Published Jul 21 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 21 2009

Deep thought - July 21

by Staff

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Forget Shorter Showers

Derrick Jensen, Orion
WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide...
(July/August 2009)
In my view the argument presented here misses the impact of tipping points in making broader societal changes - the fact that individual changes are not isolated but frequently influence others and can lead to grass roots driven change. - SO

Peak Jubilee

Nate Hagens, The Oil Drum
Energy procurement from this point forward will be inextricably linked with the state of our financial system. We need energy to grow...we need debt to initiate new energy projects, and we need growth to payoff debt. We also sit amidst a mountain of debt, are passed the global peak in cheap oil production, and live in an environment where not only is the gap between the haves and have nots accelerating, but so is a general awareness of this gap. With this backdrop there has been increasing talk about a 'get-out-of-debt-free' holiday sometime in the future, a debt jubilee of sorts. At the root of debt forgiveness are two issues central to our energy future: - 1) the disconnect between biophysical and fiat-based accounting and 2) the favoring, via government rule changes, of one social group versus another (in this case, creditors vs. debtors).

Tonight's Campfire questions revolve around the implications of debt forgiveness for energy and social stability.
(19 July 2009)

Consciousness and Complexity

Dr. Michael P. Byron, Op-Ed News
Recently my wife Ramona and I watched a PBS program entitled "Ape Genius." The program sought to uncover the cognitive abilities and limits of the great apes: Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, and Gorillas. Their mental capabilities were contrasted with those of humans. The deep question posed was: Given the many similarities between humans and great apes, why are we so different? Only humans have art, music, global organization and so on? Why?

According to the investigation great apes do not actively teach newly learned skills to others. Learning can and does occur, but only by passive observation of one ape to the actions of another. Also, apes are emotionally impulsive-similar to human three year olds, but dissimilar to human four year olds. For example, if an ape is given a choice of two bowls of fruit which contain differing amounts of fruit, and is asked to choose only one bowl, the ape will invariably choose the bowl containing the most fruit. Further, if the ape is asked to give one bowl to another ape, while keeping one for itself, it will always give the bowl containing the least amount of fruit to the other ape. So far so good, humans would generally do the same.

...Overall, while great apes have rudimentary technology-including in some instances, manufactured spears, and while they are capable of learning by observation of other apes, their consciousness limits their degree of social interactivity. Apparently this limit is somewhere below the threshold of net interaction at which specialization and complex, coordinated, society emerges. Language is not discussed in the documentary, though I suspect that if chimps could develop a complex language and use it among themselves, their level of organized social complexity might rise above the threshold.

In the case of humans, we are above the threshold at which great organized social complexity emerges. Yet, we may be as cognitively limited as our ape cousins. Consider that we know scientifically, that our actions are destroying the planetary ecosystem, altering the weather, and that this global civilization is based upon ever-increasing use of ever-diminishing hydrocarbon energy resources. Our rational response to this would be to immediately take drastic actions to remedy these behavioral errors.

Yet, our material wealth, the position and power of societal elites, the very way that we have been indoctrinated to understand and interact with reality itself, is based upon preservation of the existing patterns of social order. So we as a global society, effectively do nothing. At least we do not take effective actions in a timely manner.
(18 July 2009)