The Road to Enviro-Economic Ruin?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Fung Koo, May 5, 2008.

  1. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    So two things that have passed by me via the internet recently... Both passed on by multiple people who are reasonably reputable sources and who do not normally pass these sorts of things around -- including people from within the academic community and professionals in directly related industries/services. If anyone cares to look, this could make for an interesting discussion.

    Money as Debt. (~45 minutes)

    Story of Stuff. (~20 minutes)

    These two video essays confirm some of what I already feel about the current state of the world. I'm aware that this confirmation makes it suspect, yet the simplicity of the logic in recognizing the "wrongness" of what these realities entail seems so gobsmackingly obvious that I'm constantly surprised that no one else is outraged.

    That being said, the problems these two videos illustrate are ones that are extremely difficult to envision solutions for, and are perhaps too ingrained into who we are to see past.

    So, what do y'all think? Is this anything worth getting in an uproar about? Is this just the same shit, different day? Is action demanded? Is the "science" problematic? Is there a solution? What does this do to your moral compass? What, if any, are the ethical imperatives here?
     
  2. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    Watched Money as Debt. Will get to Stuff. Thanks for the links. Led me to want to ask questions of people not on this board. Decided to ask some of those on another board since politics is not something sffworld really wants to host.
    Ethical? Moral? Concerned citizen?
    Somewhere in between, I think, but as I've described myself elsewhere: definitely curious.
     
  3. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    If you think I'm going to watch an hour and a half of video just to have a conversation with you, you're off your Foo philosophy rocker. Summarize the things, please. :)

    As for politics, we allow discussion of religion and politics in Gary's forum. He loves the stuff.
     
  4. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Alrighty :)

    Money As Debt: Director Paul Grignon presents a synopsis of the history of money -- where it came from, how it's changed, and what it is now. Along the way he highlights issues surrounding money related to education, government, and the concept of sustainability. He provides quotations from prominent bankers, government officials (including Presidents and Prime Ministers), and notable academics on the shortcomings of the concept of money.

    Money, he says, began with a basic barter system that evolved into a form of symbolic representation. The system was voluntary and organic, and it operated so long as everyone agreed that, whatever the symbolic form, it represented something of a specific value (value defined as time in the form of labour/services, or representative of an amount of certain product). Eventually, using precious metals became the established norm for the symbolism because it was itself perceived as valuable.

    Along the way, gold lenders came to be important in the establishment of the concept of money. At first, the gold lender would distribute portions of his gold to others on the promise of repayment. Interest didn't exist, and was known at the time as usury. Usury is written into the texts of every major religion as a form of sin.

    Over time, gold lenders came to represent security and began to rent out shelf space in their vaults. The practice of lending evolved from the actual lending of physical gold to the lending of promissory notes, essentially IOUs, which became the paper money we know today. At some point, people began trading the notes themselves instead of the gold.

    Further along, the lenders got a bad rap for one reason or another and those storing their money with the lenders came to take their gold (bank run). This crippled the lenders and all but destroyed the note system as there was no longer a centralized core of actual wealth to represent the bank notes in circulation (think Somalia as of the news today).

    Rather than outlaw the practice of lending via notes, governments legislated National Reserve Banks to provide actual wealth to banks in the event of a run. In doing so, the original concept of lending "fake money" (aka Debt) began, at a 2:1 ratio. A bank could lend twice the amount of actual money it held in the form of debt notes.

    Around the same time, governments decided to produce their own national form of legal tender. Originally it was designed to be traded against the actual wealth it represented. That eventually changed to the point where governments -- rather than print their own money free of interest -- began lending based on the valueless symbol money that banks were producing.

    Thus, the switch to what money used to be and what it is today. Over time, the practice has evolved to the point that the ratio between actual wealth and imaginary wealth is between 9:1 and 30:1 (and in some cases X:0, where there is no actual wealth at the core of the lending practice).

    Grignon then goes on the describe how this monetary system produces money to account for interest -- the banks simply invent more fake money. To pay interest you have to get more debt to pay interest. So the cycle is locked. He then describes how this system is part and parcel of the modern consumerist model which requires the use of resources to be measured against the rate of inflation. That is, for every dollar created, the 9:1 ration must run backwards to the "actual" value -- natural resources.

    Obviously, such a system is designed only to increase and never stabilize. Money is no longer symbolic of value but is now symbolic of debt. As such, it is not a sustainable system.

    The Story of Stuff: Annie Leonard goes over the model of consumer production as it exists in today's society, illustrating statistics on the rate of production vs. consumption vs. waste. As with the above, the rate of waste production far outstrips the rate of generation of actual wealth in terms of the resources that are used to make the "stuff" that we buy.

    She goes over the energy and monetary values associated with each step of the modern consumerist model pointing out where governments and corporations collide and where the servitude lies. Specifically she points out how the means of production shifted toward a deliberate consumerist model which expressly and openly states that in order to drive the economy, the populous must be convinced to buy the same products over and over again based on a false ideal that new products are necessary.

    This is the concept of planned obsolescence -- where consumer products are designed to require replacement after a set amount time. This results in the current situation where (something like) 90% of everything we buy winds up in the garbage within 6 months of our acquiring it.

    As with the above, such a system is unsustainable because the earth is effectively a closed economic system. There are only so many resources and so much space, so a system based on consumption creates a massive discrepancy between the amount of actual resources which exist and the used resources we toss into landfills (which we're running out of places to put). She also questions how such a system can possibly meet with the concept of sustainability.

    -----

    Both pieces are set up to engender questions -- specifically questions for authority to explain how this is going to go in the future.

    This seems particularly relevant to me with the current economic depression hitting the US, particularly in the housing market. The rate of foreclosures is at an all time high, which tied directly to the consumerist model and the money=debt model. The economic impacts form the US are hitting Canada by driving housing development companies north and creating a false boom in the Canadian economy. Our money is not worth more -- everyone else's is simply worth less.

    The US's national debt is at an all time high, as is the debt of most of the nations of the world. Bono wants to wipe out the debt of poor country's, but under the present system if there is no debt, there is no money. The answer for ailing countries may be to increase their debt, not decrease it.

    The social element -- that complicity is made to be voluntary through the concept of democracy. Grignon presents the situation of money (which is really debt) as control. Because the system is voluntary, but we're raised to perceive as involuntary, governments and banks can effectively control everything by shifting the distribution of wealth/debt. Perhaps scariest, even the wealthy who are (under the definition of the present monetary system) without debt are technically carrying around the false wealth of IOU notes which has no correlation to "actual value" -- wealth is just another form of debt.

    Recent Stats Canada figures released last week show that the average income of the largest group in Canada -- the middle class -- has remained unchanged since 1950s, despite a perception that we are at our wealthiest period ever in history. The debt, in the meantime, has skyrocketed. The average person in the 20-30 age range is over $30,000 in debt, with the debt increasing per decade up to over $200,000 for the home "owners."

    The States, the UK, the EU, etc, are all in the same boat. We are under the illusion of "progress" -- a word without definition in the existing system. Add to the this the false notion of technological progress and "the information age" -- Those same stats indicate that the average person knows less about everything, yet has a higher rated degree, than at any other time in history.

    Books/ideas I'm specifically thinking about that relate to all this: Brave New World, 1984, Handmaid's Tale, Bentham's panopticon system, Lord of the Rings (expansionism vs. sustainability), More's Utopia, Bank's Culture...

    I'm also particularly interested in the idea that the science fiction ideal of space travel as an extension of the expansionist/consumerist system which will allow the system to continue indefinitely.

    All signs point to an imminent crash in the world economy based on the discrepancy between actual value and perceived value. So what, if anything, are we to do?
     
  5. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Well, your belief that anyone is going to do long-term planning is very sweet.

    I don't think we're going to have a crash of the world's economy. I think we will have changes. I'm more worried about environmental stuff, and how half-assed everyone is going about it, from the government to the corporations to the environmental activists.

    The real estate crash is exactly like the tech crash back in 2000. It's a hot area of the economy that grows as a "bubble" with that area of the economy becoming quickly overvalued. They know that the bubble is going to burst going in -- they've been saying the real estate bubble was going to crash for the last five years -- but they don't do anything about it because they are making money (or imaginary money, I guess you'd argue.) Then the bubble bursts and most of them lose money, we all lose money, the economy goes into the toilet for awhile, maybe a long while, and the formerly hot sector gets a new set of regulations, then the economy chuggs upward again, and a new sector becomes the hot one that expands into a bubble. Like I said, they're not good on that long-term planning thing. The U.S.' debt is at an all time high because of the wars, and much of that "debt" is imaginary, just like some of the money that goes to finance the wars.

    Those stats are wrong. They've been giving us the same stats for fifty years. They present as negative the fact that knowledge specializes as the resources and needs of the population are better met, they ignore that illiteracy was the state of most of the populace for decades, that global awareness is an incredibly recent thing and that we have more of it now, not less, etc. The "good old days" were brutish, nasty and short. You lived in your hometown and you died there, frequently killed off by the company you worked for, and you didn't pay that much attention about the world. You could fix a machine and make candles, but you didn't know who your governor was and you weren't going to be inventing a way to fight off cancer.

    Part of the U.S. and Canada population still lives that way, and because the population is larger, it's still a large number. But literacy and knowledge of the world have increased, even though most people still can't tell you who their governor is unless he's a former movie star, and are more likely to know how to put together a YouTube video than how to fix their car. We know stuff. There is a lot more stuff to know, and the ability of any one person to absorb it and remember it all has to by logic be limited. But the population is living in less filth, ignorance, and slavery than before. It isn't gone and it needs to be tackled and I don't know if we'll do it.

    But I am sick of the crap of being told that I was better off as a kid in the 1960's. I grew up through those decades; they were not better, even though I was a well-educated, upper middle class white kid. They were worse, a lot worse. As a woman, I am extremely aware that they were worse and that people were stupider, and that minorities and immigrants were even more shafted and deprived of knowledge than they are now.

    So if the apocalypse is coming, it's not going to be because we know less. It's because we know more and still didn't care.
     
  6. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    There's the issue. I often complain that we, the poeple, are too comfortable and pity help anyone who wishes to disrupt that comfort. That, for me, explains why no one pays any attention to our wars, why no one cares about the Kyoto Concordance, space exploration, commericalizing the national park system, airport security, and a hundred other ought-to-be-issues.
    Maybe, though, just maybe I'm wrong...again. Our son sent us this op-ed piece this morning.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/opinion/04friedman.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    So, what does it mean to care?
     
  7. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Oh, I doubt anything more than half-assed measures will ever occur. Such is the nature of democracy. Watering it all down... :eek:

    That's sorta the thing here -- environmental policy is economic policy. There's this false conception of humanity and human inventions as somehow being divorced from environmentalism, as if the two can co-exist without being wholly dependent on one another. If you're concerned about the environment, you absolutely must be concerned about the economy because the reality is that they are one and the same.

    There is nothing at all that you use (including the computer screen in front of you, the hair on your head and the product you wash it with) that is not both environmental and economic. To relate this to your closing statement -- that to know better and not do anything is the great unforgivable sin -- this is exactly what you're saying here. There is no division where you can care about one and not the other. To care about one is to care about the other.

    That's part of why I posted this -- to a get a sense of what people think about the correlation between economy and environment. It makes total sense to me that they're the same. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. Unless someone can prove me wrong....

    Isn't it possible that environmentalism is also a bubble? If you look at the corporate response to the "green" ideology, how many new "green" products do you see? All of them... everything new coming out is tacked onto the new "green" wagon. Environmentalism is being shaped into a commodity. The consumerist commodity system is fickle and based on a 5-year lifespan. So environmentalism will be hot for a few more years and then...? What?

    This is the very illusion of change. As you say, the housing boom was doomed. We all know it instinctively. Nothing lasts forever except the cold November rain... ;)

    So with that in mind, what do we do to try to take environmentalism back from the corporations -- who are incidentally the ones who control the economy, who are incidentally beholden to the banks. What do we do?

    Or it's at an all time high because the response to terrorism was "go shopping." Spending money with credit cards creates interests, creates more money, which means the creation of more debt. Couple that with the war effort which was actually quite sensibly designed to be mostly self-sufficient, but failed because the demand for fuel at home went up faster than expected because people were out shopping and moving further and further away from where they work into homes they can't afford with unrealistic interest rates that further increase the debt....

    I didn't say they were good! But 200 years ago the majority of humanity would probably survive a total meltdown of society because they would know how to do things... like forage and farm and purify water without needing chlorine tablets. Nowadays people struggle even to build themselves a suitable shelter or a fire on "Survivor." Pioneers would laugh at their progeny, methinks. Then become horribly depressed...

    The world's been running for much longer and with greater variety of lifestyles than the post-industrial Western world...

    Who says moving away from your hometown is good? NAFTA has pushed the need for low education homebodies to Mexico. We don't stay at home anymore because there's no need for us to do so. But is that good? If the future environmental predictions are at all accurate, our mobility will become limited again. Food will have to be local because there won't be enough power to move it around. And then what? Staying home will seem like oppression, but is it?

    Isn't any surprise that the consumerist society pushes the idea of leaving home? It creates mobility and disposability in the market and stimulates the economy. Staying at home does not. Consumer society has a vested interest in encouraging mobility. But consumer society is killing the environment. So mobility is....? What?

    C'mon... Going to the Outback versus seeing it on the internet is a totally different thing. Seeing New York on TV versus walking its streets and feeling it rhythm is something else again. Reading about worlds that don't exist won't help you survive when the power goes out. The world is going paperless, and there will be nothing to read when the power goes out. Literacy and false worldliness are not the be all and end all of knowledge. What value do they have?

    I feel like a slave most days. I have virtually insurmountable debt and only more debt on the horizon. As the song says "Buy this car to drive to work; Drive to work to pay for this car."

    Is that not just a different kind of slavery? Debt is perhaps voluntary slavery? The lack of filth is weakening our immune systems. People drink bottled water that's killing them, laced with ozone to make it taste better when ozone is a poison. People drink distilled water and think floating particulate is gross when its the particulate that we actually drink the water for. We wash our hands with antibacterial soaps that are encouraging the growth of resistant bacteria. Our methods of preservation may be causing autism and hermaphrodism with mercury and bisephanol-A. The amount of defective genes in the genepool is rising because our medicine now allows us to save the lives of those who would die otherwise.

    Are we so sure this cleanliness is good? Are we so sure that this "freedom" is really free? Do we know it actually has value? Or is it just something that consumer society needs us to believe so we keep the consumer system alive?

    In the 60's, they released the stat that a woman made ~.86 cents to the man's dollar. Today, that number has dropped to ~.67 cents. Immigrants have dropped from around the same stat as women to ~.54 cents. Is it really better? Or is it just more invisible? What does that say about our actual values versus our perceived values?

    I hear you. But we have this tendency to view all these problems as disparate and unconnected. The reality may be that the injustice is endemic, and that the considerable knowledge we have is valueless, not functional, dare I say decadent. Is our knowledge actually valuable? Maybe we don't care to acknowledge the problems because in our hearts we know that what we're doing is valueless? And we've made the mistake of thinking that if what we have now only has value if we give it value holds true across the board?

    Is it possible that environmentalism has an intrinsic value to basic human survival that proves all our cultural relativism and self-made values totally and utterly false? That it's exposing the cracks? Pacifism is valueless and idiotic when your tormentor is threatening the rape of you and your children, is it not?
     
  8. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Nice article, HE.

    That's it, isn't it? Assuming environmentalists are even somewhat correct, I can't not care. But I've also been educated into believing that poorly conceived action and action which creates upheaval and unrest are huge negatives. In some cases caring enough is even called terrorism.

    So I don't know... not only what does it mean to care, but how are we supposed to show that we care?



    I'm curious if Gary has any insight into the economic element of this based on his day job factoring.
     
  9. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    I watched the first one. Not sure I have a real problem with it. Don't we arbitrarily put value on all kinds of objects in our world? Diamonds, gold. oil, art. Fung, we spent so much time talking about the subjectivity of art. How is this any different? We trade value and increase value on items by virtue of supply and demand, among other things. Supply and demand is real. I want something and you want something. We both can't have it because the supply is limited, so we price it up. I bid, you bid.

    We leverage all kinds of things in our lives. The difference with money is that banks create it and then use it to make more.

    The bottom line for me is that all of our systems of value are houses of cards. Buy a famous painting. Buy a bracelet of gemstones. What it costs and what it's worth are relative.

    Credit crunchers evaluate risk and react.

    I've got to watch the other one now.
     
  10. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    Most of the population now lives in cities. Lots of folks have opined that cities destroy our ability to care about one another. Maybe the Kitty Genovese case is more symptomatic of what living in cities has done to us than GW's habitat for humanity effort would indicate.
    On the street where I live, we neighbors are separated by acres of land That's why I moved here, for the illusion of privacy. I am no more in touch with my neighbors now than when I lived in the big city. Now, though, I have an excuse.
     
  11. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Let me know when you're done and then I'll respond :D
     
  12. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    There's a great essay on the compartmentalization of nature by John Berger that talks about population alienation.

    One of my favourite city things is "Apartments" -- aren't they really "Togetherments"? Of course, they really are apart because each one is made to seem self sufficient. I'd love to run an experiment where an entire 50 story apartment building was put onto a sustainability ratio. The building only get so much power and so much water, so if everyone has the lights on then your individual light level is low. Everyone uses the shower and no one gets enough water. Force people to make concessions to those they share space with and are dependent upon. Then track the social cohesion of the apartment dwellers. I'd expect a lot more strife, but also a lot more awareness of neighbours.

    The apartment I live in now has shared heat and electricity with the unit below (there's only the two units). I don't have control over the thermostat. As a result, I'm much closer and friendlier with my neighbours then I've been with any other neighbours I've ever had in any other apartment. I borrow eggs, we babysit her dogs. It's kinda great, actually, despite the occasional inconvenience. And because we don't want to piss each other off, we're both highly conscious of our utility usage, which has resulted in the lowest energy bills I've ever had despite living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada.

    Consumer society clearly influences people to move toward cities -- Do you think consumer society thus encourages social alienation, or is it just incidental? Are the environmental effects of consumer life in cities better or worse than those in rural areas?

    According to EPA stats, the average New Yorker produces less pollution per capita than the environmentally rural citizen. The Manhattanite doesn't even need to be environmentally conscious in order to produce less pollution. They just do. But New York is an extreme example -- few cities are so geographically locked. Comparably sized cities with expansion area produce more pollution in the 'burbs than they do in the Central Business Districts. So maybe we need to fight for a stop to border expansion in cities?

    That sounds idyllic! Effin' people... ;)
     
  13. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    According to the AAAS, in 1970, 37% of the world’s population lived in cities. The AAAS prediction in 2000 was that by 2030 61% of the world’s population will be living in cities. With the 2030 estimated population at 7 billion, some 4.2 billion will be living in cities. Since the graph shows a standard rise, somewhere around of 3 billion people are living in cities today. * That is an awful lot of togetherness.
    Japan learned to deal with population density evolving a social system dedicated to maintaining everyone's privacy despite the pressures against that privacy. Folk living in North American cities today seem to me to be evolving the same kinds of etiquette, first and foremost of which is to mind one's own business.

    * From what I can tell, most of them are in Phoenix. :D
     
  14. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Environment: My problem right now is not the corporations. I want them putting out green products. I don't care if some of them are sort of shams. Corporations don't move unless there is pressure and profit. So the demand for eco products and the rising price of gasoline are about the only way we're going to get corporations and the government to actually do anything about it. The car people, for instance. They'll put out Hummers and SUV's if people buy them and want power over gas mileage. Gas price goes up, people want hybrids, the car people put out hybrids.

    And they put them out for reasonable prices. Right now, the cost of environmental cleaners and such are going down, after being unfairly elevated for years. Environmentalism becomes profitable, polluting companies have more to lose image-wise and improve their safety protocols to avoid bad publicity. Environmentalism becomes profitable, then the products stop becoming luxury indulgences for the well-heeled and actually start having wide-spread use.

    So let them run wild. It could become an investment bubble, but it's hard for the environment to be a bubble because it's an on-going necessity -- food and water. We may overvalue some of the companies doing products, but probably not enough to have a bust. Oddly enough, manufacturing and foreign currency might be the next bubbles, because China, strangely, is having a massive labor shortage. Also a woman shortage, a deforestation problem, etc. So everything made in China isn't going to work anymore, and the multi-nationals that are turning here and there for the manufacturing may create the next bubble. Or it might go back to investment stocks. Or it might just be agriculture, because they were idiots about ethanol. See what Warren Buffet says. :)

    My problem with the rampant environmentalism is that the scientists, activists and government agencies are being idiots about it. They're refusing to acknowledge that environmentalism has been a luxury of the well-off and brow-beating people for not being more green while providing little in the way of resources, information and funding, with the government -- especially our current conservative North American ones -- giving mostly lip service.

    They keep predicting the apocalypse, and while I understand the logic of this to motivate people, get the media to pay attention and to increase badly-needed funding, they don't give people much advice on what to do except tell them to spend money being green in ways that don't solve the major problems.

    Take recycling. Recycling is voluntary and works best when the government makes it easy and widely available. It's hard for low income folk to recycle, especially if there's no pick-up, if they have to buy the bins. Where we used to live, there was no recycling pick-up. We had to take them to a for-profit recycling center licensed with the city, and those folks decided there wasn't any real profit in clear glass and so wouldn't take it. We were the only people on our street to bother to go to the recycling center.

    Where we are now, they're planning to outlaw filament bulbs by 2010 and make everybody replace them with the power-saving twisty bulbs. But there are numerous problems with this: 1) they're way more expensive and have been overpriced, so low-income people can't afford them; 2) older lamps can't take them; 3) the companies that make them say they can't make enough to meet that much increase in demand; 4) they give some people seizures; 5) they contain poisonous mercury, so they can't be recycled and you're not supposed to throw them in the trash. You're supposed to take them to the hazardous waste collections, which in my burg occur twice a year. What's going to happen? Most people will throw the spent bulbs in the trash, and the mercury goes into the landfills and the ground water and soil.

    The handy article in my newspaper about recycling do's and don'ts offers the tip that I should not recycle pizza boxes because greasy cardboard can't be recycled. I am instead supposed to cut the pizza box up and put the greasy part in the trash and the rest in the recycling. Most people again are just going to throw the whole box in the trash. What they need to do is hire more people at the recycling plant and tell the public they can throw in those pizza boxes. They want to phase out plastic shopping bags too, because people don't recycle them. People then have to buy expensive tote bags -- yeah, that will work.

    We're getting yelled at for using phosphate dishwasher soaps. But most dishwasher soaps are already phosphate free at this point. The phosphate pollution that is creating blue-green algae isn't coming from consumers, whose water waste is treated, but from farmers using fertilizer that runs off into the waterways. Are we fixing this? No. We are ordering consumers to buy organic produce, which in most places is hard to get and extremely expensive, and local produce, which can have as many environmental costs as stuff that's shipped in.

    If smart, green houses are the way to go, how do we get the poor people in them? It's the same problem we have with first versus third world environmental issues. We have to come up with solutions to make it easier. Not hector people that they are killing the planet and that they are doomed with no hope of escape.

    We're not going to have an apocalypse meltdown. (Well, okay, maybe if there's an asteroid hit.) Katrina was only a meltdown due to vast government incompetence and local racial prejudice. Much as I enjoy post-apoc SF, I have to admit that most of it is completely silly. It requires throwing out half of reality to get whatever post-apoc vision of irreversible breakdown on the planet that the author wants to play with off the ground.

    What we are going to have are large climate problems and battles over which technologies to use to deal with them. We have and will have massive population shifts -- and we'll have to see if we can put aside our tribalism and finally work to solve those problems, instead of trying to go back to being fascists, as the Italians are doing, on erroneous dreams of past glory. But despite numerous economic and environmental disasters over the years, history has shown that we don't go backwards. We will not become pioneers again. And the folks over at the University of Maryland, working with the database gathering my husband is working with, have confirmed what the stats have been showing for years -- that the planet is currently in the most peaceful time period we've had in the last forty, fifty years.

    So instead of worrying about the apocalypse and how well people are prepared for it, we need to work on a lot more practical issues -- like getting electricity, plumbing and education to Amerindian communities, like making all public schools have parity funding, educating people on the fact that organic gardening is actually easier and lets you neglect your garden more, training and hiring immigrant doctors, putting athletic programs back in schools if they're so worried about kid obesity and stop cutting funding every five minutes, investigating the potential environmental causes of increased autism rates, and after twenty years of idiocy -- stop dumping the mentally ill onto the streets to increase the homeless and criminal populations and fund resources for caring for them. We need to figure out ways to get looting tyrants out of power without always using costly wars, without letting China bow out, and without having supported them into power in the first place. We need to do something about Russia, which is going to be tricky. We need to let local populations in Africa and the Amazon have a say and the major role in solving their environmental problems, working with the governments and environmental groups.

    We need to do a lot of things. And if necessary, I do actually know how to make candles. But wailing about imminent ruin didn't help in the 1970's and it's not going to help now. I don't know if we can solve all the planet problems. I know that the Earth is working very hard to solve them, including lowering population rates of humans and reclaiming land through earthquakes and floods. But the Earth's solutions may not always be the best ones for us, as we do not always come up with the best ones for the Earth. But there's trying on both sides, no matter how short-term many folk and businesses and governments are, and we need to support those efforts, even if you think the world will die anyway.

    Who cares if our money is imaginary? It's what we use our imaginary money for that counts. :)
     
  15. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    I have here in front of me the AAAS Atlas of Population and Envuironment, 2000, which shows the developed countries beginning to decrase population growth somewhere around 2010 but developing countries continuing to experience population growth for a long time to come. The same source states that "many countries have seen steep declines in total fertility rates due to serious efforts to ensure access to family planning and other reproductive rights..." Then, it provides examples: Iraq - before the current war , Pakistan, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic.
    That doesn't seem to me be good ole Earth doing her thing to control populations. We seem to be well on course to hitting the 8 billion mark.

    Of course, what makes this all so intersting if not amusing is that the same book has this multi-color graph that shows resources steadily decining since 1900 hitting a lot steeper slope in the 1970s. Population goes up till around 2020-25 then steeply declines. Industrial output increases steeply from 1900 but escalates dramatically from the middle 50s on till it, too, peaks around 2010. Pollution has a much slower increase till peaking in the 2030s. Food production follows population till it peaks in 2010 and then falls dramatically. The source for the graph is: Beyond the Limits, Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future, Meadows, Meadows, and Randers, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1993. I haven't read the book but I love the chart.

    In high school back in the 50s, we were introduced to a new ice age, the glaciers moving southward at @ 18 inches per year. I had this wonderful image of scientists living at glacier's edge and every year getting out their yardsticks to measure the glacier's progress. We were also introduced to Malthus and the notion of unsustainable population growth - which was followed in the 70s by ZPG. And we were introduced to the idea of diminishing resources as populations squatted on prime food producing lands. By 2000-something there would be too many people living on less and less available land with less and less food being produced. This, of course, gave us one of Charleton Heston's greatest movies: Soylent Green. <Actually, the best part of that movie was Edward G. Robinson's death scene. What a lovely way to go.>
    Anyway, what I surmised from that high school education is that people are going to die...one way or another. It's about time we adjusted to that fact.
     
  16. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    I certainly see the possible benefits of getting the corporations on board. Some are doing great jobs. But, even the ones doing great jobs are dependent on a system of massive resource collection and barely any of it is put back. If keeping the planet in a condition which is conducive to sustaining life can be called a balanced give:take relationship, there's very very little going on in the give part and whole lot of the take.

    The openly stated existing consumer model is based on the constant production of *New and Improved!* exciting products for consumption -- planned obsolescence. Which means, corporations are under the burden of creating the next big thing. Highly fuel efficient engines and hybrid electric technologies have been around for a long long time. There's a big question now about why "green" is being pushed today the way it is and why it wasn't being pushed in such a way before. A lot of the argument is based on the planned obsolescence scheme -- corporations have stockpiles of raw and produced materials that they need to sell off before they can move to the next inception of the same old product.

    The same argument has been applied to Iraq -- Iraq has allowed the American military to systemically deplete its existing stockpile of weapons, many of which have been sitting in storage waiting to be used since Korea. In order to modernize, the weapons manufacturers need to deplete the stockpile so it can be replaced with *New and Improved!* weapons. War fuels production under precisely the same model as the current social economic system -- consumption.

    War has always been an economic consideration, so that's not really altogether surprising. But the extent to which the domestic system is tied to the military system poses some interesting questions for the progress of sustainable environmental economic practices. Green bombs? Or when we look at the means of production and our military systems are dependent on foreign investment and resources, then both the domestic and military consumer systems can bypass local environmental policy.

    And that's the really bizarre thing. The military system creates/maintains the parts of the world we use as resource sites. There's nothing really new in that, but at the current rate of production and the kinds of distance shipping we're talking about, that means that the resources of the areas we oppress/strip are transferred to our shores where everything winds up as garbage.

    So for us as individuals, corporations (as individuals under the law) are plundering one area and making it destitute, and crudding up our own areas and making them garbage heaps. Environmentally responsible practice here is really only a waste management practice, but it's still producing incredible amounts of waste. The amount of that waste that's recycled and is reintroduced as new consumer products still stays here, though. And still greater amounts of resources are brought in.

    Over time, the pendulum will have to swing the other way. China and India are huge emergent markets, and people want in, but the production lines currently flow almost entirely one way. When those two countries suddenly start demanding more, basic rules of supply and demand quota management essentially guarantee that the highest bidder will win. And the shipping distance for fuel from Iraq and Saudi Arabia to India and China will be much easier to finish than it will be to maintain the lines across the ocean. The costs will be lower, and the balance will shift, and we will start to lose that resource channel. And all the knick knacks we enjoy will go with it. Like food.

    HE points out the shift in repopulation rates. We are declining, have been for years, and they are going up. Demand is on their side. And our economy is declining along with our population. And they have the supply. So, screw us. The only answer is to kill them faster than they produce themselves, or else up our reproduction rate to match theirs. Our consumerist suburban approach makes increased reproduction virtually impossible due to economic constraints, and we're learning that while war can improve resource access, it kills our people. We also don't volunteer to fight based on the ideology of cultural relativism. Resource acquisition as motivation for war is essentially theft in our mentality. Our individualism and democratic approach requires a more peaceful "free trade" model, which means we try to avoid war. Most peaceful time, eh? That's actually really scary because that means Western breeding practices have evolved to mimic consumerism.

    This is one of the aspects of this that frustrates me most. Once upon a time, the poor were all peasants. They lived off of and took care of the land. Our approach to the perception of third world destitution is to give them the American Model Home (which will theoretically be "green" at some point in the future). Yet the "disadvantaged" are actually the only people sustaining their local environment in many cases.

    The North American urban/rural poor, by comparison, are easily on par with their suburban counterparts as enormous polluters because western life has nothing whatsoever to do with living on the land you occupy. At best you make it look pretty (or you store junk on it if you're poor, apparently). But none of your resources come from your own efforts, and all of your waste gets shipped away where it's ostensibly invisible. It's not about looking after yourself. It's about being looked after.

    And...

    ...See, now this one kills me. While there are many aboriginal communities across North America that are just as wasteful and polluting as the rest of us are without the advantages of education and all the modern amenities... It's the modern amenities that are creating the problem. There are huge numbers of traditional land-based ecologies of aboriginal communities across the world who have a neutral environmental footprint (and have for thousands of years), and nearly 100% efficient recycling systems. How? Simply by not having electricity and waste management infrastructure.

    When people say this, I cringe. "Let's solve this problem by bringing consumer culture to the poor, disadvantaged, marginalized, and colonized" -- when they're the least of our worries. For the most part, they're the ones we should be modeling our lives on. "Modernizing" these traditional communities will only add the consumer waste production system, extending its universality. How in sweet hell is this a good idea? Who says our education system is either needed or warranted to sustain these communities? Arguing they need education and infrastructure is really arguing for making them like us -- and they often don't want it! It makes them dependent on us, and they want self reliance. The self reliant are sustainable... What we have is not.

    So how is this a good thing? Whose education are we bringing to whom, and toward what end? What's the goal?

    Can I get a hallelujah!? When we realize that physical activity is part of health care we'll all be much better off. But I would also point out that once upon a time going to work was your daily allotment of exercise. We're a society of overweight pasty-thighed paper-pushers and we want more gym in schools? Look at the destinies of our children. There's no physical duress in their future. They have a life of sitting down to look forward to.

    So go buy a gym membership and consume something you can do for free by walking, running, or swimming. You know... in nature. One day there will be an admission fee to Central Park. Right now its from tax dollars. But just wait... Mark my words!

    And therein lies the rub. We buy products (green ones, woo!) that make money for the corporations, our taxes make theoretically interest free money for the government, the government produces the bills we use to buy things and sets the limits on the reserves, so the banks create the credit we need to account for taxes and loans, and charges us interest on that credit, and all the value is based on resources acquired though... costly wars. We get education primarily through loans and government grants which creates debt for both, so both are indebted to the banks to account for the needed credit. Now riddle me this -- which institutions are the largest financial supporters of democratic candidates?

    We can't get the looters out because they are complicit with and endorse and are supported by (indeed the entire government is dependent upon) the debt/credit economic structure. Or, us. Our means of production (environmental) determines our economic structure, and our economic structure supports our leaders.

    There are vested interests here we have to contend with. And the biggest group with the heaviest vested interest? The middle class.

    Most of North America and Europe is middle class. Accounting for trade agreements and ownership of the distribution channels, there are basically 7 companies in the world. They are all tied to the banks, and the federal/national reserves are the central system upon which everything rests. Those reserves create the money we use to live our lives. Those reserves are given value based on the production of raw goods, and we use the products of those goods to live. Thus the loop is close.

    We need those thieving looting warmongering leaders in order to live our lives. We can't dispense with them. They ensure that the raw materials which create value continue to be pooled into the consumer production scheme. If we got rid of them, we'd have to do some major readjustments at the level of the middle class. And the middle class won't like it.

    Absolutely 100% agree. And i would extend that to all "naturally" eco-friendly lifestyle communities generally, including North and South American aboriginal communities. But I maintain that bringing Western-style education and infrastructure to aboriginal communities is probably one of the worst ideas ever.

    Question: Epidemiological science may have prevented massive outbreaks of SARS and Avian Flu. To us, it has started to look like it was all media hype. However, it may actually be that out science prevented Mother Earth from enacting its cull of humanity. Good thing or bad?

    [/quote]Who cares if our money is imaginary? It's what we use our imaginary money for that counts. :)[/QUOTE]

    I agree and don't agree. If there was a way to make the consumer system in its entirety operate so that money put into sustainable practices could work, then great. However, the evidence would seem to suggest that our money is just one aspect of a broader problem with the entire economy (which is based entirely on the environment). It may thus be impossible to use our imaginary money in ways that will actually count. Using our imaginary money requires the production of more imaginary, which requires to influx of more raw material, which is the problem in the first place.

    So if our money is imaginary and a feature of the total problem, then our money is the problem. And that's why we need to care that it's imaginary. Its valuation process is divorced from even the possibility of fixing the problem because it is itself the problem.

    That's why we need to care that our money is, perhaps, imaginary. We can't live in our imagination all the time. At some point, raw unforgiving biology takes over and our imaginations are exposed for what they really are. Imaginary.
     
  17. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    When was the last time you watched raw unforgiving biology take over? I can't remember any time in human history that biology beat imagination. I can remember bad times, the Black Plague, et al, but nothing biological ever beat imagination. If we take this argument back to the AtS, PII thread, what you get is raw unforgiving biology producing imagination as a defense against raw unforgiving biology.
    I can see finite resources taking over but those resources are not totally raw unforgiving biology. Phoshorus, iron, and all the other trace elements in our system are not biological though our biological processes require them to succeed. Hell, Asimov wrote an article published in his View From a Height collection about the phosphorus crisis and that was 1983.
    I'm with Her Greatness to the extent that folk crying "wolf" need to identify the problem, examine alternatives that might solve the problem and then develop a plan for implementation. Plans always define specific actions, specific schedules, and specific resources required.
    Identifying the problem ought to be debated for a long while before we all chant "hallelujah" and go off doing things that may or may not contribute to the resolution.
    The crisis that stil bothers me is the hole in the ozone layer. That hole has been there for a long, long time but on the basis of a few years data, we became unshakeably certain that enlargement could be laid at the feet of fluorides. We eliminated fluorides. That must have solved the problem.
    Well,..."Each year, the depleted region in Earth's protective ozone layer over the Antarctic, or "ozone hole," reaches its largest size during a period in September. Data from a NASA satellite are now in, and images created from the data reveal the extent of the hole in 2007 was about average when compared to measurements from the last few decades."* That suggests to me that other phenomena are at work, phenomena never mentioned during the great fluoride debates of the 80s.
    Back when I first heard the term "ecology," <it was in a sicence fiction story whose title I do not remember> folk were excited about studing a few acres to see what made them tick. When we get gross and decide we understand the whole planet's ecology, I get nervous. Lorenz' input ought to be considered for more than just the weather.
    The planetary ecology seems to me to take care of itself. We wiped out the wolves in North America. The coyotes stepped in to fill the niche. In half a century they expanded their range from a small piece of the Sonoran desert to everywhere in North America. Nature does okay, with us or without us.
    But, we don't. We're all we got. And all we have to bring to the problem is imagination.



    * http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/ozone_resource_page.html
     
  18. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    We need more of these kinds of ideas:

    http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/next/archives/2008/05/a_truly_alterna.html

    And I'm all for a free market economy. Let capitalism work. But let's also demand that the products that are peddled by our corporations are peddled accurately. Its the misrepresentation that kills us. Eco friendly products aren't defined enough. What does it mean to be eco=friendly? We don't have the definitions yet. Green? Organic? Right now they're just marketing tools and we're being deceived again. We need to know what we're buying and using. If its' more than a trend, then it needs to be defined clearly.

    Consumers are idiots! I'm an idiot! I actually believe what I read on the labels and hear on the news. I want to believe. But we're all fools. If the advertisement seems sweet and friendly, we tend to believe that the product is too.

    We've not demanded fuel efficient cars. We've not demanded eco friendly products. We've not been willing to sacrifice a damn thing for the environment, even the easy things. It's not the corporations fault. They're in the business of making and banking all this imaginary money. It's our fault. We spend it. We support the SUVs and the plastic bags. We're lazy and don't feel threatened. Now with oil topping the charts in price, we're just being selfish in the other direction. And pointing fingers.

    Don't blame the cow for giving milk. If you don't like milk, drink water.
     
  19. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Well, I'm bored, so I'll respond now whether you've watched the next one or not :)

    I wasn't suggesting that it was a problem by itself. It seems like a fairly succinct summary of the evolution of money on its own, with its own obvious slant. The real meat of the issue is how both discuss basically the same process using basically the same language about two seemingly unrelated issues.

    Biology is the difference. The primary function of money is dictated by survivalism -- food and shelter. Money as it relates to the extras is connected, but still slightly ethereal. The bottom line is that money exists as a kind of symbolic control system on top of the basic resources we need to survive. The true value of money is what it represents to our biological imperatives. So, unlike art, money has a hard value at its core which has been shifted.

    Consider Somalia's current situation. The existing money has been canceled. It no longer has any value at all, even as a food stamp. You can't trade it for actual food stamps or for new money (to buy food). Urban people can't grow food, they can only by it. Money is thus symbolic capital for food. Without food, we die.

    We happen to live in comparative luxury, so money for us appears to be more of an esoteric art-style valuation system. Subjective. Diamonds, for example, break the supply:demand rule. The supply is actually quite huge, there's plenty of expertise on cutting, but the markup remains huge because... well... they're diamonds. There's cultural weight behind them. Desirability.

    And when we can't agree, and it's something necessary, we go to war. Money also has a value of human life on it. They say if you broke a human down into component elements, each person is worth between $150 and $200 on the market. Of course, a human life is supposedly priceless. Yet food and the resources required for shelter are the two primary bases for the actual valuation of money, and the human life itself is the actual valuation basis for the forceful acquisition of those resources for everyone else.

    So supply and demand, OK. But, there's an underlying system based on survival. If we agree that my bag of grain equals your bag of potatoes and we call it a fair trade, that's the underlying system. What we have now, though, is a symbolic system on top which was created (innocently enough) because maybe my potatoes were ready but your grain wasn't and you need some of my potatoes, so we write an IOU. If that's all it was, the system would balance when I got your debt of grain.

    Even art shares this system. Crafts were functional items related to shelter. Stylized items were just fancier versions, so the food to craft exchange ratio was shaped to add desirability into the valuation equation. But fundamentally, the craft artisan is trying to get food for craft. "Pure" arts used to run through patronage, where the shelter and food was covered in exchange for the production of the art. The desire for art, though, is almost purely based on the desirability quotient. But the exchange is still for food and shelter.

    But now the valuation system is based on something else entirely. It's based on waste and debt production. Instead of making the exchange bilateral where we both equalize through the exchange, the system now requires one group to pay more than what the product is worth in a equalized exchange system. A bag of potatoes will cost you your bag of grain, plus a bit extra (in some cases, when you agree to multiple installments over a longer period of time, you actually wind up owing three bags of grain for the one bag of potatoes). So everyone is constantly running at a loss except for one group of people. Profit is thus the source of debt.

    This is what Marx was on to, of course. His system still required an administrative body, though. So the communist system stills has to overproduce relative to the number of workers to account for the administrative branch. It's much a trickier system to maintain in balance. How do you value administration? It's basically tax, and it should be based on the basic survival requirement, but the value is dramatically different because we've created an administration system based on desirability rather than on basic need. The "popular" vote. Pah.

    Why do politicians get paid instead of just living for free? Subjective desirability on the one hand, but does the populus vote on wage increases for politicians? Noop. They do. Self importance within the system. Perceived value versus actual value.

    If wages are representative of the perceived value of the position to society -- that is, the extent by which each person is given extra capital above their basic survival needs, which is theoretically the minimum wage -- then bankers are at the top of the pile. And they're the ones who create and maintain the money we all use, and their economic forecasters and analysts determine the value of our positions in the Labour Market Index.

    As with religion, when a system supports only itself and those at the top of its pile, it's falls into the highly questionable category, does it not?

    For who and toward what end?

    But not food. Food has a defined minimum. Shelter does too, but it's harder to pin down. Food is an essential, and it's what money is really all about. A painting and a bracelet are only extras, their worth based on perceived desirability. The monetary system shifting almost entirely toward desirability is putting pressure on our ability to create, acquire, and distribute food. And that's not relative. That's got a fixed, objectively verifiable minimum.

    Human consumerist economics is effing up our habitat. Our habitat makes our food. Our food is what keeps us alive and defines the value of our economies. But the economy is not matched to the food. So....

    As a value system, money is entirely different from art.
     
  20. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Yeah, and if we apply this to Katrina, we should expect people to defend themselves against the elements, right? Use that good ol' imagination and ingenuity...

    Biology takes over all the time. Yes, there is imagination. But consider why plagues taper off. The immune system develops to account for the invader, which is bolstered by food intake, and more food is available per person for intake as there are less mouths to feed. Plagues take out the weak first. Imagination has little to do with that process. Until you get to vaccination and sanitation (imagination versus biology), which is why I mentioned the SARS and Avian Flu situations.

    If human imagination is reducing the raw biological cull, then human imagination is exacerbating the potential problems we're anticipating. If we can prevent the cull, we think it good. Yet preventing the cull increases resource pressure, which will potentially weaken us when the cull returns, over and over again, and eventually the bug overpowers our imagination and the natural process whereby the weakest are cut out first happens. Resources versus Population is the fundamental principle of economic balance. So imagination can work against us, no?

    So what about situations like this? http://www.p2pnet.net/story/15843

    Misinformation is the established norm of consumer society. Spin is openly accepted tactics in both politics and news. How are we to know? Think of the cigarette trials like in "The Insider".

    I'm not trying to cry wolf and doomsay the economy and the environment so much as trying to clear out the weeds so we can actually make the critical assessments we need to make to do something properly. Corporations are promoting green products that aren't really green, using the same means of production and distribution as the not green stuff. It's smoke and mirrors. If this is actually a serious issue, we need that stuff out of the way. And yet the same corporations selling us the green ideology are the ones clouding the issue.

    A guy I saw on the news the other day said (paraphrased): "Our entire modern society is based on burning nonrenewable fossil fuels. Everything. From the plastics on our phones to the power that runs them, everything. We environmentalists asking everyone to stop using fossil fuels is the same as asking everyone to give up modern society. How can we ask that of people? We can't."

    Well... lab tests did confirm that fluorocarbons do indeed bond to ozone. They neglected to tell everyone that natural ozone production (caused mostly by lightning) far exceeds the rate of CFC emissions. In addition, they neglected to account for upper atmospheric weather patterns. If you've ever seen the animated ozone hole videos, you'll note that they all look like the eyes of hurricanes. A blank spot in the middle of swirl. Certain swirls are relatively stationary. The ones over the poles, for example, barely move because weather patterns rarely ever flow north/south. They turn with the earth.

    That's why, though cool, space elevators and planetary tethers for electricity could royally screw us over. They would be enormous ground wires, reducing lightning strikes, thus reducing ozone creation. Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

    And raw biology isn't part of planetary ecology? The big argument here is really that human imagination is allowing us to overtake the natural planetary ecological homeostatic function. The challenge, it seems, is to imagine us up something that lets the naturally self-regulating system do its things without us screwing it up. So far, the only model we have for how to do that is to backtrack to before we opened the box, which no one wants or is probably even capable of anymore.

    Thinking that science is the answer may be faulty since scientific reductionism is why we think that economics and environmentalism are different and independent in the first place. But if our imagination is preventing the planet from taking of itself, then we have to take care of the planet. How do we do that? Or should we at all? If it's destined for some degree of ruin regardless of the measures we take, might it make more sense to go about our business and let it crash whenever it does so that the devastation is as widespread as possible, allowing the survivors to live the better life we couldn't have? Push the problem over the edge? Break the earth like one of Jack Bauer's terrorists?