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  1. #16
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Environment: My problem right now is not the corporations. I want them putting out green products.
    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.

    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.
    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...

    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
    ...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?

    putting athletic programs back in schools if they're so worried about kid obesity and stop cutting funding every five minutes
    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!

    We need to figure out ways to get looting tyrants out of power without always using costly wars
    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.

    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.
    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.

    Earth is working very hard to solve them, including lowering population rates of humans and reclaiming land through earthquakes and floods.
    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.

  2. #17
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kung Foo
    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.
    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/env...urce_page.html

  3. #18
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    We need more of these kinds of ideas:

    http://www.businessweek.com/innovate...y_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.

  4. #19
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Well, I'm bored, so I'll respond now whether you've watched the next one or not

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    I watched the first one. Not sure I have a real problem with it.
    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.

    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?
    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.

    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.
    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?

    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.
    For who and toward what end?

    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.
    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.

  5. #20
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    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.
    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?

    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.
    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."

    The crisis that stil bothers me is the hole in the ozone layer.
    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.

    The planetary ecology seems to me to take care of itself.... But, we don't. We're all we got. And all we have to bring to the problem is imagination.
    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?

  6. #21
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Lots of asumptions there, assumptions that I have a difficult time getting my mind around. Avian flu, the black plague, AIDS, are the planet pruning? Doesn't that ascribe intentionality to an insentient entity or are we resurrecting Gaia in all her glory? In fact, doesn't that infer intentionality to evolution? I'm not against having Gaia as the supreme being; just want to know if that's where you're going with this. Hey, wait a minute! It worked for L. Ron; it could work for us, too. And think of the imaginary tax breaks.
    For several posts you've been advocating there are serious problems with the economy and the environment. What I am asking is for you to define the problem. "The economy/environment is screwed up" is not a problem definition statement - you know that. So, what is the problem you want to fix. See if you can build a consensus that there is a problem and that we all can agree on what the problem looks like. Then, we can argue what it will take to fix it.

  7. #22
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Not intentionality. Just function. You were saying that there's a process whereby imagination competes with biology. Traditionally (prior to modern sanitation practices and epidemiology/virology) when an outbreak would flare up it wasn't imagination that saved us so much as biology fighting biology. A healthy population of size X will have resources roughly equal in size, distributed unevenly between social groups. The epidemic will first take those with the least access to the resources required to bolster the immune system. As some of those on the fringes will be the workers that produce the resources, resources will deplete accordingly and down the chain the next fringe-most group will be the most affected. Until, eventually, the system levels out and the immune system can compete effectively with the epidemic. The post-epidemic group will thus wind up with resources roughly equal in amount to the population size, but more evenly distributed. Resume cycle...

    There's also resource depletion. A drought will cause reduced resource availability which leads to starvation which will weaken those with the least access to resources and make them vulnerable to death in a variety of ways. In other words, population of size X suddenly finds themselves with resources of X/2, so the population:resource ratio (homeostasis) regulates until they are even by killing off the fringe, creating a more balanced distribution of resources.

    We can argue that the above represents natural sustainability. Basic homeostasis.

    If we argue that sanitation and modern virology/epidemiology is a practice thunked up by imagination to prevent transmission of disease, then biology will compete with biology differently because we've changed the equation. If healthy population of size X has resource availability of X, then takes measures to ensure that the resource pool becomes X+ by taking from population Y, insulates itself from normal homeostatic balances through imagination, AND consumes all the + simply because we can, it will look like you effectively have X:X in balance relative to us. But really what you've got is something like 2X:X+Y.

    Our system borrows from somebody else to get the X+ and never pays them back. So the source areas for our resources are running at Y:Y-, which means they up production to provide X with resources so we're running at X:X (simple supply:demand). When the source becomes Y:Y--, or worse yet Y:0, we should theoretically both reset to X:X and Y:Y. Except that our population is expanding, changing the equation so that population size X is supported primarily by the resources of population Y. We no longer have sufficient means of production for population 2X because our imagination has allowed us to populate beyond local homeostasis/sustainability, so the ratio is no longer X:X but is now effectively X:Y. Y, in the meantime, is producing at Y:2Y to feed us. We're not dying because our imagination has thought up ways to keep us from dying off. Our resources are being pulled from outside our own area. We've created a system where if Y's resources dry up, X suffers. But instead of dying, we'll mostly live because we're healthy and our average distribution is remarkably even. We also have a sophisticated military which can take L's, M's, O's, and P's resources should we deem we need them.

    What do we do with this massive imbalance if something changes? That's kinda the point. Up 'til now we've been able to rely on Y, but Y is expanding too because they've embraced our way of doing things. X is already 2X and pushing 3X, and Y is becoming 2Y and will expand much much faster than us to 3Y and 4Y. But there's still only X and Y total resources between us. Our way of life is hampering the planet's ability to produce X and Y, though. So population is increasing, but production isn't keeping pace.

    Now, normally, this would all be A-Okay for the planet. She just does her thing and populations expand, the food stops, and they die, are born, expand, die, etc. Life goes on. But right now we have verifiable proof that our very means of resource acquisition is not only decreasing Mother Earth's rate of normal production, but is poisoning her so that when the resources fall below the ratio it may not be possible to increase the resources and the resources may simply continue to decline. The resulting cull would be unimaginable in scope.

    That's the fear mongering part.

    The issue I'm trying to get at specifically is that the consumerist model which has created the 2X:X+Y situation we find ourselves in currently is ingrained into our psyches (statements like "I'm all for a free market economy. Let capitalism work.") despite being more or less proven to be at the root of the problem. We've discussed at length the processes of personal morality, societal morality, subjective valuation, ethics, religion, etc... We have a situation where we can point at ourselves and say "What I choose to believe is probably killing the planet."

    Kat is arguing that the market/corporations respond to market changes and the people want green, so they give us green. I'm arguing that the market tells us to want something new and different every five years. They've openly admitted that this is the platform of consumer culture. Consumer culture has to be complete, or it fails -- their words, not mine. That makes an artificial distinction between coercive advertising and propaganda a valid argument. It makes false controversy (spin) -- aka lying -- a valid and normative process. The corporations, banks, government, and military are big proponents of this system. The founders of the system have passed on, but we've embraced it and are living it like its good -- just like they wanted us to. So of course the corporations give us green.

    Consumerism has its own rules of sustainability. To sustain itself, it requires constant consumption. The pervasiveness of this system is virtually complete. The only thing that may be avoiding it is religious fundamentalism (which is interesting of itself).

    So, as self-styled cultural relativists and subjective moralists, what is your personal subjective response to the fact that your complicity with this system is at the root of the problem? What is the ethical responsibility, if any, to this issue? Does the pervasiveness of this system -- to the point that it is openly trying to spin environmental concerns as based on faulty science to your children in the public school institutions your tax dollars send them to and the private schools you pay for wholly -- not beg the question?

    In the spirit of dissonance -- how do you live with yourself if you know this to be true? How do you justify it? How d you match it with your lifestyle? And if you don't think it's true, what is really going on?
    Last edited by Fung Koo; May 8th, 2008 at 04:08 PM.

  8. #23
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    It was my generation that taught you the validity of Socrates "question authority." That's not a monolithic authority structure that needs to be questioned; that's authority wherever it pops up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo
    Consumerism has its own rules of sustainability. To sustain itself, it requires constant consumption. The pervasiveness of this system is virtually complete. The only thing that may be avoiding it is religious fundamentalism (which is interesting of itself).
    I take it this is the proposed problem definition:
    Consumerism requires constant consumption.
    Okay, I can live with that. I just would like to ask one or two questions about the problem:
    Is consumption, per se, a problem? Wasn't it consumerism at the heart of the reconstruction of Japan after WWII?
    Or, are we assuming here that we are only talking about consumption of things that are not necessities to life? If, so, can we make an argument that a computer is a modern necessity of life or is a computer automatically part of the problem?
    If I like to consume strawberries and we don't grow strawberries in Arizona although we have a town named Strawberry but I've never seen strawberries from Strawberry on sale. Is this a kind of consumption that is bad in that it removes resources from one place <Missouri> so that I can eat them at my place?
    These are attempting-to-draw-a-line kind of questions. Is there a line where some things must be consumed?
    I suspect this line of questioning is going to come across as specious to some folks, but I am truly attempting to understand the problem. It would be easy to say that malls are bad, strip malls are worse, and we should go back to mom and pop stores on the corner. Doing that means giving up something. What is it that we should get rid of? Seven-grain bread? Raisin bread? Whole wheat bread? Bagels? They are all products of consumerism.

    Since the real issue lying in your description of the problem is X and Y only as a funciton of X, if we eliminated half the people on the planet, would the problem go away? Do you have any ideas on which half should go? I'd think the biggest consumers ought to be the first eliminated but that has more to do with sentiment than logic. It could put me somewhere at the back of the line.

    So, let's take another stab at defining the problem:
    Consumerism as the basis for an economy has problems; that among these are dwindling and wasted resources, the breakdown of human connectedness, and the certain consequence of an ugly period of adjustment that must accompany its falling from grace.

    Can you live with that?

  9. #24
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I didn't say that the Earth was successful at population control; I just said the Earth was trying. In the developed world, the rates of male births have dropped and male fertility has dropped, due to various environmental reasons, for example. There's no question that our population is going up, but India and China have given themselves a girl shortage and are experiencing labor shortages. And as education goes up in developing countries, women have fewer babies -- nobody varies from this pattern. And they kill off an awful lot of their people, more than the developed world kills off their people. And China is on the edge of economic collapse. So them overrunning the rest of the world is by no means certain.

    As for the Amerindians, they were promised sewage, electricity, clean water, etc., and then not given them. They are losing their own languages and cultures because they aren't given the funding they were promised for their schools to teach it to their kids and preserve it. And it's not 1812. Are you saying they have to stay in mud huts, not send their kids to school, much less college, even if they want to go, and endure poverty, alcoholism, suicides and crime to protect your notion of how they should live, while you can do anything you want and we just keep ripping them off until they die out? As for they being the ones to figure how the stuff should be done, you evidently missed the part of my post about developing peoples (Africa, Amazon, etc.) being put in charge of their own conservationism.

    I'm bowing out of the great debate, 'cause the next week is crazy. Also, because this conversation is making me dizzy.

  10. #25
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Human consumerist economics - Don't you mean 'humans', Fung? Is there a human consumerist economy without us? Or has some mad scientist, some Dark Lord dreamed it up in order to destroy the world?

    In our efforts to understand, we make up worlds! And the world live on. And on and on and on.

    We're ****ing things up, no doubt. But it's hard to point the finger. I saw 'we're' in a very generic sense.

    Take away what we want and we fight for it. Give us what we want and we abuse it. Tell us what we want and we believe it.

    What do we need? Can we separate need from want?

  11. #26
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Sorry for the delay in response. Crazy few days!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    It was my generation that taught you the validity of Socrates "question authority." That's not a monolithic authority structure that needs to be questioned; that's authority wherever it pops up.
    Grazi very mucho

    Consumerism requires constant consumption.
    In and of itself, that would be almost accurate. The consumerist model we're talking about here though is consumerism through planned obsolescence. Consumerism through products designed to become obsolete -- or advertising to convince you that the product is obsolete, or that there are tiers in quality you need to cycle through (the diet industry, for example).

    Is consumption, per se, a problem? Wasn't it consumerism at the heart of the reconstruction of Japan after WWII?
    On it's own it's not. But then we don't consume like all the other creatures on the planet. The amount of non-biodegradable waste we produce through consumption is where the problem lies. Our system relies on Huxlean "ending is better than mending" type consumption. And that was written in dystopia for a reason.

    Or, are we assuming here that we are only talking about consumption of things that are not necessities to life? If, so, can we make an argument that a computer is a modern necessity of life or is a computer automatically part of the problem?
    This is certainly part of the question, but if we set it aside for a moment and just assume that the consumer model is complete -- from essentials to non-essentials -- the environmental problem is the way we plow through everything without providing replacements. The environmental question tied to consumerism is then whether or not the consumer model can hold up as resources dwindle.

    As Kat points out, the system fluctuates to accommodate market demands. But most of the experts point out that all of our solutions dreamed up thus far are temporary solutions at best. Even if we move toward electric hybrid everything, the fuel is still going to run out. Switching to nuclear, unless we find a new way to do it, will last maybe 50 years tops before we run out of naturally radioactive materials. Bio-fuels produce more pollution in production, and solar and wind power won't be enough to meet the existing needs. Combinations will only last so long. The resources will run out if we maintain the current consumer model -- it's just a question of when.

    That's where the ethical question pops up. We want to provide our children with the possibility of future that is better than our present. That's part of this idea of legacy.

    The other issue here is -- what happens if we hit a technological plateau? Presumably there is a limit, or at least a line, where "advancement" stops being advancement. 80gig iPods, for example, are the low sellers. The obsession with data storage quantities is just aboout at the level of total ridiculousness. If we look at the video game industry, game complexities plateaued a few years ago. Games have remained about the same size, modifying only as incrementally "better" hardware has been released. XP to Vista, for example, is not a change you make for progress, but for refinement. It's a lateral move.

    So to go back to your question -- I'm not sure it matters relative to the real essentials. Worst case scenario -- we lose power completely -- then the consumer system will shut down anyway. Computers don't matter much without power. In a few years we'd reset to a more "natural" system, which entails the production of the real essentials at a minimum, and with a relatively good level of sustainability (based on pre-industrial models of mass farming, anyway). We'll go back to being more-or-less agrarian.

    So really it's the extras -- beyond basic survivalism -- that will be most affected. The problem is that our approach to the extras has transposed itself onto our approach to the essentials, with a negative consequences.

    If I like to consume strawberries and we don't grow strawberries in Arizona... Is this a kind of consumption that is bad in that it removes resources from one place <Missouri> so that I can eat them at my place?
    These are attempting-to-draw-a-line kind of questions. Is there a line where some things must be consumed?... What is it that we should get rid of?
    Personally... yes, I think there are some lines that need to be drawn. The difference between a tomato grown outside of town and a tomato that gets shipped to me from a grow house in California is money and taste. I don't care if it's organic so much as whether or not it tastes good. Do I really need a "fresh" tomato in the middle of winter? Not really, and it's not really "fresh" anyway. And the environmental consideration of shipping it, the rises costs of fuel, etc, make me question it even more. The loss of local industry to foreign (or generally external) production has effects on the labour market.

    But where I get really concerned is stuff like modern canning practices, where totally unnecessary plastics get added to the cans and leak harmful chemicals into the food source. And the plastic makes the can more environmentally harmful, and the cost of the plastic will rise with the fuel prices, too....

    Local produce has become a novelty, which is just bizarre. But this is endemic to the entire system. Primary industry is all but disappeared in modern western consumer society. I'm not so sure that's a good thing, though it's made my life damn comfortable.

    if we eliminated half the people on the planet, would the problem go away?
    Assuming random distribution of the removal, but the maintenance of the existing consumer model... no. It would stay about the same. The biggest polluters are the production and distribution channel, which would be relatively unaffected because the need would remain roughly equal in terms of the pace of production and movement. Less land area would be required overall to support the population, but the rate of production and movement of the product would stay about the same.

    Do you have any ideas on which half should go?
    The half that volunteers?

    So, let's take another stab at defining the problem:
    Consumerism as the basis for an economy has problems; that among these are dwindling and wasted resources, the breakdown of human connectedness, and the certain consequence of an ugly period of adjustment that must accompany its falling from grace.

    Can you live with that?
    I can live with it, but I'd rather we found a better way. If it was as simple as introducing emissions controls and universal recycling, I wouldn't be worried. But the existing system relies on coercive advertising and misinformation to create consumer complicity. We vilify propaganda, yet we've elevated this kind of advertising to an art form. We talk about subjectivity here, yet the independence of our subjectivity is being diverted by our very way of life. We're at a level of technological advancement where, if we really wanted to, we could likely find a way to create a maintainable balance -- but the propagandic aspects of our way of life are obfuscatory.

    That's the part I can't live with.

  12. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    I can live with it, but I'd rather we found a better way. If it was as simple as introducing emissions controls and universal recycling, I wouldn't be worried. But the existing system relies on coercive advertising and misinformation to create consumer complicity. We vilify propaganda, yet we've elevated this kind of advertising to an art form. We talk about subjectivity here, yet the independence of our subjectivity is being diverted by our very way of life. We're at a level of technological advancement where, if we really wanted to, we could likely find a way to create a maintainable balance -- but the propagandic aspects of our way of life are obfuscatory.

    That's the part I can't live with.
    Can you run for PM please?

  13. #28
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Methinks you misunderstood the intent of my question. I was not trying to work you into a box, I was trying to define the problem in a manner that leads to stabs at solutions. The model for me here is:
    • Define the Problem
    • Esablish possible solutions
    • Define the merits and demerits as well as possible and probable outcomes of each proposed solution
    • Define the material and human resources required to acheive each solution
    • Define a schedule
    • Start working on the solution(s) selected

    Assuming you actually were and still do agree with the proposed problem definition, then we can move on to the first question. Can the problem of dwindling resources be attacked as a collective noun issue or must we really deal with individual resources? I suspect the latter approach is required but I'm perfectly willing to have the error in my thinking exposed.

  14. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    Methinks you misunderstood the intent of my question. I was not trying to work you into a box, I was trying to define the problem in a manner that leads to stabs at solutions. The model for me here is:
    • Define the Problem
    • Esablish possible solutions
    • Define the merits and demerits as well as possible and probable outcomes of each proposed solution
    • Define the material and human resources required to acheive each solution
    • Define a schedule
    • Start working on the solution(s) selected

    Assuming you actually were and still do agree with the proposed problem definition, then we can move on to the first question. Can the problem of dwindling resources be attacked as a collective noun issue or must we really deal with individual resources? I suspect the latter approach is required but I'm perfectly willing to have the error in my thinking exposed.
    You are now venturing in to my realm as a Six Sigma nerd. It be interested to see some ideas on this problem.

  15. #30
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    So them overrunning the rest of the world is by no means certain.
    But I don't think that being overrun is the issue. That's the popular media version, certainly. Playing on old nationalistic ideas. But, as you've pointed out, our global awareness today is different from what it used to be. Many of us consider ourselves as earthlings first now, whereas before we were just Canadian, American, German, whatever. The understanding of systemic complexity is at a height perhaps never before as widely conceived. But the theoretical frameworks we've devised to allow for this new globalized point of view -- multiculturalism, free trade, global economics, environmentalism -- don't mesh well with our survivalist imperatives.

    Population control is extremely dangerous. Morally shaded at best. And there are very strong arguments based on ample historical evidence that when a society stops overpopulating itself, it declines and disappears. The population groups on the planet that are reproducing the fastest are currently the most ideologically driven. It's creating conflict. North Americans are lucky because we're a little oasis of calm in a world that's caught in a shitstorm. We're protected by the all-time greatest natural barrier -- distance and inaccessibility.

    Comparatively, our population control is working quite well. After he babyboom, reproduction has leveled off such that we currently have a negative birthrate. Yet our consumption increases by the decade. So population control is hard to argue as a good way to approach this problem. It's also predicated on the myth that we're running out of space. World population could triple and we'd still have enough space. We just need to organize it better. But with democracy being what it is, individualism being what it is, subjectivity being what it is, our ideals complicate the matter greatly.

    So long as shifting resources around is easy to do, the problem is masked. Population pressure certainly plays a part, but being overrun is less of a threat than the effect population has on the balance and distribution of the world's food and fuel supplies.

    As for the Amerindians, they were promised sewage, electricity, clean water, etc., and then not given them. They are losing their own languages and cultures because they aren't given the funding they were promised for their schools to teach it to their kids and preserve it. And it's not 1812. Are you saying they have to stay in mud huts, not send their kids to school, much less college, even if they want to go, and endure poverty, alcoholism, suicides and crime to protect your notion of how they should live, while you can do anything you want and we just keep ripping them off until they die out?
    The question I have is -- will giving them those things increase or decrease their sense of culture? Certainly in Canada, one of the biggest issues that our First Nations communities focus on is traditional rights, particularly as it applies to to hunting and fishing. But they aren't using traditional technologies. They're using massive nets and depleting fish populations to near extinction levels because the technological realities aren't being matched with the traditionally sustainable practices. How do we navigate this issue?

    I'm all for giving people the access to the tools they require to look after themselves. But Whitey McWhite rolling into native lands to give them Whitey McWhite infrastructure creates a long list of sequential problems. Who looks after the infrastructure? Does the infrastructure with or against their culture? And -- as with Clarke's observation that sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic, and the black box theorem from the philosophy science -- our infrastructure has to be used our way. Our culture is written into our technology. We think of technology as a tool, but it's a cultural product.

    My expectation is that we agree to provide them with the means to develop their own processes, so their technology matches their culture. Then, after that's in place, we can see about crossing the lines between our cultures so we can see what's there to be learned from each other. Aboriginal life is considered naturally environmentally responsible in many parts of the western world -- but does it remain environmentally responsible when coupled with western technology? I'd wager not.

    As for they being the ones to figure how the stuff should be done, you evidently missed the part of my post about developing peoples (Africa, Amazon, etc.) being put in charge of their own conservationism.
    Psst... and I quote myself "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."

    I'm bowing out of the great debate, 'cause the next week is crazy. Also, because this conversation is making me dizzy.
    But please come back, because you're very good at representing a counterpoint of view!!!

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