What Choices Would You Make?

If you were living on an island with 100 other people, would you enact a system of social organisation that would demand the continual use of limited resources, and produce ever increasing amounts of waste resulting in the near complete destruction of the immediate environment?

Or would you cherish the natural resources, using them intelligently in a sustainable manner with an eye to product longevity?

Would you design products to become quickly obsolete, encouraging a one use throw it away mentality?
Or would you have things like recycling, ease of repair and upgrading as demands of the design brief?

On what would you place greater levels of importance, the ability to keep people producing and distributing stuff, or on respecting the finite limits of the natural environment that supported life?

This is our island floating in a cosmic sea.

Choose wisely.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

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The Three Questions a Response Disected.

In late October of 2014 Peter Joseph produced and published a Youtube video presenting people with three questions and a challenge to resolve them using logic without realizing the need to remove the Market Economy.


 Someone going by the name of JayCkat has proposed an answer to these questions on the boards at Lowyat.net which we will look at here.

Question 1

"Given the market economy requires consumption in order to maintain demand for human employment and further economic growth as needed, is there a structural incentive to reduce resource use, biodiversity loss, the global pollution footprint and hence assist the ever-increasing need for improved ecological sustainability in the world today?"

JayCkat response.

A hidden assumption in these arguments is that humans are limited to earth. As humanity is limited to earth, natural resources are finite.  
A way out of this is for humanity to develop space travel and leave the planet.

[While this may be true it is currently beyond our capabilities, NASA pointed out in 2004 that " Even given ample funds the first settlement will take decades to construct. No one is building a space settlement today, and there are no immediate prospects for large amounts of money, so the first settlement will be awhile. If Burt Rutan's prediction of affordable orbital tourism in 25 years is correct, however, it's reasonable to expect the first orbital colony to be built within about 50 years.", thus this is not a logical answer when considering how to deal with a situation in the short term. It also totally negates the reality we are faced with, such as rampant biodiversity loss, ecological decline and climate change, all of which will impact on our abilities to survive on this planet over the next thirty to fifty years.]

Another assumption is that resources are limited and will eventually be exhausted. Again this is only true if humans do not recycle. And the reason humans do not recycle is ultimately the energy cost.

If you think about it the only real limiting resource on earth is energy. A bit of iron thrown into the rubbish bin, can be extracted and remelted, then reused. The same can even be done with plastics. We don't do this because it is costly... and that cost is ultimately energy. If we have cheap plentiful energy, we can even do crazy things like convert CO2 back into oil. The chemistry is possible. We are having an "energy" crunch because humanity's primary energy source if petroleum. And that is a finite resource.

[The cost of producing energy in our global society is "high" because we use a market economy and resource intensive practices that are entirely inefficient. Converting C02 back into a fuel is discussed here and a very important point to make is that it is currently not feasible. Dreams of the future are nice, but they can not resolve situations now.]

Now there are other sources of energy on Earth.

Solar and wind energy, however they are rather diffused forms of energy and will take a fair amount of space to gather it (the size of wind and solar farms are rather large). Other sources of energy is nuclear energy. Uranium is currently used. However only U235 is useful as fuel and that is 0.3% of all available uranium. It is believed that there is enough U235 to run the word for about 100-200 years. I have a feeling this is alot less. Another nuclear power source is Th232. All 100% of Thorium in the world can be used as fuel for nuclear power. Not only that Thorium nuclear reactors are in theory much safer than uranium based nuclear reactors. It is estimated that there is enough thorium to keep the world running for 10,000 years. The down side of nuclear power is nuclear waste. The waste for uranium nuclear reactors will be hazardous for about 15,000 years. Thorium waste will be hazardous for about 300 years (long but a lot shorter)
Once you have limitless power, other resource limitation ends.

[Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and UC-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi found that to power 100 percent of the world for all purposes from wind, water and solar resources, the footprint needed is about 0.4 percent of the world's land (mostly solar footprint) and the spacing between installations is another 0.6 percent of the world's land (mostly wind-turbine spacing). Then we can consider solar roads, geothermal and tidal power. All ready to go systems.
However as great as technology is, if our behaviours do not change then it will not magically solve our problems for us. There are simply limits on how many people our planet can support based on consumption patterns, which we point out in our video Technology is a Tool Not a Solution]


Question 2

In an economic system where companies seek to limit their production costs (“cost efficiency”) in order to maximize profits and remain competitive against other producers, what structural incentive exists to keep human beings employed, in the wake of an emerging technological condition where the majority of jobs can now be done more cheaply and effectively by machine automation?
The end of slavery / serfdom, and the emergence of mechanization in Europe came not because land owner felt morally wrong that they were abusing the peasantry or even even the desired to increase productivity. The cause was the black plague. There were not enough peasants because a third to half of them were dead. Since there were not enough to work the land by traditional methods, the land owner were forced to pay their peasants more money and to try new methods to increase the productivity of the people that they do have.

[The Black or Bubonic Plague occurred in Europe around 1350, killing more than 75 million people and London in 1665, causing the deaths of about 100,000 people. The population of London in 1660 is estimated to have been 5.25 million and is estimated to have reduced to about 4.9 million by 1680. Not by a third and certainly not half. The Industrial Revolution would not take shape until about 1750.]
The implementation of new environmentally friendly technologies will not be implemented by the companies willingly. These technologies will only be implemented once the local population becomes affluent enough and the pollution bad enough that the population willing starts enforcing rules to limit the pollution. Not in my backyard. A company faced with this scenario is forced to make a decision is the cost of implementing cleaner technologies cheaper than the cost of moving its operations to another country with less stringent environmental laws. If the cost of updating the technology is cheaper than moving, the technology will adopted.

[Through history companies have continually implemented machine automation as it has become economically feasible to do. The industrial Revolution is an example of this, as demand increased merchants in need of cost effective methods of production led to mechanisation and the factory system.
This has been continually refined and implemented as evidenced in the agricultural industry, manufacturing industry and more recently the service sector.
None of this supports the idea that there is a structural incentive to keep people employed in a society undergoing steady advancement in technology.]


Question 3

In an economic system which inherently generates class stratification and overall inequity, how can the effects of “Structural Violence” - a phenomenon noted by public health researchers to kill well over 18 million a year, generating a vast range of systemic detriments such as behavioural, emotional and physical disorders – be minimized or even removed as an effect?

I believe the development of social stratification is an inherent part of human nature. We love our family, want the best for our children, we trust our friends and are weary of strangers. We try to pick people who are good at their job, and unfortunately humans are not created equal. Some people will be smarter, stronger, more beautify, speak better, friendlier, take more risk and even luckier. We even like to marry people who are similar to us. This all generates classes and eventually striation, as stuff (money or family connections, marriages) are passed from one generation to another.

We select an economic system that generates this stratification, because the system makes "sense" to us. We could very well have made a system where anybody who is hungry can get free food, because the idea of selling a basic commodity like food would not have made "sense." And nobody would over eat because it would not have made "sense". Such thinking is not human. Humans are built to eat as much as we can find it, as quickly as we can, and move on.

Complete removal of social stratification is impossible so long as we behave as humans.

[Unfortunately behavioural science is at odds with this "belief" and has shown that human behaviour is an outgrowth of our social environment, not a hard wired human nature.

Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article "Violence, Peace, and Peace Research" in 1969. It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

A social structure or institution responsible for causing structural violence is our economy, not human nature but a system devised by people that were living in a time of real scarcity. While this form of economics was an efficient way to distribute scarce resources it is counter productive in an environment of abundance. Our current form of economics actually demands the perception of scarcity through any means to maintain profitability.]

We could drastically reduce social stratification if we bar people from passing down an inheritance to their children or grandchildren. Nothing owned, be it money or property maybe passed to ones family or friends. Once you die, everything is sold and the money given to the government. As a result, family fortunes will not appear, (although people will still be able to pass family connections). This limits social stratification as each generation is treading water.

[If you stopped inheritance than what would stop parents of wealth paying their children $1,000,000 an hour? Social stratification occurs in a society when there are uneven levels of income or economic disparity across society.]

If we cannot forcible implement such a radical system, one way is to simply raise the standard of living of everyone. So the lowest of the low of human society will have, employment, sufficient food/water, shelter and the chance of moving up the social ladder. The amount of resources this will take will be extremely large. This can only be implemented if energy cost is very low.

[How do you raise the standard of living from the confines of an economic model that puts a price tag on everything, who pays for this increase in the "standard of living"? If you have a social ladder you have stratification.]

In a stable situation, social striation will be the norm and it would be extreme, unless there is a social norm for the rich to willingly donate vast amounts of wealth to the poor for no benefit. Thus a tinny hyper elite ruling class. A small middle class to manage things. And a vast lower class. 

[Stable is defined as; a good state or condition that is not easily changed or likely to change. It would be difficult to argue that a stratified society is a good state or condition considering the many symptoms which are manifest as a result; such as hunger, homelessness, health issues and "crimes" perpetrated by people that are not having basic needs meet.]

Striation breaks down when social order is unstable. When something disruptive forces its way into society very quickly and very suddenly. In a positive manner this can a new area of technology or new land. This sudden unclaimed space, allows mobility of people who are willing to take risk be they from lower classes or the upper classes. Opportunities in this new space is transient because the ruling class soon move in and dominate the area. Examples are the earlier days of European colonization of Americas and home computers (Microsoft), social media (facebook).

[Stratification breaks down as we improve levels of equality.]

Thus social striation can be limited if we continuously develop radical new fields in technology continuously.. not really possible, discover new lands (well explore and colonies new planet).

[Stratification could be removed if we ended the monetary market economy.]

A negative form of this disruption is where stuff fails to be passed from one generation to the next. Examples are wars, and wide spread plagues. Well, if nations decided to attack each other more frequently and perhaps a nuclear war or two. Social striation will decrease... anybody can create their own kingdom if the are strong, smart, charismatic and armed.

[Social stratification is not the result of too much peace, rather it occurs in a society that segregates people into class based on financial mobility.]

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Telstra Hates the Environment.

Get a "free" new phone every year, or as Telstra Australia is calling it "The New Phone Feeling". Oh what a feeling. What could be better, everyone loves free stuff and phones? Are you kidding this is a marriage made in corporate heaven. How many people are falling all over themselves to get the "new" phone on the market? Where people at one time used to sleep overnight on the street to get tickets to see the big band of the moment live, now we have people sleeping out for days on end just to be the fist to have the latest model phone. So a company that says "Hey sign a contract with us and we will give you a new phone every year!", that is pure marketing genius.

Unfortunately it is not such a wondrous idea when it comes to our continuously declining environment, unless of course the idea is to promote increased instability. Mind you who is thinking about that as they sleep on the footpath overnight, huddled in sleeping bags, protected by the corporate police whom just the other day were removing pesky protesters for some idealogical cause, like perhaps environmental sustainability? Anyway that is not a very fair thing to say, it's a phone not a coal fired power plant. It's not like the production and distribution of phones is destroying the environment, unless of course you are unlucky enough to reside in a place like Ghana. How many of the people sleeping out on the street, having caviare dreams about the new gadget that they just absolutely without any doubt cannot live without and just must have, could even locate Ghana on a map. Bit hard to give a damn about a place or the people that live there if you have no idea where it is, or perhaps don't have even the slightest interest in. Mind you in case some of you have had your interest perked, it is called E-Waste Hell and is where all the year old phones go to die.

That is enough about the absurd waste involved with "The New Phone feeling", what should really piss people off is the advertising. In fact one particular advertisement for this wasteful corporate policy aimed at appeasing the false wants that were planted into the consumers brain by the uncaring corporate media. You see there is this one callous and pathetic bit of advertising that presents us with some equally pathetic examples of western consumers, with their western throw away consumer mentality. These glossy eyed imbeciles are so overwhelmed and absorbed in mindless admiration for their new techno tinker toy, that apparently they lose any capacity for consideration when it comes to the disposal of packaging for their new fantasy finger phones. As they ogle the new touch screen, dreams of all the nights they are bound to spend together dancing through their heads, reality momentarily evades them and they simply drop the packaging wherever they happen to be. Alas all is not lost, Telstra saves the day with dancing crustaceans that immediately make a home out of this waste material. It all epitomises western consumer culture with such perfection. Uncaring, morally bankrupt corporations selling products that were obsolete they day they were purchased, to brainwashed dumbed down consumers that care more about their next techno wizz bang than the environment that supports their lives.

It is time to draw a line in the sand, time to send a clear message to corporations like Telstra Australia. In a world that is faced with the very real and serious problem of global climate change, where our oceans have become saturated with waste, this kind of thoughtless and down right disrespectful advertising is completely and totally unacceptable.

You can keep your "New Phone Feeling" Telstra, I am choosing the "Clean and Sustainable Earth Feeling".
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A Word on Waste Incineration

Sweden is "recycling" ninety-nine percent of its waste, or so goes the claim. What is really happening is Sweden is recycling about forty-eight percent of waste, land-filling one percent and burning about forty-eight percent.

By what logic has burning something constituted recycling?

It would be much more accurate to call it a one time reuse, unless of course we want to start claiming we are recycling oil by burning petrol. Or perhaps we are recycling nuclear waste when we use depleted uranium in ammunition.

We don't learn, we find what we call solutions and our behaviours do not change.
The point I am trying to make, and perha
ps I shouldn't because how dare I criticise someone doing things nominally better than us, is that we alter our behaviour or we destroy the environment. It is not simply a waste problem, we are extracting resources from the planet at a rate that exceeds its capacity to regenerate them. What is Sweden doing about consumption patterns, are the phones and computers that people buy in Sweden created from resources in Sweden? 

Of course not.

But hey they are burning their waste so look how clean and efficient they are.
Never-mind that all the products being sold and consumed in Sweden are just as resource intensive as everywhere else, don't worry about the fact that our planet can not maintain our current global consumption trends.
We can burn our waste.
Swedish consumption patterns have not dropped, nothing of substance has really changed.
People that understand the implications of that have a moral imperative to point it out, and to claim that the burning of waste is a step forward is entirely disingenuous.

It is very clear that Swedish private consumption took a much smaller hit than Danish private consumption in 2008-9 and consistently has grown stronger in the following years.

The only thing Sweden is doing by burning waste is burning waste, like the rest of the developed world consumption patterns continue to track higher and further away from any remote semblance of sustainability.
And that is the real issue, burning waste might mean we have less waste laying about the place, but it does absolutely nothing about impending resource scarcity.
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The Human Race

A good afternoon to you all and welcome back to The Bendigo Jockey Club, the stalls are almost loaded and we should be racing very shortly.

Our favourite today is Hope paying 2:1
Then Police State at 3:1, Liberal 5:1 Civil Unrest 5:1 Pandemic 8:1 Sharing and Equality both at 10:1 and the long odds of 18:1 are on Environmental Collapse.

Science has got behind this one, but well you would have to say it is not looking good for them.

They are all in line.

Under starters orders...... and... we're away racing!

Hope is the first to show out of gate 6, followed by 1/5 by Liberal, a half a length back is Police State and Equality followed by Sharing and Pandemic with Environmental Collapse and Civil Unrest bringing up the rear.

As they settle in it's Hope at the front stepping away from Liberal, Police State has dropped a step and Equality is moving up on the inside. Sharing and Environmental Collapse are keeping pace, Pandemic in behind and Civil Unrest is looking out of touch right from the start.

Coming into the bend now.

Liberal has dropped some pace, Equality took advantage and is closing on Hope, Sharing is passing Liberal on the outside. Police State is a nose in front of Environmental Collapse, Pandemic close behind and Civil Unrest is last out of the corner bringing up the rear.

Up the straight Hope is well off the pace now, Equality is trying to stretch away but Liberal has come back and is having none of it. Sharing has drifted back, Police State and Environmental Collapse are tucked in behind, Civil unrest out of nowhere right on their heels, Pandemic making a run on the outside, leaving hope out the back looking the worse for wear.

Inside 250 meters Liberal is squeezing past Equality on the rail, Police State and Civil Unrest nothing separating these two.

Environmental Collapse on the inside is passing Police State with a late run.
Pandemic on the outside is starting to look like a contender.
Hope is well out of touch and what ever happened to Sharing?

The last hundred to go!

Liberal has gotten away from Equality!

Environmental Collapse is closing the gap! What a run, what a run!
Pandemic close on his heels!
Police State and Civil Unrest are battling it out!
It looks like Equality went too hard too fast this time, joining Hope at the back of the field!
Sharing is a distant memory!

50 meters to go!

Liberal is struggling!

Environmental Collapse keeps coming, it's a beautiful run! A beauty of a run!!
Pandemic is charging hard along side!
Civil Unrest has broken free of Police State!
It's a five horse race now!

There's nothing in it!!

Liberal is slowing!

Civil Unrest, leaving it late, is storming home Past Environmental Collapse and Pandemic!

Liberal is all out of sorts here!

It looks Like Civil Unrest is going to take it at the post!

No, No, No, Liberal has upset Civil Unrest and Environmental Collapse Storms home!

Then it's Pandemic, and a very angry Civil Unrest.

Does anybody know what ever happened to Sharing?
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It is Time for A New Way of Thinking

The problem we are faced with is traditional thinking, the mind set that the way forward is growth and jobs.

I can understand it, we have been raised in this social environment all our lives, of course, however there are many signs of failure and they are all pointing at the same cause. We have massive unemployment to be sure, yet we also have a less discussed issue of under-employment. We have climate change marching ever closer, the continual loss of global biodiversity and the impending depletion of our all important oil reserves. It is all intertwined.

Our technological advancements are replacing jobs, spending is down resulting in reduced employment hours, which feeds back to reduced spending. All the while productivity is actually increasing. We want growth in the jobs market, get the people back to work and increase spending. Unfortunately this has a negative impact on our environment as we produce and throw away increasing amounts of junk we really never needed.

What we need in society is less, not more, and that less needs to be done much more efficiently. Our economy needs to be, well, economic. We don’t need a new I-phone every year or so, we need a phone that is built to last, that is easy to upgrade. We don’t need thirty different types of hammer or T.V. or whatever, we need to focus on building the best we can produce. In short we need global collaboration not competition.

We are currently going through the labour pains of social change, our hand is being forced as we come to understand that our social model is simply not sustainable. That change could actually happen very quickly, but we are all being held back by the antiquated thinking of our politicians whom have only one solution, more toxic growth.

Growth for the sake of growth on a planet of finite resources is a recipe for disaster, the only thing on our planet that continually grows is cancer and we all know how that ends. As Einstein said so many years ago,

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

It is time for a new way of thinking.

We need to start thinking more about each other, what it is we can do to help each other, not how we can get ahead of or be better off than each other. We need a society that is focused on cooperation and making the best most efficient use of our limited resources, so that we may sustain a high standard of living for everyone. We have all the tools we need in order to start making this a reality. This very tool we are using right now, the internet, allows us to communicate over vast distances instantaneously. It can carry data from anywhere in the world and make it available for everyone to see, total transparency and information for all.

Engineers from all over the world could be collaborating right now on how to construct the most efficient form of transportation. We could have vertical automated farms in every city, use 3D printing to produce houses. Transform our energy production from resource intensive power plants to renewable sources, and monitor the level of planetary resources, as examples, thanks to our ability to communicate collect and store information on a global scale.

The ability to change is at our fingertips, it is so tantalisingly close, if only we could change our attitudes toward each other. You see this is the crux of the problem, the dilemma, while we have the technical ability to change we are yet to develop the desire. Social conditioning has made it very difficult to consider that we could actually be better of if we drastically altered our form of economics. How could we be better off when we have all this great stuff?

We still think so inwardly, sure the plight of the three billion poverty stricken on our planet is a very serious issue and we all want that to change, but I also want my plastic whatcha ma call it with the three month guarantee and free subscription to pointlessshit.com. We are afraid, we have worked so damn hard to get to where we are and we are not about to let go without a fight.

It is fear that keeps this system going, our fear of failure, that if we try something new things might get really bad for us. Here is the kicker, things are really bad. All we need to do is spend some time looking around and recognising how things have been continually degrading all our lives. Sure we have lots of neat toys, but what has the cost been, socially and environmentally? Besides if we looked after each other and our planet the things we would have less of might be the things we are happy to do without. War, famine, ill health, work, less of these may be desirable, and while we may have less brands of toys is it possible that we would have better performing toys? Do we really think we could not do better than this?

If we look at the path we are on objectively we can see where it is leading, we are not stupid, a future with less animal life, less environmental stability, less opportunity. To continue down this corporate controlled consumer path, remaining blissfully ignorant of the reality we are faced with, stealing from the future to appease our false wants, will only lead us to a slow grinding self destruction.

We are human beings, full of potential, we can do anything we put our minds to. We can have a new social contract, a new economy, a resource based economy. It all starts with us changing the way we think about each other and the world we live on together.
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Why Rising Fuel Prices Are Good And Fuel Subsidies Are Bad

Steadily increasing petrol/diesel prices in our economy can create tension and while increasing costs at the petrol pump they also have a flow on effect that influences the cost of consumer goods across the board. Everything we have in the market is made available to us, in one way or another, thanks to oil or fossilised sunlight. Our machines which help us gather natural resources, freight transportation, machines used in manufacturing, a healthy proportion of our energy production, fertilizers for our food, pesticides, packaging, public and private transport, all require the use of oil. As the price of oil/petrol/diesel creeps higher, so must the prices of our consumer goods. As prices rise the increasing financial pressure on families can result in a slowing in consumption trends, which in turn creates job losses and reduced working hours, compounding the strain on our consumption based financial markets and leading us into recession/depression.

So how can rising fuel prices be good and subsidies be bad?

In order to understand this we must step back, look at our economy and identify what it is doing to both us and our planet.
Dictionary.com defines the word economy as; thrifty management; frugality in the expenditure or consumption of money, materials, etc.: the efficient, sparing, or concise use of something.
So if our "economy" is based on the idea that we all get "jobs" to earn money so that we can pay for the necessities of life, then be bombarded with advertising (corporate lying) which attempts to entice us to continually purchase things we don't really need, so we can impress people we don't know, on a planet of finite resources, is that really what an economy should be doing?
With the foundation of our "economy" being consumption for the sake of consumption, so that we can keep people employed, should we be surprised to find that we are destroying our biosphere at an exponential rate?

While we have cheap oil the gears of the machine continue to function with ease, consumption levels continue to increase beyond the already unsustainable levels they reached decades ago. We compound the damage we have done to our planet and find ourselves surpassing environmental tipping points which result in negative feedback loops that exasperate serious environmental problems which we currently have no answers for.

So yes, if we look only at the single aspect of paying to live, then low fuel prices and government subsidies are desirable. However if we look at the bigger picture and identify what our "economy" or anti-economy is doing, how our continued unquestioning participation is causing serious ecological decline, we can begin to see that cheap oil and government subsidies are doing little more than providing jobs and accelerating the decline.

If one thing needs to become clear to our species it is that we desperately need a new system, which we have discussed here, here, and here.

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