The Global Climate Treaty

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

TL;DR

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

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What is the Greenhouse Effect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Effects of antropogenic climate change

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate change as a political issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Elephant in the Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Actions that can be undertaken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Long term Geo-engineering

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

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

Review: This Changes Everything

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

All except one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klein’s thesis and solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flaws of Klein’s solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For a more comprehensive description, see this entry.

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Three Criteria

17 MAIN VIEW

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

Our mission

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

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

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

1: Understanding the Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2: A circular economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

3: A socially sustainable civilization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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The three criteria can basically be summarized as:

1: A continuous survey of the Earth

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

3: A universal basic income

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

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

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

On the urgent need of a new reality consensus

Multiple-Universe

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

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

The chatter in the tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mainstream Consensus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When reality fails to meet expectations

Financial-Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compartmentalization

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

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

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

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

World Bank

World Bank

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

Club of Rome

Club of Rome

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

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

Summary and recommendations

Footprint Network

Footprint Network

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

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

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

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

Priorities: What must be done?

earth___stop_climate_change___by_h_4rt-d6eu3x11Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Why does the Earth Organization for Sustainability exist?

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

We are living under a mass extinction

riholtz.com

riholtz.com

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

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

What must be done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How EOS should approach this

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Or rather, how everyone should approach this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need one another ultimately.

Why the US Economy is in serious trouble

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By Mark Ciotola

How we arrived here

As EOS and Technocracy have long pointed out, our lassez-faire economic system is inherently unstable. Profits tend to accumulate out of the hands of consumers and concentrate into the hands of a few wealthy people. When the people who spend run out of money, then the people who save can’t get any more profits, and the whole system collapses. Ironically, during economic downfalls, many of the savers lose a lot of money, too, and even go bankrupt.

Upon the advent of earlier economic crises such the Great Depression, means were taken to prevent excessive concentration and control of wealth by the few. The founding fathers of the USA invoked an aggressive estate tax to prevent the emergence of an aristocracy and power that was was obtained by mere luck of birth. Antitrust laws were created to prevent monopolies. Labor unions were finally allowed to protect wages and the consumer spending so vital to the endurance of an economy. Banking legislation prevented the formation of banks that were too large to fail, and Glass-Steagall prevented banks from problematic conflicts of interest. Progressive tax rates diluted money out of the hands of the wealthy and some of it back in the hands of consumers, reducing dangerous build-ups and improving economic activity.

However, once the shock of the Great Depression ended, and memory of the social debt owed to the veterans of World War II receded, big business interests began to dismantle these economic protections. Progressive tax rates were significantly rolled back. Manufacturing was transferred on a near emergency basis to Japan and elsewhere to bypass North American unions. China was given most favored nation status by the USA that greatly accelerated this process. Banking “games” lead to the destruction and theft of the previously consumer-owned savings and loan associations. Glass-Steagall was revoked, allowing consumer banks to engage in especially risky investment banking operations. Such banks could now issue fraudulent consumer mortgages and package them into instruments for unsuspecting investors.

As consumers ran out of money, we increasingly became a “debt” economy. With domestic wages falling or frozen due to often subsidized foreign competition, consumers turned to home equity loans, student loans and credit cards to maintain their former standard of living. U.S. Federal Reserve chair Allan Greenspan called lenders heroes of the economy. As consumers could not afford to take on more debt, banks whipped up profits by doubling, tripling, etc. consumer loan interest rates. Rates exceeding 50% were common.

Finally, the wealthy couldn’t make enough money by actually producing anything or even lending to consumers at what were once legally usurious rates. They began buying and selling exotic financial instruments known by cryptic names such as butterfly options, derivatives, puts and calls. A particularly devastating was the “naked short”. It allowed a party to make large amount of money by selling millions of shares of nonexistent stock, flooding the market with this bogus stock until the market price of that stock collapsed and drove the underlying company out of business. The naked short sellers made fortunes, the newly unemployed executives received their $10 million golden parachutes, the laid-off employees received a few months of unemployment aid, and the pension funds/mom-and-pop investors received shallowly apologetic letters (if even that).

The only thing that saved the global economy from total melt-down was unprecedented government financial injections into banks, companies and certain national budgets (e.g. USA, China), and other stimulus measures.

An Economy on Life-Support

Supposedly, we learned our lessons after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 nearly melted down the entire global economy. A few consumer protections were enacted. Banks were slightly more regulated, and given FDIC protection for their high-risk investment banking operations (this latter should really terrify you). Lending was tightened up for consumers. Pensions were cut. European economies adopted severe austerity measures. Numerous automobile manufacturers were sold off to China. Indeed, the global economy has regained some semblance of order.

Yet, DO NOT be deceived! This is clearly an economy on life support. The Global Financial Crisis has resulted in tremendously-increased concentration of wealth and consequentially has produced long-term damage to consumer spending. Once the stimulus ends, the economy will return to chaos. It may even do so with continued stimulus.

The following graph shows how ill the economy has become since 2008. This Sizzle Index is an indicator of US economic “heat”. (It was developed by a member of Technocracy). Notice the peak at the year 2000 due to the dot com bubble. A second peak during 2005-2006 represents the housing bubble. Then in 2008 and 2009, the US economy literally fell off a cliff during the Global Financial Crisis. The Sizzle Index decline was about triple the magnitude of the dot com/9-11 crash of 2001. This was an unprecedented drop in recent times. This you already know.

What you may not know is what happened next. Despite some improvement of the US economy, the Sizzle Index is not only highly negative, but it is still declining despite massive quantitative easing (a more polite term for stimulus). The life energy is literally draining out of the economy despite massive. The deflationary pressures on Japan and Europe show similar declines globally.

By Mark Ciotola

Figure by Mark Ciotola

Nowhere to go

Interest rates earned by large investors are at historic lows, due to ongoing stimulus. Meanwhile, these near-zero interest rates are devastating to retirees, and pension funds are in serious trouble. The Federal Reserve has been hoping to bring interest rates back up slightly, but the markets have been extremely resistant.

Federal Reserve must be terrified about recently increased volatility in stock markets. If the economy tanks again, there is nothing left of interest rates to cut!

Technocracy predicted this!

One may ask why we are trapped in such a doomed economic system? Technocracy pointed out these problems, but people have tended to turn to illusory Libertarian-sounding gimmicks. When wealth becomes too concentrated, lobbyist- driven legislatures cut taxes to allow money to “trickle down” to consumers. When wages fall, they open up more foreign competition to reduce living expenses. When consumers can’t borrow enough to make up for those lost wages, banks get deregulated and numerous consumer bankruptcy protections end. Do you see the pattern?

Endgame

The world probably won’t end due to this economic dead end we are racing towards. However, the situation may get so bad that many of us will wish we were dead: children we can’t support, the slavery of endless debt, and the environmental destruction of unrestrained economics. We either have to change our way to doing things or face a future conceivable only from the worst science fiction films.

Mark Ciotola is an academic researcher on the San Francisco State University. His interests are spanning a wide area, from Fast Entrope and the e th Law to Physical history and economics, Intellectual property issues, Carbon Labeling, Energy Accounting and Brown Dwarf and Exoplanet Atmospheres.

What is the EOS about?

EOS LOGO

By Enrique Lescure

Reality

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

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

reality-check

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

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

The Eocene Biosphere

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

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

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

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

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

The Sixth Great Mass Extinction

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

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

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

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

The ethos of EOS

Alex_Grey-Holy_Family1

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

Earth will cope with it.

It is not sure humanity will.

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

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

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The issue of identity (III) – Civilization as a meta-identity, Consumeristic Individualism

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by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

In part I of this series of articles, I briefly mentioned Consumeristic Individualism, as I defined the dominant ethos of our era. To be able to define it, we must start to talk about a part of our collective identities that we all know about, yet few of us recognise – namely civilization. So, the issue at hand is: What is a civilization, and what is a civilizationary ethos? And how can these forms of definitions aid our undertaking?

What is a civilization?

urofthechaldees

A civilization is arguably the largest form of meta-identity that forms around collectives of people. Such an identity is generally not awarely pursued by its participants, like for example religion (or to a lesser extent: culture). To a large extent however, civilization tends to go be affected by culture, ethnicity, religion and linguistics.

The shortest possible definition of a civilization would be that it is a cluster of identities that have formed and are influenced by the same world-view. Fully fledged, the civilization provides the framework under which people are assembling reference points for positioning;

  • Their roles in society.
  • The meaning of life.
  • Sources of authority, legitimacy and morality.
  • Family relationships.
  • Human interrelationships.
  • Relationships between social classes and hierarchies.
  • Social Justice.
  • Expected rights and duties.
  • Expectations on life and the future.

It can be argued that this web of position points superimposes a reality on society which determines how many options and alternatives people have to express themselves. There have existed many civilizations during recorded history, and we have seen a large diversity of cultures and worldviews transpire before our eyes. Here below is a small graph I’ve made on the evolution process of civilizations until today.

World Civ Tree

The cosmology of traditional civilizations

ancient-egypt

You all already know this, but it is worth reiterating. Traditional civilizations – no matter whether they were Western, Eastern, Amerindian, Middle Eastern or South Asian – were built primarily on a worldview stressing collectivist survival values. These civilizations were bio-physically characterised by a dependence on producing food, of which over 95% was needed to sustain the producers of food – the farmers. The remaining twentieth of resources was utilised – either by trade or coercion – to support a small middle class and an even smaller aristocracy.

The values espoused by these civilizations tended to fall in the following patterns;

  • Humans were naturally unequal and of different value, depending on their status at birth.
  • Your meaning of life was to fulfill the expected ideal role of a member of your social position in life.
  • Idealisation of old age and experience.
  • Patriarchalism and paternalism, both in family life and in social relations.
  • Values excluding, repressing or rejecting groups who broke against societal norms.
  • High culture for the elites, folk culture for the rest.

If you think: “But hey, I recognise that“, that is probably correct, since many people are still living under conditions which are similar to these throughout the world (just like millions of people are still living as hunter-gatherers). A large segment of this planet’s population are subsistence farmers. Many are living in clan societies still ruled by iron-grip patriarchal traditions. Even in the most modern and cosmopolitan communities, remnants of these traditional values are still existing under the surface.

The foundations of the global civilization

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What we call “the global civilization” has grown with industrialisation, economic growth and capitalism. Originally, it was growing from the enlightenment values of the western civilization, built on the trinity of capitalism, science and representative democracy. However, these three are merely positioning points (though important pillars). I would argue that while these three institutions started to form during the 18th century, they originally formed within the context of a traditional society, characterised by an agricultural base for production.

The 19th century was characterised by a massive wave of urbanisation and industrialisation, which created both new social tensions and a sense of alienation and restlessness in society. Coupled with colonialism, imperialism and competition for power amongst the great powers of the era, this led to the period of the world wars.

While the 19th century had been characterised by a conflict between a nascent liberalism – the culmination of enlightenment era values – and reactionary forces wanting to preserve various forms of traditional (formal and non-capitalistic) hierarchies, the fast advance of society led to the prevailing social orders becoming increasingly anachronistic.

The dominant institutions of Europe were swept away by the First World War. The world economy was shattered by the destruction of the Gold Standard and the Great Depression of 1929-1939. Out of the ashes of this turbulent Time of Troubles arose two competing worldviews – marxism-leninism and fascism, and the Second World War was  fought over many issues, but on the civilizational level it was fought over what worldview should dominate the future industrial civilization.

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Consumeristic Individualism – what is it?

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While the ideological foundations of the modern western civilization (which has morphed into the current global civilization) were laid by scientists, entrepreneurs, economists and philosophers during the late 18th century, the core of our current civilization has far shallower roots than so, namely the inter-war period.

The Capitalism of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Liberalism of that era, operated within the context of a traditional agrarian society characterised by protestant work ethics (popularised by Max Weber). These values stressed group cohesion, hard work, frugality and accumulation of wealth.

It can be argued that the rise of mass media technologies, as well as group psychology techniques, gave rise to the new ethos of the western world – which today is increasingly becoming the ethos of the entire world.

I have decided to call this new ethos consumeristic individualism.

What characterises consumeristic individualism?

Formally, all humans are equal in rights. However, our worth is determined economically by our performance (or today increasingly, attractiveness) on the labour market, and socially by our popularity. This popularity is determined in increasingly large intensity by our social status, which is determined not only by financial wealth, but also by appearance, education, experiences and possession of trendy status items.

Unique-Designs-Painted-on-Nike-Shoes-by-Daniel-Reese-4These items are characterised not only by their appearance, but by what they tell about their owner’s supposed character, status and popularity.

Thus, humans are not consuming out of greed primarily, but out of their search for the expression of their individuality. This process, that the individuality can be commodified and acquired through the possession of objects, is a form of psychological magic thinking reinforced since childhood by mass media.

Mass media is under consumeristic individualism largely focused on reaching both the largest possible audience and finding target audiences. Due to commercial funding of the regular programmes, there is not only a large degree of marketing in most media avenues, but also a lot of hidden marketing inside the programmes themselves. This constant exposure to subliminal messaging instills a desire to belong, especially as the mass culture of the modern age, enjoyed in solitude before bright screens, also has created an age of mass loneliness.

Most human beings still crave togetherness and belonging, and most are acquiring it, but many human relationships are formed around the context of a culture of consumeristic individualism, and these relationships are reinforced by the frameworks established by fictional worlds and lifestyles designed to express a certain form of character or social position (no matter if you are a hiphopper or a hipster, you are actively participating in subcultures created to market certain values).

It can be said that most lifestyles are beginning as counter-cultures to revolt against the dominant culture, but that they eventually are appropriated by the market and turned into commodified lifestyles reproduced through media.

The problems with consumeristic individualism

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It can be said that worldviews help us find a purpose, but they can also limit our ability to view the world.

When it comes to consumeristic individualism and its attachment to western civilization, it is connected partially to the great mythos of our culture, namely the idea that we live in an era where history has ended. The apocalypse has been. The new world has been born after RagnarökDemocracy triumphed in World War Two and at the end of the Cold War.

Now, all there is for us is to realise ourselves by acquiring our identities and playing the increasingly diverse repertoire of roles available and mass produced for us.

Of course, we do know that what I above wrote is not true, but we are expected to act within that framework of thoughts. Thus, we are encouraged to resisting the injustices we see (to not speak of ecological issues like climate change) by changing our individual consumer patterns, and then refer to that as responsibility.

The really big problem with consumeristic individualism – however – is that as long as we act within that paradigm, we will perpetuate a system of thought based on the idea that the meaning of life is the acquisition of an identity by material means, the idea that a person is a certain thing by wearing specific clothes, associating with certain friends, listening to a specific type of music, eating specific kinds of food or having specific sets of sexual preferences, that this is-ness determines that person’s entire identity. The danger is not so much when people are forced into specific stereotypes, as when they start to voluntarily reduce themselves to one characteristic, thus limiting themselves. With this, I am not condoning any repression of subcultures, alternative lifestyles or other minorities.

Also, consumeristic individualism is driving the destruction of the planet’s biosphere.

Yes, they say, but you can change the system through consumeristic individualism too, by choosing to consume less, second hand, bicycle and recycle your garbage, can’t you not?

Firstly, this assumes that all human beings economically are offered the same choices. Besides, human opinions are heterogenous, and for each and every vegetarian recycler, there is someone who instead appropriates a lifestyle of big macs, big bikes and the lavious consumption of new items.

Secondly, everything within the context of consumeristic individualism is fleeting and temporary, and subjected to the laws of fashion. And the only law of fashion is that nothing should last more than ten years.

Thirdly, consumeristic individualism encourages flimsiness, forgetfulness, and a view of the world where we have no past and no future, only now forever.

Lastly and most damning, as I’ve already stated in my article Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism, this current system is not going to last (it can survive, but it requires fusion power, the advent of the Singularity, asteroid mining and planetary colonisation, and that too will kill it due to abundance, besides that it most likely won’t happen within enough fast a time-frame).

We cannot base whatever we’re going to build after the collapse on values dependent upon the kind of linear, exponential-growth-based system we have experienced for the last 200 years, and not on the consumeristic values that has fed this system for the last 60 years.

We need a new set of values, which give us the right to pursue ourselves fully as human beings and not as compartmentalised fragments, as well as stress that we all – collectively and individually – have a duty to our beautiful homeworld.

Read The Ideology of the Third Millennium to see a beginning of that discussion.

Anti-capitalism vs Post-capitalism

"Caging Humanity" by Don Davis

“Caging Humanity” by Don Davis

Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

What do we mean by Capitalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cosmology of the EOS

What is Capitalism, according to the EOS?

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

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

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

Why Post-capitalism is inevitable

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

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

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

What is Post-capitalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-capitalism vs Anti-capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

What does post-monetaryism mean?

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

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

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

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

Pre-monetary systems

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

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

Monetary systems

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

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

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

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

Post-monetary theories

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Monetary

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