On politics

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

That’s the main reason.

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

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

TL;DR

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

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Politics in western countries

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

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

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

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

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

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 Coalition-building

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

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

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

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

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The Role of Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Really important issues

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

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

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

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Another way to affect politically

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beauty of the holonic understanding of reality

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

TL;DR

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

Understanding reality

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

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

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

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

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

The case for a holonic understanding

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

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

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

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

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

What is a holarchic society?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The EOS Vision for a holonic future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Socialism

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

TL;DR notes

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

What is Neo-Liberalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Neo-Socialists want

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

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

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

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

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

What Neo-Socialists don’t get

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

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

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

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

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

Alternate transitionary solutions

ku-xlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human utility

prekariat.org

prekariat.org

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

TL;DR summary

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

The age of the Middle Class

1950s-middle-class-family-800x424

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

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

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

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

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

Individualization

Culture-Map_WVS5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The existential crisis of the Western Civilization

jeslacasse.com

jeslacasse.com

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

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

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

viewsoftheworld.net

viewsoftheworld.net

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

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

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

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

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

Short-term solutions

basicincome2013.eu

basicincome2013.eu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

A 48 hours recipe for suicide

utopia_in_four_movements_filmstill5_utopiasign

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Recently, I had the opportunity to read this article published on the Qetema website. I found it both interesting and unnerving, as it clearly defines one of the persisting problems with “the RBE spectrum”. I struggled with myself regarding whether or not I should reply to the article in question – but have decided positively so after voicing my concerns with the young people I have talked with inside the Qetema group. They asked me to write this article, and since I’ve already criticised the notion that Greece could become “the world’s first RBE nation”, I thought it would be fair to provide a more elaborate and formal criticism of the idea.

The Short notes (TL;DR)

On Resource Based Economics

~ We do not know whether a RBE would work or not.

~ Many RBE followers seem to believe that their proposed system is a sort of console cheat mode for economics.

~ RBE;ism ultimately bears an uncanny resemblance to pre-marxian forms of communism.

On Greece

~ For many reasons, Greece is ill-suited to become a Resource Based Economy.

~ For many reasons, turning a country into a RBE in 48 hours is insane.

~ Examples of autarkies

On Resource Based Economics

the-planet-is-sick-but-we-have-the-cure-a-resource-based-economy

The Earth Organisation for Sustainability does not and have never identified itself as an organisation promoting what Jacque Fresco coined as a “Resource Based Economy” (RBE). What our goal is, is to investigate the opportunities for how to establish sustainable management of the Earth’s resources, and we are curious on the long-term prospects for the application of a transition to post-monetary socio-economic systems. You can read about our research and transitioning proposals here.

The main difference between us and the majority of the organisations promoting what they call “RBE”, is that we remain very skeptical of any claims and want everything to be measured, verified, applied, tested and criticised. Many of the organisations promoting the RBE concept are however claiming that the world can be switched to a RBE almost instantaneously and with little to none negative effects.

Also, a RBE would not only solve all sustainability problems and social problems, but would prevent most accidents from happen, eliminate most diseases, make most people happy and create an abundance for everyone, so high that resources almost wouldn’t have to be measured.

Much of this heralds from Mr. Fresco himself, who generally promotes his concept through focusing on the many claimed positive effects of a post-transition society. It should be noted that Fresco – before he promoted the Resource Based Economy concept – pioneered a concept called Sociocyberneering, and there he used more technical and narrow terms (which I personally find more agreeable since it makes it easier to understand what his organisation wanted to achieve, but which I understand do not serve to attract as many followers).

What then is a RBE?

If you ask a dozen or so RBE followers, you will know less of what a RBE is than before you asked. You will probably hear

The Venus Project

The Venus Project

about it being “the right thing since the Earth belongs to everyone, not a select few”, and be presented Gimp-rendered image files with quotes by old Native American chieftains. You will hear about Tesla and free energy from vacuum. You may hear of spirituality and Yoga. You may hear of living in communes and veganism, and of banking conspiracies. You may even hear that Jesus did not exist and that RBE is a return to the faith in the pagan mother goddess. You may hear of the flower of life, of promoting arts and poetry and culture.

However, one thing which soon comes clear when it comes to RBE followers (who mostly are young people with idealistically glowing eyes), is that they truly view the RBE concept as a manifestation of everything that is good, righteous and expresses their identity. RBE can be three different things to three different indivduals, but needless to say it will solve all the problems of the Earth, all injustices and do away with them within a few months (Jacque Fresco said something akin to a decade in his Stockholm lecture).

So the main issue is, what does Jacque Fresco claim that a RBE is?

The answer can be shortly summarised as: A computer-administered planned economy.

The system would work in a manner that there is a global computerised system that monitors the total amount of resources on Earth. From that, Fresco assumes that there would be more than enough resources for everyone to live like a millionaire today (surveys by organisations such as the Club of Rome, the Footprint Network and other environmental organisations beg to differ), and that all that is lacking is sufficient planning. The Venus Project has to my knowledge never conducted a planetary survey, which makes me curious on how they have established that the level of resources is sufficient to establish a RBE.

Needless to say, the EOS agrees with TVP that a global planetary survey of resources is necessary, but we believe the way in which TVP messages their concept has created several unintended problems. By focusing on attractive 1950’s style retrofuturism and on inventions rather than the surveys and the physical information, TVP has ensured that they will not for the foreseeable future be accepted in academia. On the other hand, they (and TZM, which in many ways are making themselves even more problematic) gain followers within the precariat – young people from developed nations or from middle class background who have a trouble entering the more and more perilous and uncertain environment of the labour market. The RBE concept provides escapism and a vision of an alternative world.

In many ways, the RBE movement cluster is a cybernetic-age equivalent of the Utopian Socialist movement of the first half of the 19th century. The similarities are too many for it to be a co-incidence, and can be listed below here:

* An emphasis on the vision of a society where all problems are solved.

* A belief in philosopher kings (Tesla posthumously, a cult of personality around leading RBE figures).

* A mixture between pseudo-scientism (a fetischisation of science) and beliefs in alternative science (while Fresco has never claimed to support free energy, PJ Merola of The Zeitgeist Movement has purged high-ranking TZM members who’ve contested alternative cancer treatments).

* A willingness to move away from established society and form communes.

* An unwillingness to organise stable movements or commit full-heartedly to the projects, inside emphasising liquid organisation and positive emotions.

* A belief in that RBE:ism is a recipe to create a society where all ills are immediately cured, and that we under a RBE could both live in an earthly paradise but also provide everyone with basically everything they want.

With this, I am not saying that RBE:ism as a concept is doomed, but that these six features inside the RBE movement are the main things that hampers it and virtually ensures that it continues to see much noise but little actual activity. An emphasis on positive emotions, arrogance and the deification of individuals serves to limit the scope of followers and make them ineffectual.

Greece

grexit-comic

If you have read the article published on Qetema detailing Greece, they claim that Greece has a third choice apart from the knife and the gun seen in the picture above, and that is to switch towards a post-monetary system immediately, claiming that any adverse effects will be smaller than the false choice exemplified. This would mean that Greece totally would forego money and instead move towards a RBE where all resources are administered directly and managed in a rational scientific manner. The author of said article claims that this would create a better life for the Greek people and also showcase exactly how well a RBE would work.

I would counter these claims by pointing out the main problems here below, starting with a historical argument, moving towards a structural one and finishing with providing examples of economies with roughly the same level of natural resources as modern-day Greece, which either by ideological reasons or by economic reality have undergone a transition towards an autarchic, self-sustainable management of their resources.

Greek History for the last 3000 years

images

The earliest civilizations emerged around the Eastern Mediterranean. During the Bronze Age, Crete was a centre of trade and commerce in the Mediterranean, providing a hub where resources could be traded. In many ways, civilizations such as Crete, Egypt and the Sumerian states where resource-based economies, in that food and raw material management was centrally planned by theocratic governments. However, due to human overexploitation of fragile East Mediterranean eco-systems and probably natural disasters as well, a collapse occurred during the end of the Bronze Age, leading to depopulation and a massive loss of complexity.

The Greeks did eventually recover enough to create the civilization of Classical Greece. This recovery did not occur because that Greece as a region recovered economically. It was largely deforested, with eroding soils and unable to feed its own population (which for obvious reasons was smaller than today’s Greek population). Thence, from the 8th century BCE and onward to Alexander the Great, the Greeks colonised the shores of the Mediterranean sea, competing with the Phoenician trade networks and acted as middlemen between the various cultures populating the coastlines. If the Greeks had been land-bound and utilised their own resources, their population would have shrunk, and we would today not have known of Athenian philosophy and culture.

During the 15th century, Greece was overrun by the Ottoman Empire, and was ruthlessly exploited. The Greek cities turned into villages, the peninsula was plagued both by tax collectors and highwaymen (who were considered, and often were to an extent, Greek patriots fighting for the liberty of the Greek farmers, reduced to serfs under Turkish rule).

When Greece emerged as an independent nation in 1830, it found itself with a very poor economy and little in terms of infrastructure. The country almost immediately went bankcrupt, and has suffered several more defaults during the relatively short history since the Battle of Navarino guaranteed Greek independence. Left on its own and without any externa support, modern-day Greece would have resembled neighbouring Albania in wealth. What guaranteed that Greece would develop into the 40th largest or so economy of the world was largely the interests first of Great Britain and France, which saw the geostrategically important position of Greece visavi Turkey and Russia, and then of the United States, which largely subsidised Greece during the Cold War.

While Greece undoubtly has resources, it does not have enough resources to supply its current population within its borders. The article claims that the oceans, in this case the Aegean, contains “abundant resources”. The truth is that the eco-systems of the sea are on their way to collapse faster than the eco-systems on land, and most of them are in a state of terminal decay. Now the article writers can claim that Greece can supply itself in terms of aquaponics, kelp farms and solar energy, but to create such facilities require technology and knowledge which would make Greece dependent upon trade, and thus exporting the food they have to obtain technology. Otherwise, they would have to produce the technology internally, but that would reduce their ability to produce food which is needed to sustain the population (I advise the RBE:rs to play the excellent text-based game Stalin’s Dilemma).

RBE if applied on a national level.

If a RBE would be applied on a national level, it would mean that all food production, industrial production and infrastructure would have to be centrally managed, at least during the transitional time. Since Greece lacks the computational power to move towards a cybernated system, that would mean that the current Greek bureaucracy (and the Greek political leaders) will be tasked with managing the economy and making decisions on guesstimates. This would create bottlenecks of inefficiency and also mean that a lot of people will lose the control and/or ownership of resources – leading either to emigration or to political resistance.

Also, Greece is very much a service-based economy (tourism), which is not accounted for (or as much needed) in a RBE. Therefore, a large part of the Greek economy will cease to exist.

Current examples.

cuba cultural tours

There are currently several economies of the world which to a lesser or larger degree are managing their national economies according to principles where they measure resources and needs, and where the state rather than taxing off the population are making their revenue by exporting resources.

The two best examples of the current day world are North Korea and Cuba. I will focus on Cuba, since North Korea is largely directed towards using their resources to feed a bloated conventional military force, thus neglecting food production (in a country already ill-suited to produce food) and thus causing repeated famines.

It could be said that Cuba, on the other hand, is not aiming to embargo itself, but have partially been victimised by a recently lifted embargo by the United States. On the other hand, many aspects of the Cuban economy are not functioning overtly well, and the country lacks access to spare parts and modern technology. On the other hand, however, Cuba is today self-sustaining when it comes to food production, though ordinary Cubans do not experience an abundance of food.

If a Greek transition towards an autarchic economy with focus on self-sustaining food production is established, and we say that it is “successful” in regards with providing people with food, housing, power, medicine and other necessities, it would most likely resemble Cuba – which has a living standard that is considerably lower than modern Greece (even post-crisis), but on the other hand offers people more social security (on a considerably lower level).

Summary

The problem with RBE:ism

The problem with RBE:ism

It is theoretically possible to create a cybernated society managing its own resources within a limited geograhic territory on the planet. However, claiming that a “RBE” can violate the laws of physics and be applied with the same results in Greece as in the United States is populism at best and delusions at worst. Countries are of different size, have different environmental and geographic characteristics. It can be claimed that the larger a country is, the more educated its population is, and the smaller it is, the more resources would be available for every citizen.

That of course ignores the fundamental truth that we – as humans – cannot separate our countries from the planet. We are all into this together, and we all must transition together.

However, the EOS strongly discourages any at all attempt to convert a state into a cybernated economy tomorrow.

Firstly, we have not tested cybernated economics on any grand scale yet, or be able to attest to the positive and adverse effects of the implementation.

Secondly, we believe that the best road towards transition is an organic one, characterised by the emergence of holonic networks that share their successes and failures according to Open Source-principles and with a broad variety of different methodologies that allow us to access why experiments succeed and fail.

The RBE:ists currently are generally delving into a state where they choose to ignore relevant studies regarding history, the world’s resource base and problems encountered in transitions and with human reactions, instead preferring to draw a blank slate over all our experiences and listen to the encouraging words of gurus and visionaries.

It is my conviction as one of the founders of EOS and the organisation’s current director that our road must be one where the burden of proof lies on our shoulders that our transition models work, that we must meticulously test our alternatives on local settings and with computer simulations, that we must seek and find compromises and that the best road forward is one that is inclusive but also transparent and firmly rooted in empirical science.

Currently, RBE:ism is sorely lacking in all these regards, and that is but one of the reasons why we do not call ourselves a RBE:ist movement.

Aqua

watercluster.org

watercluster.org

By Enrique Lescure             

Introduction

karencarr.com

karencarr.com

The craddle of life on Earth can be said to be found in the blue. For many hundreds of millions of years, the ascending continents of the young planet were as dead and barren as the wastelands of Mars, while the oceans and lakes were teeming with life. Water was the solvent in which the first life-bearing cells emerged during the chaotic epochs after the birth of the Moon.

From a world fraught with volcanic eruptions, a poisonous atmosphere and constant meteor storms, Earth has evolved into a planet able to create complex and beautiful life-forms, forming an ever-changing and ever-evolving biosphere.

Much of the freshwater reservoirs have accumulated during millennia and are ensuring that the plants have enough nourishment to produce and renew soil and to establish the foundations for complex ecosystems to exist within.

Today however, we have destroyed or are on the verge of destroying a third of the world’s freshwater reservoirs. Many regions of the world, such as the Middle East and South America, are already experiencing social upheaval in relation to water depletion. China and India, the two most populous nations on Earth, are also experiencing water depletion on a massive scale.

This presents two kinds of challenges, one which is really long-term and the other which is relatively short-term. The first challenge relates to the fact that in the long-term, depleted freshwater reservoirs create a drier climate, meaning that fewer trees can grow, which leads to soil erosion. 5000 years ago, the Middle East and the Southern Balkans were largely forested regions, which gradually became more and more arid due to massive irrigation projects by city-states and hydraulic empires (aided by climate change).

The same process is repeating today in Brazil, the United States, India, China and Central Europe.

The second challenge is how billions of people in the future should be provided with water for drinking, for hygiene, for cooking and for other activities, while eco-systems should be taken cared of to ensure long-term survivability. This will be one of the most important issues for the Earth Organisation for Sustainability in the future.

Our challenge, as always, is how to be able to weigh the needs of today with what the environment needs in order to stabilise, and how to ensure that communities can participate in this process.

Short Notes (TL;DR)

There is not one singular solution to the challenge of freshwater depletion – rather there must be a transition process which is on-going and is coordinated between five distinct areas. The areas in this regard are all equally important, though emphasis has to be put on different areas depending on the local and regional pecularities of distinct regions of our planet.

~ Short-term solutions, policy-based and social. Rationing, water salvaging, public education regarding water treatment and stimulation of local projects.

~ Medium-term solutions, infrastructure projects, construction of artificial aquifiers, aqueducts and water salvaging plants. Migrations and redistribution of population.

~ Long-term solutions, the creation and re-terraformation of depleted regions by the (re)construction of destroyed eco-systems or new eco-systems. Monitoring of the process.

~ Research, time investments into technologies that can make desalinization more cost-effective, new technologies for recycling and upcycling water quality, reducing the need for water in home appliances and in infrastructure overall.

~ Ensuring the dignity of communities and a fair distribution, namely that the affected populations themselves are having democratic influence in the process of how their transition process should be managed and how much they want to participate in that management.

The future – short-term solutions

Mars base by Douglas Shrock 1

humanmars.net

We have largely been treating water as if it was air – as if we could use as much as possible of the groundwater and then… well, not having to think about the management. Sure, in most developed nations, there is water management, which works more or less well (the Nordic countries are generally very high up on that scale, with drinkable tap water and very large and unspoiled reserves of ground water, with hundreds of thousands of lakes).

In the future, there is a profound risk that we – at least in some regions – would have to treat water in a way similar to how we would endure on a Mars base, namely by careful management and a circular hydraulic economy, where water is moved from household appliances and infrastructure to large aquaponics facilities, where rainwater is gathered, filtered and cleaned and utilised within the habitat, with zero to little usage of aquifiers. In fact, we should move towards minimising our usage of groundwater, instead focusing on water recycling, rainwater usage, water from rivers (though we should be careful with river water as well and have systems that can replenish the water to the rivers from the base). 20131003142909-NEW.Aquaponics-IconUrine may have to be filtered and turned into drinkable water again.

In terms of personal usage, this would probably entail local water regulations where people are given either a water quota for a community tank, or their own individual tanks where they could use water. A lot of the functions that today are individually allocated might have to become communal, like washing clothes, bathrooms, kitchens and so on. When two or more distinct communities are sharing the same source for their water, there needs to be a form of common management or at least transparency and concord between these two communities, thence holons should be formed for these tasks.

Ensuring human survival – Medium-term solutions

Brazil_Variability_11_04_14

In particular cases, there might be needs to transport water from either deep aquifiers (like the Sahara aquifier) or from regions with abundant water reserves to regions where water shortage threatens the survival of hundreds of millions, and can cause the collapse of over-stressed communities. This can be achieved through the construction of closed aqueducts or water pipelines, and must be managed both by a convent of representatives of the affected communities, and a technical authority managing the infrastructure of such projects. In some cases, the Earth itself may have to be transformed to construct fresh-water lakes with adjacent forest eco-systems to form the basis of medium-term water sustainability in the social term.

Or, we might even need to consider large-scale migrations, for example from the United States into Canada, from China into Siberia and from the Mediterranean countries into north-eastern Europe, in order to alleviate the resource stress on China and the US by distributing the population more evenly, as the polar regions become more habitable due to climate change while the temperate regions become less able to provide for their population. This would also reduce the need to transport water from the north to the south, by instead making it possible for people to migrate from the south to the north.

Another project worth considering is to create closed-loop rivers in Sahara and then form communities around them, where people from Africa and parts of the Middle East (and even from flooded Islands like the Maldives) can settle, in oasis city states built alongst a string of pearls in the vast Saharan desert.

Lastly, the final two areas for human resettlement are Antarctica and the Oceans, and both represent technological challenges in terms of how to attain enough water to supply significant populations.

Ensuring the well-being of the Biosphere – Long-term solutions

encuentura.wordpress.com

encuentura.wordpress.com

When we in the EOS are talking about long-term solutions, we mean long-term, in terms of 10.000-50.000 years. This means partially that humans would have to live in different forms of communities. Mega-cities housing tens of millions of people should not be subsidized as an ideal form of life, which they are in today’s exponential growth-oriented model. Neither would a massive, evened-out distribution of the population be a good solution, since it would wipe out forests and eco-systems. The ideal would be concentrated inter-linked communities ranging in the thousands, though there would be no forced population redistribution.

The first thing that needs to be done is to ensure that our biological waste is used to renew soil cultures, or to build new soil cultures where old ones have been depleted. This means that we should not put our waste in the oceans or in lakes, but instead use human manure as a valuable resource to be utilized as a part of recreating and strengthening soil quality. What we term as waste from mines can also be valuable, since rock often contains important resources that increases the nutrition levels.

We need to ensure to reduce soil erosion, both by the construction of terraces and especially by the growing of plants, allowing eco-systems to take hold. We need to move away from mono-cultures and grow food more vertically and within the confinements of urban centres. Of course, it is not possible to remove all mono-cultures, but we need to reduce the amount significantly over a long span of time.

If we cannot reestablish eco-systems that have been lost, we must see whether we can build new eco-systems to compensate for the lost ones, and if these new eco-systems would have a positive impact on the Earth’s biosphere.

And – a lot of this means that we have to create more preserves where human-oriented activities are minimised, and that we let these preserves be untouched for hundreds of generations, that said – until a new equilibrium is established.

Applying and multiplying knowledge – Research

panacea-bocaf.org

panacea-bocaf.org

There is much valuable research done today within the space industry, regarding the effective usage of water in order to create self-containing artificial eco-systems and provide food on space stations or on Mars bases. This technology can also be applied on the Earth in order to salvage resources and increase our resilience. However, the technology needs to become more energy efficient and as ecological as possible without compromising the values behind. The things envisioned to be used one day on Mars should also be utilised in villages in Morocco, Honduras or Kerala, and thus the knowledge must spread horizontally in an exponential manner (there can EOS be of immeasurable help, by providing educational programmes aimed towards local communities).

Desalinization should also be investigated, and an emphasis should be put on making the process cleaner, more effective and cheaper in terms of resources and construction. Especially within small-scale appliances, a focus should be made, so that every home in a community can contribute to the process of turning saline water into freshwater.

A third area is in terms of the development of household machines that use less water, either by design features or by the usage of more advanced technology, for example smaller treatment plants and the integration of treatment plant infrastructure into the modular features of future homes. To this we can also add technologies that can treat infected water and clean it.

Lastly, we should not omit to mention the integrated features of intelligent cities, which can be used to predict the usage of water over long-term and come with proposals over how water management should be carried out.

Including the communities – the social aspect

socialearth.org

socialearth.org

An integral part of what we in EOS are striving to create, is that people locally and regionally should be able to exert influence over their own destinies. This does not only mean to guarantee the protection of individual rights – both through a Constitution and through giving individuals the means to defend their autonomy – but also the protection of the rights of communities. An important aspect of this is that communities should bear the responsibility of the natural resources within their area – including water.

This can be problematic though, because the irresponsible usage of natural resources is a great part of what is wrecking our biosphere right now and causing the Sixth Mass Extinction. Therefore, there is a balance between the democratic autonomy of a community and their right to exert the main part of the influence on how natural resources should be used locally, and the rights of the Biosphere to exist and prosper.

There is no fixed answer on how to resolve this potential conflict, but every local area is unique. What is important however is to identify needs, to establish a dialogue with the local community, to create management plans together with representatives of the local community, both political leaders, traditional leaders, economic actors, representatives of the civil society and the general public, and to include them in the process where holons are established to oversee aspects and manage aspects of the hydraulic infrastructure. The grade and depth of the management and the collaboration will vary between regions and areas.

This also includes the right for the local area or region to withdraw from the cooperation or renegotiate. However, what we need to establish is a consensus and an awareness of how water usage affects the environment and how a changed environment will affect the future of local communities. Thus, EOS needs to act primarily as an educational organisation, while we need to incorporate the knowledge and wisdom of local communities and understand that situations need to be addressed with a sensitivity to the values and norms – in order to be able to canalise the force of the community towards the gathering of new knowledge that can be utilised to improve water management.

Summary

scientificamerican1109-80-I1

Some new age spiritualists are claiming that we will soon enter the age of Aquarius, or that we have already. Aquarius as a symbolic figure is a human being that pours water – enlightenment – over humanity. It can be seen as an appropriate metaphor in one way, because if the knowledge of how much we have damaged our water reservoirs was better known, there would be a greater movement towards solving these problems.

Some aspects of the article you have read may seem rather radical. The problem however is that the more we are stressing and depleting the reservoirs of water and soil needed to sustain a complex land-based supra-civilization as present-day humanity, the more radical the solutions would eventually have to be.

The important thing to remember is that interventions must happen with the permission and active participation of local communities, and that they should interfere as much as necessary but not more into the livelihood of the people. Interventions can be intrusive, so therefore the most essential part of any transition is that the population is made aware of the nature of the situation, that the population is prepared for when interventions would happen and how far they will go, and that the public can affect the process and partake in it.

Water must be managed in an ecological manner, but it must ultimately also be managed by the people.

Intelligent cities as a step towards a technate

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

What is a technate

gizmodo.com

gizmodo.com

What is a technate?

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

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

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

What is an Intelligent City?

beinformed.com

beinformed.com

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

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

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

Bettery_Teaser_SciFi-768x332

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

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

Risks and challenges

09272011_Shadow_Workers_article

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

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

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

Conclusion

thevenusproject.com

thevenusproject.com

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

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

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

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Push and Pull

foodwaste_flickr_sporkist_640

Photo by Sporkist

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

moral

Moralism & Practical repercussions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food-Supply-Chain

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

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

A holistic approach

energy-sustainability21056

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

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

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

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

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

Push and pull policies

graphicdesign.stackexchange.com

graphicdesign.stackexchange.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately

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

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

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On Energy Accounting: Public and Personal

MonolithArcologies_RyanGrobins

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Unlike Karl Marx, we very much advise that we should need to at least make rudimentary socio-economic recipes for the future. During Marx’s time, there was little in terms of knowledge regarding the effects that industrialism had on environment, to not say the least that the world at the period of 1848-1888 still was “sustainable” (in the sense that we used less than the world could renew).

As you may be aware of, the Earth Organisation for Sustainability has designed a basic blueprint for a new global socio-economic system, which is called Energy Accounting or simply “the Design”. This Design is developed partially from Distributed Systems Theory and partially from the proposals of Technocracy Incorporated in the US during the 1930’s. We do also aspire to test our system on limited scales in a series of tests.

As you all probably know already, Energy Accounting is a design that relies on  assembling data on the Earth’s capability to renew its resources on a constant basis, use that data to establish a specific amount of energy credits, and then share out these energy credits to the people – or rather to each and every individual who contains their energy credits in a personal account. The individual then allocates their energy credits to things which they desire, and the things they desire are produced for them.

Simple, right?

No, the truth is that it is a highly complex process, but given the global impact we as a species are weighing on our poor planet, I believe that most people can agree that our proposals (taken separately) have merits. It is still a bit early for people in general to accept that these proposals make a lot of sense taken together as well, but we’re heading in that direction technologically, which I guess is good.

Anyway, there are some things regarding Energy Accounting which I believe that I have not emphasised enough, and that is subsequently why this post exists. This post will not be a complete exposé, but rather will focus on one issue, namely how energy units are distributed out and what the difference is between public and personal use of energy credits.

It is highly suggested that readers are reading through the other articles regarding the topic of Energy Accounting, before or after having read this, whether you need to fresh up your knowledge or if this is an entirely novel topic for you.

Why Energy Accounting is a form of market economics

theeducatorscloud-public.sharepoint.com

theeducatorscloud-public.sharepoint.com

When we move away the basic income and the circular economy bits of EA, what we are getting is a form of self-regulated market economy where the externalities are internalised.

Conventional market economics can only approach environmental problems either by the Laissez-Faire approach (meaning that we need to wait until air and water are so scarce that there can be market for them where some people will be left out because their demand curves are too low) or by legal regulations (taxes).

Energy Accounting solves the problem of externalities by constant data gathering of crucial information regarding the planet’s state. This data gathering would be carried out by de-facto thousands of stations and project groups, who each and every one will add data to the overall energy survey.

These resources are later on distributed to the entire population of the survey area, where each individual is given both a basic minimum income and additional energy units according to their labour (there is also a debate on where the minimum level should be based and whether we should go for full egalitarianism, but that is a subject for another topic). As everyone have received their share of energy units, they can allocate these units to determine how the production of the entire survey area would be distributed and what industries would be subsidised. This would create a market where demand to some extent is determining supply (within the capabilities of nature of course).

Therefore, basic Energy Accounting as defined by EOS is a form of market economy. It is not a capitalistic market economy, but it is a market economy.

However, while markets are good to determine individual needs (if all people have decent demand curves), they are not so optimal when determining public needs. For example, people may not demand railway systems, but railway systems can improve the transport of other things that people need. Large-scale energy production, infrastructure, basic education and hospitals, to just a mention a few things, would need to have a basic infrastructure.

Infrastructure on some level demands public expenditure (no matter if the revenue is raised through taxes, raised through voluntary donations or is income from government owned natural resources).

Given that Energy Accounting is not designed to work with taxes, how should public utilities be dealt with? And is there a single recipe for dealing with public utilities?

The Public space in a technate

Energy Accounting

One thing which we assume is that all energy units will be distributed out to the people. There is however a slight problem with that, and that is that a modern society is incredibly complex. What gift economists and other anarchists are ignoring is that modern production often demands a lot of steps to extract or produce materials, assemble them and then transport them to consumers (and then recycle or upcycle them). By smart green innovations and holistic systems, we can reduce this complexity (to the price of another form of complexity, namely superior data algorithms), but if we are aiming for the production of energy, food and resources enough to feed large human communities, there would still need to be infrastructure.

We can reduce our needs for it, but even if most things are produced locally by the communities themselves, some back-up systems in the case of a disaster would be needed.

Another issue is the issue of fairness. Is it fair that an individual with heritable diseases should spend more of their energy units on things like medicines, medical care, wheelchair, eye augmentations (or glasses)? Should children (or the parents) devote more of their energy units for education services?

Therefore, as evidenced in the image above, when the Energy Survey for the period is made, a share of the energy credits will go to the infrastructure, so the infrastructure can provide the users with both basic services and maintenance, and provide the holons with the resource networks they need to produce the stuff that people are requesting.

Thus, it wouldn’t be like that people would first receive their share and be obliged to pay a part of it back in the form of taxes. Rather, the distribution between public and personal will happen when the total capacity has been measured by the Energy Survey.

Those who have looked at the figure above can see a third area, a green one. The question that follows is: What is it?

As previously written, the total share of energy units correspond (ideally) to the survey area’s capability to regenerate its biomass (for clarifying, the survey area might be the Earth). If all of those units are distributed out, either to the users or infrastructure, there is nothing that says that everything won’t be used up. Of course, most users will not be using up all their energy units during one period. Yet, by relying on such unreliable and fluctuating methodologies of regaining nature, we will basically make nature subservient to consumption – which is one of the foundational problems in today’s world.

Therefore, it is essential that a fraction of the energy units are left idle (that we are using for example 97,5% of what is within nature’s limits to provide instead of 100%, the percentile in itself is not as important as that is below 100%). This would ensure a slow but steady adaption from nature’s side, and that ecological diversity will eventually start to grow again.

Public vs personal, how to determine?

Eco-homes in Rockwood

Eco-homes in Rockwood

There are two ways to determine how much of the total sum of energy units should be distributed to any of the three areas mentioned above.

The first methodology is the technocratic methodology, which would mean that experts would determine the minimum and maximum needs for the infrastructure to operate and then extrapolate the needs from that. The second methodology is the democratic methodology, which would mean that the public themselves would determine how much would go to themselves as individuals, and how much would go to the infrastructure (including public institutions).

I would say that both methodologies are valid, but only if they are used in tandem with one another and a third factor. This third factor is of course the normative and ethical foundations of the Constitution, which outlines how resources may not be used (for example not be used in a way that destroys the environment or in a way that violates human rights). The figure below illustrates this interdependence.

by Enrique Lescure

by Enrique Lescure

However, that it is decided that a specific share of the common resource base would be used for infrastructure will not mean that this percentage will always be used for infrastructure. It also does not mean that the specific share in every region will be the same.

In regions with smaller infrastructural requirements (due to population size or other factors) or where the culture and sentiments are favouring self-sufficiency contra massive public infrastructure, there would be less distribution of energy units to infrastructural or public needs. Conversely in some other regions, the infrastructure might receive over 50% of the energy units.

Food: Public or personal?

biodome_preview

One last issue before I wrap up this particular post. Food.

Why would it be a good idea to view at least some basic food as a public utility? The reason is that while a user generally can wait for a new garage module, a new bike or a new computer, all human beings require food. We can imagine that there would be holons that produce for example food on a daily basis, but for staple food (for example wheat or rice) there would be need for large-scale production in order to provide for a billion population of humans.

Therefore, it can be advisable to at least measure a part of the public energy credit usage as being directed towards food production. That would however not negate holons producing food autonomously.

Summary

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The main issue to remember is that we soon will be nearly 10 billion human beings on this world. We would need to utilize our common resource base very wisely, and we must take into account that it would probably not be feasible to have all humans self-sufficient (though a higher degree of self-sufficiency and survivalism is probably necessary if we want to have a strong civilization).

Therefore, there needs to be an opportunity for a public sector administering basic infrastructure existing alongside the voluntary holonic initiatives which would form the basis of the Technate’s economy. The size of this public sector should be determined by the needs of the infrastructure, but also by the desires of the public, and be checked by the Constitution.

It should also be stated that the Technate in itself is perceived (even the blueprint) as a transitionary model towards yet a better and more sustainable civilization. This would mean that when you read texts by us, you should not imagine that we aspire to create a perfect society or some form of socialist or anarchist utopia. Rather, we are trying to create an alternative that can balance human needs with the needs of the environment and of future generations.

That is the great challenge of our era.

On direct democracy

maremonti-istra.hr

maremonti-istra.hr

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

This is a continuation of my thoughts regarding the previous article, but this time focusing on democratic and political participation within political frameworks. My reasoning herein is based both on practical and normative frameworks. I am however well aware that I will move deep into normative territory for this post, and therefore – to not be accused for inconsistency later on – I will hereby state that structural organisation of the direction of the public political will is partially dependent on the concrete situation that we are/that we will face within a certain amount of time. Therefore, what applies under an ideal state of dynamic equilibrium may not apply during times of emergency (and I would argue that we are entering such a time of emergency).

One such issue, is the issue of being able to make decisions quickly. While quick decisions may not be anchored in the civil community, they can be necessary under conditions such as hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and volcanoes. It could be argued that the crises of climate change and the destruction of eco-systems, soil and freshwater represents a very slow but persistent on-going disaster, and that – politically speaking – we may even be in need of temporal arrangements that are more centralized and organises larger groups of communities than before. This can in itself be problematic however, since the scars of emergency measures are difficult to heal and near-impossible to remove.

This post is intended to be far happier than that, and discuss how I think constitutional and political systems ought to be organised.

The issue of scale

tech.co

tech.co

When asked upon what my ideal country is, being an active member of EOS and so, I usually half-jokingly state that it is San Marino. The reasoning of course is not based on ideology, economic or social policies or even the kind of democratic system the Sanmarinese people are using, but on size.

I believe that the size of polities have both quantitative and qualitative aspects that can probably be measured.

The reason why is that your vote is mattering more in a smaller political context, in terms of what influence you have as a voter and as a member of the citizenry. Mathematically speaking, you have far more influence over the political future as a member of the Swedish electorate than as a member of the electorate to the European Parliament, or as an American citizen voting in US federal elections.

Size can also be understood in terms of space, in this case geographic space. For example, if your government is located in a capitol far away from you, it is likely that it would focus more on the regions adjacent to the capitol region, rather than peripheral regions. It is also more likely that elites are drawn from urban regions where the government is located, due to proximity to the power-brokers themselves and to the institutions that create a new elite generation.

A third factor is that communitarianism is completely impossible within political contexts that consist of hundreds of millions of people. When I travelled to Russia in 2003, there was an insurgent attack against civilians in the North Caucasus region. Our Russian hosts did not mind it very much, and reacted much like how Swedes react to earthquakes in Turkey and Greece. This does not imply that Russians are defective, but rather that humans in general are predisposed towards emotional investment with those that they view as closer to themselves.

That also holds true of items and projects that people engage in. One example is how well the Israeli Kibbutzim system worked in the early phase of its history, contra the atrocious results of the Soviet Kolchoz system. In the Kibbutzim, volunteers driven by an ideological conviction and unified by a common identity struggled together to form cooperatives, whereas the Kolchoz system was the result of farmers being forced to give away what they’ve worked for themselves to the state, and then being forcefully relocated into collective farms which had no freedom in determining their own identity, and no freedom of movement.

A smaller example is for example youth halls in vulnerable neighbourhoods, that constantly get vandalised. However, when the youths partake in the construction or renovation of the youth hall, it is more unlikely that it will face vandalism (at least for that generation of youths).

What we can see for a pattern here is that the commitment of people is growing when they are allowed a greater opportunity to participate in processes that shape their lives.

How to disinherit enfranchisement

Parliamentary and Republican democracy as concepts did not emerge overnight, but gradually evolved during the 19th century, with landed, religious, political and moneyed elites gradually releasing more and more power to parts of the public to determine policy. Despite that, elites have still a key to keeping power and be able to project their interests before the interests of the majority, by forming electoral systems that serve to cement their rule and to channel in potential or real opposition into the mainstream of power rejuvenation.

I could write a lengthy segment about that, but I prefer to instead share an excellent youtube video which describes some of these processes.

On another note, indirect democracy and party structures in themselves are problematic from a democratic perspective. The reason why is, like it has been pointed out before by Tiberius Gracchus, that an elected representative can vote against their own promises in an election when they are in power. One recent example from Sweden was when Fredrik Federley, a popular and intelligent young Centre politician, made statements and speeches which indicated that he would protect integrity on the Internet and prevent legislation that would increase surveillance.

In 2008, two years after being elected to the Riksdag, the elective body voted on a highly unpopular law which would subject cellphone conversations and mail exchanges to

frihetsveckan.se

frihetsveckan.se

storage by the Radio Interception Unit of the military security (FRA). Federley intended to vote against the law, but rescinded at the last moment (if that was not a political theatre), and then voted for the law, despite having ran a successful personal campaign two years before intending to protect the personal integrity of his voters.

The same can be applied for Obama and his promise of an executive decision to close Guantanamo Bay (which still is running, six years into his presidency).

Some actions, such as a vote or an executive order, which at first glance seem easy to pass through, are shown to be difficult – while other decisions, such as carrying through unpopular international agreements, seem to be near inevitable. Right now for example, the US and the EU are negotiating a massive free trade agreement (TTIP), of which we are none the wiser about the details. A few charming tidbits indicate that this agreement will contain a clause that will give corporations the right to sue governments if governments install regulations that will hurt the profitability of the corporations – in short placing corporate profit interests above popular will.

Some things, such as human rights, ecological concerns and core values have to be placed over popular will at all times. However, corporate profits can hardly apply to that club. Rather, the issue of corporate profits reminds of the idea that the state should subsidise prostitution so everyone can have sex. Profits are not a right, for the sake of Gaia!

Anyway, this rant aside, we can see that electoral cycles and parliamentarism are hardly a guarantee to popular sovereignty. Governments and politicians are more often than not left unscathed by the breaks in their electoral promises, especially not since major issues like the FRA law or TTIP often enjoy bipartisan support both from the centre-right and from the centre-left. Such agreements can almost only be delayed by mass protests, but soon reappear under other names.

TTIP is essential, you understand. Economists estimate that it can increase the GDP of the European Union with 0,5%.

What do we suggest then? Revolutionary councils?

Direct Democracy, City-States and Cantons

Catalan Independence Rally In Barcelona

To reconnect to the first segment of this article, I would strongly recommend that we move forward as suggested in The Design with a confederational approach. While we do not suggest the break-up of nation-states, a good idea to strengthen the sovereignty of the citizenry would be to perhaps focus more on regions and cities, and less on huge political entities, divesting more power locally or regionally.

This can also cause problems of course. For example, education and healthcare are today so complex and resource-intense endeavours that small entities may be unable to deliver good quality. The solution would then be for local units to move these aspects up to the regional or sub-confederational level (to not speak of that how EOS sees it, healthcare would be managed through the technate, and education at least partially through the technate, which of course would be based on similar de-centralised principles).

What we can see before us is a world consisting of various type of political entities. Republics, city-states, communes, cantons, condominiums, collectives, regions,

inhabitat.com

inhabitat.com

confederations, sea nomads, virtual nations, micro-nations and even constitutional monarchies. A diverse, colourful world where a multitude of differing social models are tested out simultaneously.

We imagine that many of these entities would employ forms of direct democracy, where all the citizens have a direct seat and a vote in the legislative council. Of course, there would be politically elected officials presiding the legislative council, but their role would mostly be to enact the decisions of the legislature (as a side note, in my home city of Umea, northern Sweden, the municipality has recently decided to abolish the opportunity of citizens to write sign lists for citizen proposals).

Some would claim that direct democracy would create a wild, uncontrollable situation. People can vote in all kinds of insane things, such as free ice-cream or to establish Europe’s largest homeopathic hospital. People, they argue, cannot be trusted with political power, since they would only vote short-sighted and for their immediate needs.

If we look at Switzerland, however, where referendums are generously employed, we can see that most of the referendums become clear victories of the Nay-side. I believe there might be several reasons behind that. Firstly, public opinion is generally more cautious and less active than the activists writing platforms for political parties. Secondly, politicians are often driven by personal ambition, and aim to change laws not only because they believe it would be good for society, but also because of their personal legacy. Ordinary citizens generally do not think about their personal legacy when voting in a referendum.

Constitutionalism

Another problem can be when a political legislature wants to repress a segment of their population, or members of another legislature, or wants to prohibit free speech, imagemovement or violate personal rights. After all, almost 40% of the Germans voted for Hitler in 1932 (the first election, not the second). Sadly, religious bigotry, sexism, racism, psychopathy and exploitation have existed in human societies for millennia, and EOS (unlike TVP for example) do not ascribe to the ideas of Descartes and Skinner that human behaviour can be engineered into anything by the environment. The human condition is one of being able to hold on to ideals and failing to adhere to them, of both love and war.

Therefore, to have a wildly divergent confederational structure demands that all the differing groups adhere to one constitution. This constitution would not be based on forms of legislatures, but on common principles and core values. Groups that don’t want to follow it have the choice of not opting in, and those who violate it can very well be kicked out of the Confederation (there are a few problems with that which I would probably address in a future post).

A flawed beta-version exists in the form of the old NET charter.

Pan-terranism

Our main idea is not to see a world of warring city-states, but an umbrella of thousands of local and regional authorities joined together by sub-confederations that in their turn

evolo.us

evolo.us

form the basis for a world conderation – a United Earth. Why would this be necessary? The answer lies in the Constitution. There needs to be a body that oversees that all the members adhere to the principles of the Constitution. The World Confederation would not necessarily have any other tasks at hand.

The Confederation would probably never consist of all of the planet either, since it is built on voluntary agreements. But if the technate works and expands throughout communities, the confederation would naturally expand too. Of course, a community can choose to not be a part of the confederation while being a part of the technate, and the other way around as well.

Communities should be able to link up however, wherever they happen to be, and then form their own sub-confederations.

Pan-terranism is not the same as a global federation or a New World Order, which as concepts generally are built on the idea of a unipolar centre, governed through a power pyramid of military, corporate and financial power, which is imposing an iron grip over humanity. Rather, Pan-terranism as an ideal is a vision of a horizontal alignment between autonomous entities which each contribute valuable parts of the collective experience that is humanity. Within the Terran Technate and the Terran Confederation, there could be room for a diverse variety of cultures, sub-cultures, ethnicities, collectives and experiments.

Green Anarchists, Amish and Deep-greens may prefer to live in rural, non-technological pristine societies, while transhumanists might want to live in floating city-states or orbital stations. Both needs can be fulfilled simultaneously within the same political framework.

Some people might prefer to live in sexually liberated zones where they walk around naked, while others might want to adhere to stricter norms.

Some would like calm communities, while others would want to live on eternal night clubs.

Some would be nomads, others would be dwelling in virtual worlds constantly.

And some would of course live in towns, villages and cities which look virtually identical to today, but which are ecologically sustainable.

If you don’t like your community, there would always exist a community where you would fit in. And if you don’t want to be a part of the Terran Technate and the Terran Confederation, you would not have to.

Of course, we would not be able to realise this vision within our life-time, but we are convinced that the world is moving in our direction, technologically and politically.

But sadly not fast enough at the moment.

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