Nevertheless, people often hold divergent beliefs about the world, and this stems in a way from the information that people receive. Since people most often hang out with peers in terms of gender, ethnic origin, academic level, profession or neighbourhood, they often experience similar things in their nearby environment, which influence their worldview.

Twenty or so years ago, most people were still taking in the information about their world from Television, which offered a few sources of valuable news which often shared very much the same consensus. Nowadays, people are increasingly moving towards other sources which are readily available on the Internet. This is mostly a profoundly positive development, since it allows for information that has been suppressed or which the elites do honestly not know much about to be shared. The downside of course is that the amount of disinformation has also increased during this process.

One national example is the infested debate on migration in Sweden, where one side claims that Sweden is taking in too many refugees and that it has adverse effects on housing, crime and ghettoisation. Some proponents of that side claim that many immigrants who belong to a certain world religion are more loyal to said world religion and are attempting to mold Sweden into a form more reminiscent of that religion. Many proponents of this worldview are also claiming that those who are pro-immigration are hating Swedish culture and attempt to destroy Sweden.

The other worldview is based around a narrative where immigration is benefitting Swedish society, which is an aging society, and that the labour market in the future would need a powerful injection of young people to function. Those who are claiming that there are too many immigrants are – according to this worldview – really trying to hide a xenophobic and even outright racist agenda, and are striving towards a society where people have different worth depending on their ethnic origin.

If we assume that both sides try to meet in a room with furniture, we can suspect that not much furniture would stand when they have finished their attempt to reach a consensus.

Yet, we can see that the differences of their opinions really are forming from two factors, namely their view on the state and capacity of the Swedish economy, and possibly their view on whether more people are a burden or an asset. From this follows these divergent views.

The same could be said of the so-called culture wars in the United States. Where one side sees the advance of the rights of women, LGBT people, ethnic minorities and other socially disadvantaged groups, the other is seeing an assault on traditional society and the destruction of the fabric of community. When the divergence grows to the degree that the proponents start to demonize one another and believe that those of a different opinion are really evil and aim to destroy everything they love and cherish, violence is not far away.

That is related to whether the mainstream consensus can hold or would break.

The Mainstream Consensus

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The mainstream consensus is the reality within which society as a whole is pre-supposed to operate. It provides the world-view and the context for within what spectrum it is socially acceptable to form opinions around. Things outside of the existing narrative are at best accepted within insulated islands of like-minded, or isolated at the fringes of society. This consensus can be achieved though both repression, but also through culture, architecture, popular media, sermons and general etiquette.

Summarizing this, we can state that the mainstream consensus is informed by memes and behavioural patterns and expectations on the micro-level, by stable and predictable institutions at the middle level and by a common myth and a grand narrative embedding this myth on the grand level.

What is our current grand narrative in the Western Civilization, which  – for better or worse – is the basis of thestatue-of-liberty-nyc current global civilization? One obvious thing is that the Western Civilization is subdivided into partially different cultural spheres with different values and divergent family structures, economic values and values on individualism contra collectivism.

The centre of the Western Civilization does however lie in the Anglo-American sphere, and especially in the United States. While it could be said that France was the cultural centre of the Western world during the 17th and 18th centuries, the cultural stimulus of the West since the beginning of the 20th century has largely come from the US.

Through Television, music and cinema theatres, three to four generations of the western population have been exposed to the cultural impulses of Sit-coms, Hollywood films and Hit Music, and have attained a large part of the values and conventions expressed in these products.

In the more conventional sense, mass media, institutions of power and parts of academia have expressed a more formalized view on what the current zeitgeist of our age is and should be. This view is centred around two things, namely that the current system of Globalising Liberalism, with its attached values of economic growth, consumerism, multinational corporations and constitutional parliamentary democracies with (increasingly) limited power over economic policies is the ultimate form of civilization, and that all development from now on should focus on secure the Earth for this kind of system for the foreseeable future, and that our history is the history of the establishment, adversities and eventual triumph for this kind of system.

The elites within major think tanks, strategic analysis groups and clubs associated with this formula are building their normative approach on that the continuation and deepening of globalization should be the end goal of our society, through economic treatises and increased military and political coordination, possibly leading to the beginning of the formation of a global federal structure within 100 to 200 years, with the United States as its core model.

While there are groups with other agendas, most notably intellectuals associated with the BRICS (who strive for a multipolar world reminiscent of the world prior to 1914) or the Islamic political movements, it stands clear that the dominant force right now are holding their hopes around an agenda aiming for a globalized market economy dominated by harmonized financial and monetary institutions, where multi-national corporations can continue to unite the world, and bring larger and larger groups of people into prosperity, until everyone who are willing and able to work can be elevated to a global middle class of continuously rising income.

The only problem with this vision is that it is impossible to achieve within the constraints of nature, at least in the core form that the proponents are envisioning.

When reality fails to meet expectations

Financial-Crisis

For myths and grand narratives to function, they need to correspond to at least parts of the values transmitted through earlier experiences, and to the reality that people can experience around themselves. When the myth tells people that everything is possible and that they can become the main character in the great narrative about their own life, and they cannot see any way to achieve that, as class mobility stagnates or collapses, they become demoralized and will gradually become increasingly alienated from their own grand narrative.

One example of a failed grand narrative that contributed to the collapse of a civilization was the narrative and myth of Soviet Socialism, which stressed that the population lived in a glorious socialist paradise, the most developed society the planet had seen. This was so obviously disconnected from reality that more than a majority of the population disregarded the propaganda machine, and subsequently the population was thoroughly demoralized and both unwilling and unable to defend what the elites tried to sell as the mainstream culture.

Ancient civilizations could endure deprivation and poverty quite well, because their promises and foundation was often ethereal, celestial and spiritual (“if you obey the norms and uphold the institutions that allow the landed elites to be in power, you will go to a happy place after you leave your mortal shackles”). Civilizations which build on the idea that people should have material gains must be able to create the foundations to provide this.

The motivations for people in the current “global civilization” to be abiding citizens and accept events even when

A woman sells skinned pawpaw, papaya, as she walks in a market on World Food Day in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. The U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization is marking World Food Day on Tuesday, a day dedicated to highlighting the importance of global food security. The FAO said hunger is declining in Asia and Latin America but is rising in Africa. One in eight people around the world goes to bed hungry every night. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

these events run counter to popular interests, is the expectation of future economic growth. If you believe that your situation will be better the next year, compared to this, you have an expectation invested in the system.

If this expectation is never provided for, the likelihood increases that investments are reduced and that people experience more and more privations, which can lead to riots and instability.

Due to the fact that economics is one of the few sciences which is based predominantly on expectations for the future, it is a concern for the well-being of the system that positive news (from a financial and growth perspective) are emphasised, for if there are too many negative expectations, they will be self-realised due to altered consumer patterns, creating increased volatility in the system.

Compartmentalization

Economic-Growth

There are two competing views of the situation of the world in the future, where the first (proposed by many economists, some technologists and a few intellectuals) state that economic growth necessarily will improve most indicators of well-being both in society and in the environment, and that we will live in a better, richer and more secure world by 2050.

Ecologists and environmentalists on the other hand, are seeing resource deprivation and the destruction of the environment as event chains that can possibly lead to the collapse of the current civilization.

The world can not both turn into Paradise and Hell, neither can probably the trajectory be placed on a linear spectrum between the vision espoused by economists and the one proposed by ecologists for future trends. Most likely, both sides are either partially wrong, or one side is entirely wrong.

Given that, the economist argument for future economic growth is a statistical one, namely that what has happened for the last decade will continue to happen for the next decade, with some alterations regarding demographics (how many new births, how many people will leave the labour force and retire). A prognosis like this below does not take into account the “externalities” or how the biosphere is a self-regulating system which can collapse (and have collapsed before).

World Bank

World Bank

Ecologists on the other hand may ignore the positive effects of new technologies brought into the economy, as well as some of the mitigating effects of the Coase theorem. Given that, if China should consume as much as we see above, China alone would need a few Earths for itself in order to sustain such wealth.

Club of Rome

Club of Rome

The interesting thing of course is that the Club of Rome does not represent a marginal environmental group, but rather a few of the world’s most influential people, who have cooperated extensively with ecologists and biologists regarding how resource usage will affect the world in the future.

It is scary how little communication there is between the groups of people who have made these diverging predictions of the future, and how different the grand narratives that they base their predictions on are. When researchers move inside such different realities, communication between them will definetly be suffering by the different expectations they hold for the future – a pub meeting would certainly be entertaining but it would be difficult to draw any conclusions for a layman spectator.

Summary and recommendations

Footprint Network

Footprint Network

If there is such a wide divergence in studies on future trends, it can only be because researchers focus primarily on the factors they are accustomed to. Scientists are like all other people, and are suffering from bias and information defiency. The Dunning-Kruger effect, that states that when people are ignorant in a field they tend to believe themselves better than average on said field, can apply to scientists as well – especially within the areas which the scientist in question, no matter if they are an ecologist or an economist, have not studied.

This increasing specialization and narrowing of the information focus may improve the technical qualities of scientists within narrow fields, but may handicap the scientist’s ability to process information adequately and result in too much reliance on limited data.

A necessary first step towards a consensus that can help us address the challenges of the 21st century would perhaps be if scientists from different fields who have produced such divergent prognoses of the future could meet and establish a consensus on what information to process and how data gathering on the future should be organised.

Only this could provide decision-makers and the public with the data base to make informed decisions on how we are collectively going to shape tomorrow.

Priorities: What must be done?

earth___stop_climate_change___by_h_4rt-d6eu3x11Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Why does the Earth Organization for Sustainability exist?

It can be argued that our mission is to design and test alternative socio-economic systems, but that does rather answer the how than the why. The why is so future generations of living beings, humans and other species, will have the opportunity to live on an ecologically and socially sustainable Earth. I believe that our name might indicate this too. There is a slight difficulty in this, however, which we must take into account.

We are living under a mass extinction

riholtz.com

riholtz.com

This problem, is of course that we currently are causing what could very well be the Sixth Great Mass Extinction in Earth’s History. Especially three issues have to be solved as soon as possible. The first one of these you all already are familiar with – namely antropogenic climate change. The second and third issues are the destruction of bio-diversity in the oceans (which might be beyond saving) and on land. These encroachments are caused partially by over-fishing and direct destruction of habitats, but also by pollution, medicines, artificial estrogen and the gradual out-crowding of diverse eco-systems.

All of this ultimately derives from a socio-economic system (fuelled partially by the bizarre values of consumerism) which values the following three months of growth rates higher than the previous 65 million years of evolution. At the current rate, humanity is using up between 133-150% of the Earth’s annual regeneration capacity per year. If we continue to move on this trajectory, we would basically have made most eco-systems collapse by the early 22nd century.

What must be done?

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The first thing that needs to be done, by all major institutions and actors, is to reduce our footprints with nearly a third, until we move slightly below the 100% treshold.

The achievement of this can be done independently from transitioning to the kind of socio-economic system that EOS envisions. But for the long-term well-being of the planet, it is necessary that we evolve towards a system where we can have a circular economy that sees all flows of resources being monitored to eliminate waste and bottlenecks and ensure the optimum usage of the resources.

As our house is burning, we need to implement some other policies as well, that in themselves would demand stark choices. It is about halting or outright stopping the devastation of the eco-systems. That would mean an inversion of the current priorities of the elite establishments, from Davos to Rio.

This places a dilemma upon us. Because the economy is built as it is now, where poor people’s complacency are bought not by promises of Heaven but with promises that their children would afford cars instead of bicycles or sandals, halting and reverting the expansion of most of the things we are doing right now will probably increase dissatisfaction temporarily, and can affect the lives of human beings adversedly.

Hard Greens can argue that we need not to be disheartened by any choices in order to save planet Earth. However, our movement is built not only on the values of bio-diversity, but also that we must create optimal conditions for human life to occur. Therefore, it is essential that while we advocate for a shift to a Earth-centred and rational approach to the current crisis of the Earth, that we also should protect and uphold the needs of individuals and communities, in terms of both their basic rights to live and to their civic rights.

Ultimately, the well-being of the biosphere is the basis of human well-being on Earth. At the moment, there are however very, very tough choices that have to be made, by everyone.

How EOS should approach this

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Or rather, how everyone should approach this…

There must be a broad consensus within the human civilization that this current path will lead to a new mass extinction, and that we must revert it, for the sake of the most important thing that the Universe holds – Life. It is unworthy of an intelligent species to destroy the conditions for this most valuable thing. Rather, an intelligent species should support life.

There should be honesty in that a transition towards a sustainable future will be painful, and will probably present the greatest challenge that our species ever faced. In fact, the first global challenge we’ve ever faced. The wrong way to approach this crisis is to claim that we can solve this within a few years time and that it would be completely painless. It can lead to more followers, but it would be unethical since it would partially be misinformation or disinformation.

We need to reach a concord with the various establishments populating the echelons of power. This one might be controversial, since the establishments (for obvious reasons) are the main benefactors of the current system. Thing is, even if you are wealthy and see this current system as a way for you to secure your future and the future of your children, your children’s future will be devastated too if we destroy the foundations for complex life on Earth.

We do not have the luxury for political upheavals or wars between nations any more. The more we procrastrinate and behave as if the problems can be solved by the next generation, the harder the problems will be to solve, and the more radical the means to solve the problems will be. Eventually, the problems will essentially be unsolvable and the issue will no longer be how to save the planet, but rather on how to save humanity.

EOS does not aspire to lead humanity. We are not a political party or revolutionary movement. We are not moralists, but pragmatics.

What we must do is to conduct our field tests of Energy Accounting and the Holonic model, and create a vast social network of like-minded individuals, while simultaneously advocating our issues and interacting with the public and with the various establishments in order to help contribute to the consensus regarding the issues that we all must face, since we all share this world.

We need one another ultimately.

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

By Enrique Lescure

The discussion on human nature

Fresco

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

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

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

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

What science is, and is not

Science

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

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

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

That is not what science is.

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

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

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

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

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

How political and religious movements are (mis)using science

spencer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is wrong with using science like this?

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

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

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

Summa summarum…

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

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

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

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

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

How to correctly use science

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

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

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

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

What is the EOS about?

EOS LOGO

By Enrique Lescure

Reality

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

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

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

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

The Eocene Biosphere

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

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

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

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

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

The Sixth Great Mass Extinction

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

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

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

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

The ethos of EOS

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

Earth will cope with it.

It is not sure humanity will.

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

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

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Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism

"Caging Humanity" by Don Davis

“Caging Humanity” by Don Davis

Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

What do we mean by Capitalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cosmology of the EOS

What is Capitalism, according to the EOS?

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

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

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

Why Post-capitalism is inevitable

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

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

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

What is Post-capitalism?

big plastic pollution

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

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

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

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

transhuman

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

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

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

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

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

Post-capitalism vs Anti-capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Why we are failing (Proposed article)

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Okay. Here is another proposed article for the updated EOS website. It is pretty much longer, and I know the articles should be short. But I have comprimed 500 years of human history in less than five pages. It was pretty difficult I must admit.

Introduction

 

We want to apologise for the length of this article beforehand.

Energy accounting is originally a concept from the US technocratic movement of the 1930’s, which EOS has developed as a conceptual template. To understand what Energy Accounting is and why we want to carefully examine it as a potential replacement to the current monetary system, we need to understand how the current monetary system is working.

 

Firstly, what is money? Money is a medium of exchange, in order to simplify transactions between various parties. Originating in the mists of the Bronze Age, monetary economies connected regions and allowed trade to perpetuate itself.

 

Yet, we must understand that early monetary regimes were often tenuous at best, most often local and requiring the protection of patrons with access to mines – most often the dukes, kings, sultans and emperors of the various states of the medieval world.

 

This could also help to explain our points, as to why our current system is failing in regards to our collective environmental obligations as a species.

 

Early Monetary Systems

 

The first monetary systems that arose either arose spontaneously from small communities, which used either a “key good” or a form of “semi-available rarity” as currency. When the first coins were made, in Asia Minor around 2700 years ago, they were made both to stimulate and facilitate trade between villages and towns, and to strengthen the legitimacy and strength of the early state (especially as money often trickled down into market places from the payment of soldiers and other public employees).

 

The rise of money is a thoroughly complex process, but the rise of the monetarised global system is a relatively recent occurrence. For much of the ancient and medieval world, money was inherently deflationary as its value rested on the control of copper, silver and gold. Thus, the system encouraged savings and hoarding, and retarded the development towards a full-scale monetary price system. In medieval markets, every licensed merchant often had with him his own scale, to judge the value of the money in terms of its weight.

 

Even in the advanced Roman Empire, only a small fraction of the taxes were collected in the form of money! Most taxes were collected in the shape of grain, minerals and other resources.

 

Most people in the pre-industrial world were self-sustaining farmers and rural labourers, who for most of the time directly worked to feed themselves from what they could produce out of nature.

 

The rise of Banking

 

Trade could be a perilous business during the middle ages. Highwaymen, barons, wars, storms, the Black Death and other occurrences could easily separate a merchant from his gold during the many dangerous voyages through lands and seas.

 

The wealthiest and most prosperous region of Europe was northern Italy, where the cities never had vanished during the dark centuries following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

 

During the Renaissance, cities like Venice, Genoa, Milan, Pisa and Florence sent out merchants far and wide throughout the Mediterranean world, Europe and the Middle East, often exchanging gold for valuable luxury products from the Far East.

 

To facilitate this exchange, several of the great trading families began to engage in the insurance business. Gold chests were heavy, clumsy and hard to transport, not to speak of being magnets to thieves and pirates. Families like de Medici could specialise in offering securities by depositing the gold (for a fee) to other merchants, giving them a receipt which allowed them to gather the same amount of gold in for example Alexandria, Constantinople or Kaffa.

 

These firms soon started to lend money to various cities and kingdoms for interest fees. Thus, “banking” in the conventional sense was born.  

 

The rise of Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB)

 

Given that both the depositing and the lending were made with receipts, the gold would not under normal circumstances leave the confinements of the bank vault. It would be impractical for the client to withdraw it physically, and people who deposited gold in such a bank where often years away travelling. At the same time, borrowing money became increasingly popular, especially as the European monarchies and republics of that era became increasingly dependent on hiring mercenaries to fight their many destructive wars. Banking houses were offered lucrative contracts, without having the necessary deposits to be able to lend money to the states in question.

 

We don’t know exactly when banks started to lend money without having access to the necessary balance to do so, but it stands evidently clear that the temptation and the low risks associated with the scheme would soon or later have coalesced into the practice today known as Fractional Reserve Banking.

 

Shortly speaking, Fractional Reserve Banking is a mechanism that allows banks to lend more credits than are covered by their deposits. This is possible because of multiple clients depositing their fortunes at the same time, and that it is unlikely that all these clients would remove their deposits at the same time.

 

Moreover, the clients were thereby obliged to pay back gold which had never existed in the first place, plus interest.

 

In the terms of laypersons, Fractional Reserve Banking means that you lend out money that you don’t have, while those borrowing the non-existent money are forced to pay back in the form of real money, with a little bit more.

 

Where the alchemists of the dark crypts and poisonous laboratories failed, the perfumed bankers living in the luxurious Venetian and Florentine palaces succeeded.

 

Sustained capital accumulation and western supremacy

 

Even though Northern Italy was eventually destroyed, through the violence of the mercenary armies funded by the Italian bankers, Fractional Reserve Banking is a part of the explanation why the western world from the late 15th century and onward managed to create sustained economic, technological and colonial expansion.

 

The banks of Italy, and later of the Netherlands and Britain, were funding colonial ventures, the development of new weapons and technologies, scientific breakthroughs, commercial enterprises, the booming slave trade and the establishment of the first factories.

 

The reason why is simple. With a full deposit cover, the bankers who lend money would lend out gold that actually is entrusted them by clients, and thus would be unwilling to support projects that hold high risks for failure, or which are new and untested. Thus, the employment of FRB systems can accumulate and utilise capital more aggressively than the crude agricultural economies previously were able of.

 

During the 19th century, the gradual gains of trade, colonialism, technical and scientific innovations and capital expansion culminated in a sustained industrial boom that transformed the entire civilization. The modern world was born.

 

As innovations and growth rushed, however, so did the many bankruptcies and failures. The world grew faster, and with the telegraph and railways, information spread quickly throughout the now very much smaller world. Rumours, true or false, stock rushes, companies and ventures falling apart and the increased competition for more and more scarce resources fuelled an increasing number of bank runs – events when the deposits were retrieved by the clients as a result of a loss in trust. Such events usually led to liquidation of the bank itself, and the destruction of capital – both real and imaginary. It says itself that unregulated capitalism from the 1870s and onward experienced more and more shocks following the collapse of one commercial bank after another.

 

To counter this development and to restore stability, most developed nations turned towards establishing central banks in order to guarantee the deposits of the commercial banks and their clients – if necessary by sacrificing the interests of the weakest citizens. In the USA for example, the US Congress of 1913, at the behest of the big commercial banks and the US mega-corporations, established the Federal Reserve during the first Wilson administration.

 

Usually, central banks are a pillar stone in regards to the regulation of interest. This practice is referred to as interventionist monetary policy. After the Second World War, it has usually been coordinated with interventionist financial policies, which are carried out by governments. These policies exist in order to smoothen the business cycles and prevent either overheating or sudden crashes.

 

Nowadays, the signs are everywhere that the system is crumbling. The dominant power in this system, the United States, is suffering massive de-industrialization and an enormous debt on both the federal and state level. The European economy is stagnating. China is experiencing declining growth rates and increasing environmental pollution and class conflicts.

 

The system has accumulated a mountain of debt, and we are on the verge of what can spiral out of control and become World War Three.

 

So, why are we failing?

 

The addiction to growth

 

The global monetary system is not dependent on growth because it has the wrong priorities, or because it is in the knees of multi-national corporations and consumerism. It is not dependent on growth because of “human nature” or because of greed, even if greed plays well into the mechanisms it is built on.

 

It is dependent on growth because it must grow, otherwise it will start to crumble and eventually collapse.

 

Think of it for a moment.

 

Only 10-15% of the loans of modern commercial banks have to be covered by the deposits of the customers. Thus, the banks are really lending money from the future. This means that FRB has not only realised alchemy, but also for all purpose invented time-travelling!

 

Some critics claim that FRB is a system which is creating money from thin air. That is however not entirely true. The money is created in the figurative world by the banks, but then created a second time – this time in the real world – through investments, labour and the production of goods and services. In short, the economic activities of all the corporations and individuals who have been compelled by need or by their dreams and ambitions to ever accept a loan from a bank.

 

This process allows the capital to multiply itself, and make credits accessible for the future development of the economy.

 

The hidden danger in this pyramid scheme lies in the fact that it requires permanent economic growth, or at least the belief in permanent economic growth. A growth which can turn the debts in the balance sheets into actual financial assets.

 

For this to be permeated however, it requires one thing:

 

The continued destruction of the Earth’s biosphere.

 

What really matters

 

For hundreds of millions of years, the Earth has had a complex system for the acquisition and renewal of resources. This system has been characterised by complex relationships unified within an emergent dynamic equilibrium. This system is called “the biosphere”.

 

It can more simply be referred to as Life.

 

The human civilization is ultimately resting on the fact that we are based on a planet characterised by a wide variety of ecosystems of living beings. The current way in which we are heading is the equivalent to raising a palace while removing the ground and foundation of to gather more materials. It is foolish, and not the least sustainable.

 

It stands clear to every aware individual that our civilization at the present point is on the route towards causing a new mass extinction amongst the species, bringing the entire Eocene Biosphere to an end.

 

Climate change is but the most well-known of the challenges ahead. The swift increase of the global average temperature is upsetting weather and drought patterns, affecting the natural cycles of storms, contributing to an accelerating rise of the sea levels, and affecting multiple species of animal and plant life negatively.

 

There have been several major conferences on this issue, and all of them have either produced semi-failures or complete breakdowns. While the leaders and decision makers have been aware of this issue for the better part of 20 years, they have been unable to turn the development around or even slow down the increasing usage of energy that produces CO2 emissions.

 

There are many reasons for this monumental human failure. You can blame the oil lobby, the United States, China, the consumers, the politicians, yourself or human nature in general for this failure.

 

The fact, however, is that it is extremely difficult to enact any kind of meaningful change in the energy sector as long as we have  a monetary system that automatically seeks to expand as much as possible, since a contraction will mean that it will be crushed underneath a mountain of debts piling up before it.

 

At the same time, we are silently allowing a real deficit to constantly grow, by using more resources for every year than the Earth can possibly renew. The continuation of that practice will eventually produce an ecological disaster of hitherto unseen proportions, at least for the last 65 million years.

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