A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Letters to the Editor
Recent Feedback from Website Visitors and Journal Readers
8 September 2013
Per your request, Luis, and with many thanks.
Human Population Dynamics and the Demographic Transition
Many too many scientists with appropriate expertise as well as demographers and economists everywhere in our time apparently have been rendered apoplectic by presentations of new and evidently unforeseen scientific research of human population dynamics and the demographic transition. These experts have relied upon preternatural thought and phony science to make a seemingly incontrovertible case for the viability of the human species and its current business-as-usual overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities — global overgrowth activities of a distinctly human kind that can be seen overspreading the surface of Earth and that will soon be more generally acknowledged as patently unsustainable on the finite and frangible planet we inhabit.
Absolute global human population numbers have been skyrocketing since World War II. When I was born, 2.3 billion people were alive. In a single lifetime of threescore and ten years (1945-2015) human numbers are fully expected to grow to 7.2+/- billion human beings, an increase of 5+/- billion people.This population growth has been widely believed to be sustainable, at least in large part, because of two critical misperceptions that have been widely shared, consensually validated and allowed to stand unquestioned. Ruinously, predominant ideology has been deliberately confused with and presented as science. Recent unacknowledged scientific research indicates with remarkable simplicity and clarity that human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species and that the traditional demographic transition model indicating population stabilization and an end to population growth soon is pseudoscientific, fatally flawed and utterly misleading. Fundamental mistakes have been made but experts have consciously refused to perform their duties to science and humanity by making necessary corrections.
Self-proclaimed population experts certainly are not stupid, and yet they appear to act as if they are ‘playing stupid’. Perhaps they been unfortunately influenced by TPTB just the way politicians have. In their foolhardiness, arrogance and avarice and by their lust for privilege, power and the concentrated wealth from which power and privilege are derived, TPTB have claimed ownership of the mass media. Global communications have become governed by what is economically beneficial, politically convenient, socially suitable, religiously tolerable and culturally contrived. The family of humanity has been duplicitously misguided and deceitfully duped by overly-educated, absurdly enriched sycophants of rich and powerful greedmongers who have been undermining and perverting science. The shared ideology of TPTB and their many minions leads to their imperious denial of scientific research that not only presents inconvenient truth but also exposes the ruse underpinning a non-negotiable but unsustainable way of organizing human civilization on our watch. One of many pernicious effects of this situation is the willful denial of the best available scientific research of subjects like human population dynamics and the demographic transition. Resulting misunderstandings have been decisive in paving the way for a civilization nearing its collapse. Civilizations have crashed before, but never has the demise of a civilization put at risk future human well being and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation.Should this perspectivebe somehow on the right track, then we could be witnesses to a colossal failure of nerve as well as to a determinative loss of capacity to do the right things, according to ‘the lights’ and scientific knowledge each of us possesses.
If human population dynamics is essentially common to the population dynamics of other species and, consequently, if food supply is the independent not the dependent variable in the relationship between food and population, then a lot of what has been reported could be distractions that serve to dismiss rather than disclose vital but unwelcome science of what could somehow be real regarding the human population and, more importantly, why our behavior is so utterly destructive of everything we claim to be protecting and preserving. It seems to me that if we keep engaging in and hotly pursuing worldwide overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities, distinctly human activities that cannot be sustained much longer on a planet with size, composition and ecology of Earth, then the human species is a clear and present danger on our watch to future human well being, life as we know it, and environmental health. If we can see ourselves to be 'the problem', then it is incumbent upon us to bring forward the best available evidence from science, especially when that evidence happens to relate directly to why we are pursuing a soon to become, patently unsustainable (superhigh)way of life. A tip of the hat is due Rachel Carson forheroriginalawareness of the 'superhighway'. Should humankind emerge from 'the bottleneck' E.O. Wilson imagines for us in the future and somehow escape the precipitation of our near-term extinction, how are those survivors to organize life sustainably and not repeat the mistakes we are making now... and have been making for a long time? Without knowledge of why we are doing what we are doing, every one of us is forever trapped in an eternal recurrence of unsustainable life cycles, I suppose.
Rather than lay out for you what is novel research regarding human population dynamics and the demographic transition, I am going to refer all of you to a website where you will find the presentations: A Summary of Human Population Dynamics and A Presentation of the Demographic Transition Model. Credit for this research belongs to Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D. Perhaps what we need is the kind of sorely-needed open discussion that has been avoided by the professional societies of science and universally denied by demographers and economists. Please make use of the following link, Panearth. On that web page please find the two new presentations to which I referred just above. For those interested in a deeper understanding of related research in population science, note that other presentations and peer-reviewed articles can be found at the website.
Also and as important, Professor Diana Coole is another extraordinary researcher to whom I want to draw attention. Her work on human overpopulation and flaws indemographic transition theory is second to none and worthy of careful consideration. Please click on the following link, Too many bodies? The return and disavowal of the population question. Abstract: "During the 1960s and early 1970s population growth was regarded as an urgent environmental issue. Since then the topic has fallen into abeyance. Despite continuing demographic expansion and anxieties about a range of socio-ecological problems - from the stresses of high-density urban living to climate change, water, energy and food insecurity and loss of biodiversity - there is currently scant consideration of the benefits of population stabilisation or decline. Indeed, the problematisation of population numbers is widely disavowed or regarded with profound suspicion. Why have we become so reluctant to ask whether we are too many or to countenance policies that might discourage further growth? I identify five discourses - population-shaming, population-scepticism, population-declinism, population-decomposing and population-fatalism - that foreclose public debate and subject them to critical analysis. I end by eliciting signs of a hesitant revival of the population question alongside the enduring potency of silencing discourses."
PPS: Rachel Carson's quote,
"We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one "less traveled by"—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth."
All my best,
Steve Salmony, Psychologist, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
9 June 2012
Forgive me for listing a few things you already know ...
Growth will finally lead to unsustainable levels of resource consumption and pollution, regardless of increases in efficiency.
Austerity will lead to poverty, depression, and war.
Planning can build an economy that doesn't need growth to make jobs or austerity to conserve by
poverty. Because mere use does not require much consumption increased durability combined with a
stable population can provide vast wealth by inheritance with little need for additional investment or resource consumption.
Satiation of demand is bad for biz and job creation, but it ought to be the main measure of
a good economy. Let's plan for it. See Herman Daly's book "Steady State Economics."
We must not make stimulation of demand our goal. We should not even venture out of our homes to
work unless that work is really needed, because resource scarcity and pollution limits are upon us.
As automation expands income shifts into profits for the owners and away from wages for workers.
In a total robot economy we would finally have zero wages and all income would go the owners. In
recent years the income of the top 1% has gone from 10% to 20% of all income. In part that
increase reflects our advances in building a robot economy in order to cut the cost of labor.
Unless owners share their profits in a total robot economy others would have no income at all.
Our previous belief that, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few" is
obsolete. The opposite is true today, because robot economies create labor surpluses, and
resource scarcity is looming on our hyper-active, over-heated, and over-crowded planet.
21 March 2012
Scientists like Sir John Sulston and the Royal Society’s
People and the Planet Working Group have good work to do that is best accomplished by being uncompromisingly honest in the reporting of their research as well as by being unambiguously objective and forthcoming in reporting their findings with regard to the research of others. When honesty and effectiveness are viewed in opposition to one another, honesty must prevail over effectiveness in science. Finding a balance between them is not sufficient. Sacrificing honesty in order to maintain professional effectiveness is inadequate.
With regard to the science of human population dynamics, intellectual honesty appears not to have prevailed over professional effectiveness. That convenient rationalizations in support of effectiveness have been deployed by too many experts who have refused to be fully honest and open about such a vital matter of concern, seem somehow not right. Science is not compatible either with less than the ‘whole truth’, according the lights and best available empirical data we possess, or with the collective avoidance by professionals of research regarding what could be real. Science is an expression of truth, is it not? There can be no room for compromise between honesty and effectiveness where science is concerned.
It appears that we have a lot work to do…..fast. Endless growth of the immense ‘artificial reality’ will end either as a function of intelligent human thought, the best available science and morally courageous action or else the colossal artificial reality (aka economic colossus, aka global political economy) will somehow expand until it implodes because an endlessly growing, gigantic global economy in a finite world like the one we inhabit cannot be sustained much longer on a planet of the size, composition and frangible ecology of Earth. To put this situation in another way, if we keep up our reckless overconsuming, relentless overproducing and unbridled overpopulation activities, then a point in human history will be reached when some unimaginable sort of cataclysm can be expected to occur. Allow me to deploy words from A. Schweitzer. We need a new ethics based upon “reverence for life”. To revere an ethical system based upon idea that ‘greed is good’, the idea we see governing and dominating so much human activity on our watch, needs to be appropriately criminalized rather than ubiquitously legitimized, socially sanctioned and made lawful.
If faith in the goodness of science is ever lost, then I fear the future of children everywhere, life as we know it, and Earth as a fit place for habitation by coming generations, that we think we are preserving and protecting in our time, could be ruined utterly. Somehow the honesty of science must come to prevail over professional effectiveness and the pernicious silence of too many of ‘the brightest and the best’ on one hand and the specious, intellectually dishonest, deceitful, cascading, ideologically-driven chatter of clever ‘talking heads’, overly educated sycophants or other minions in the mainstream media who selfishly serve the primary interests of self dealing masters of the universe among us on the other.
There is nothing ever insignificant to be gained from science and nothing trivial about truth. This is especially so with regard to science that indicates: human population numbers are a function of food availability (not, definitely not, the other way around) and human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species. From my perspective, the science tells us something vital about ourselves, our distinctly human creatureliness and our ‘placement’ as the top ranking creature among the living beings on Earth. For all the miraculous and occasionally unique attributes of the human species, the research shows us that the human species is not, definitely not, most adequately or accurately placed “a little lower than angels” in the order of living things. Although such an attractively elevated and self-aggrandizing position for the human species sets human beings apart from other species, this view appears to be a widely shared, consensually validated and culturally-prescribed illusion. Rather human beings are assuredly situated within all that is living on Earth. Homo sapiens is an organism that is an integral part of the natural world, not apart from it. We see science once again ‘cutting’ from under us ‘the pedestal’ upon which we believe stand as we oversee, steward and dominate life on Earth.
Steve Salmony, Psychologist, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
31 January 2012
I recently completed the 1 year edition of a rather dense albeit simple sustainability guide and was wondering if you would be willing to post or spread it through the Solidarity, Sustainability & Human Development Google Group or other means? I saw that you were the primary poster and thought you might be able to help me. Or is this Google Group only for "Mother Pelican" ? The guide is free, and although not well researched being a general brain dump of my sustainable knowledge, has been well received and said to be well enough written.
Below is a link to the current download space on the Zine Library website if you are interested in taking a look. The 1 year edition
contains over 200 suggestions covering transportation, art, community, mental health, hygiene, food, sustainable philosophy, and more.
Zine Library ~ http://zinelibrary.info
3 December 2011
Many thanks for publishing this Vatican’s proposal:
VATICAN CALLS FOR REFORM OF GLOBAL FINANCE
Anti-crisis conclusions of mine are very similar with it. Please read my old (1997) text:
It was included (a little shortened) into my previous book (1999): “Czy regres czlowieczenstewa?/Is it a regression of humanity?”:
http://www.kte.psl.pl/crspistr.htm (see: below - Zalaczniki.)
About this book I have received a prominent (archbishop Giovanni B. Re) Vatican opinion:
Developed anti-crisis conclusions were included into my new book: Ekohumanizm w przezwyciezaniu globalnego kryzysu (Eco-humanism in overcoming the global crisis, Episteme 103, Instytut Ekologii i Bioetyki UKSW (Catholic University), Warszawa 2011:
This book was also sent to the Vatican. The essence/synopsis of this new book was published inter alia (as you know) by the Club of Rome:
GLOBAL GOVERNANCE AND INFORMATION FOR THE WORLD SOCIETY’S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, DIALOGUE AND UNIVERSALISM, No. 11–12/2010:
We ought to include these proposals into Rio+20 Earth Summit program. My new economic proposal (in above book) depends on change of economic activity supporting methods. Instead of stimulation this activity by means of “eco-demagin consumption”, inflation and life on credit, I propose sustainable development economy based on “deflation principle” together with general change of banking system. It would allow to stimulate economic activity by means of “innovative demands”. But for this end we have to build Forrester/Utsumi global information system for access to knowledge about complex effects of human activity, as a base for such new banking system and states sustainable development activity. More convenient to build (with backcasting/Apollo) such global, including early warning, information system – GRID, net, cloud computing – would be United Nations Organization. Above Vatican’s proposals - esp. to create “central world bank” –ought to be reinforced by above our information proposals realized with UN help. Global crisis is rapidly approaching global catastrophe limit. To overcome this limit in a developmental way we need as soon as possible quite new information and economic tools.
Polish Academy of Sciences
10 November 2011
We are gratified with the level of enthusiasm in support of our Call to Action. We have received a very large number of endorsements. Soon we will release all the names by posting the Call to Action on the GCGI website, accompanied by a Press Release. We also received wise arguments and sincere suggestions on how to make the Call more inclusive, so that many more can join and sign the petition. We have acknowledged these suggestions and have made some minor changes to the text of our message, hoping that this will provide the needed clarity.
Our message draws attention to the bankruptcy of a failed economic system that unfortunately is worldwide and its negative consequences are felt on all levels by most citizens of our planet. The altered version of our message is noted below. It goes without saying that we will be honoured to have your support and endorsement. Moreover, if you wish, please send this call and our new text to others who may wish to endorse it.
We are most grateful for all your ongoing support. It is only when we work together that we may change the world for the better.
Kamran Mofid, Jamshid Damooei, and Steve Szeghi
Globalization for the Common Good Initiative
4 October 2011
I notice from your website that you are a Christian organisation but that you also state that God cannot want gender discrimination. I would have to say that I tend to be an eco-feminist in that I believe that it is the 3 religions which originate in the Middle East that started the notion that white males were superior and therefore had the right to rape the earth and her people with impunity.
We know better now but we still need more education. While I don't necessarily agree with censorship, I do think that the media and programmes such as East Enders etc still aim to appeal to those with more testosterone than thinking ability. And those 3 religions still expect a purity from woman not required in men - as though she alone bears the responsibility for his lack of self control.
I believe it is societies' responsibility to educate but it is our job as women to choose and to make sure that we communicate the reason for our choices. Yes, we want strong men but they must also be gentle - physically, mentally and emotionally (as only strong men and women truly can be.)
The Guardian recently ran a piece on the results of a survey done after men became fathers showing how testosterone levels drop when men look after children, Should we make sure that all young men spend some time with children?
Business Strategy and Insight Analyst, Glasgow, United Kingdom
3 October 2011
Dear Luis --
Read this [the October 2011 editorial in Mother Pelican] on the Solidarity Economy facebook page. I am intrigued by the
argument, and look forward to reading the article in full. In the meantime, thought you might be interested in these two articles I have written about women, feminism, and the solidarity economy.
Women, Feminism, and the Solidarity Economy, Julie Matthaei, US Solidarity Economy Network, 2009.
Beyond Hegemonic Economic Man: Economic Crisis, Feminist Economics, and the Solidarity Economy,
Julie Matthaei, International Association for Feminist Economics Conference, June 2009, and Feminist Economics, February 2010.
In peace and solidarity,
Julie Matthaei, Board member, US Solidarity Economy Network,
Professor of Economics, Wellesley College
9 September 2011
This is a particularly interesting "connection" between "Gender Balance and Energy Balance" and one I have explored and thought about all my life! There are many who argue that this "re-balancing" of the masculine and the feminine has long been necessary to bring our world back into ecological balance and attribute the impetus for actual planet sustainability to this "feminine rising" in us all, to balance the inherent "male energy" of the way we humans developed the technological/scientific reductionism from the Enlightenment.
I remember arguing this very thing since my time at Berkeley studying a physics that only seemed "half right" -- great on understanding the energy of the non-living, the mechanical and the machines but terrible at understanding what I have sinced termed "emotional physics" -- the human, the living, the planetary and eco-thriving energy.
Really appreciate these leads into this developing area and anything else anyone has to share on this. I think it is a critical understanding of human/planetary systems and the balance needed in making them sustainable.
Education Chair for the United Nations Association of the USA
5 September 2011
I read the summary of your article and, as you asked for feedback, I thought you wouldn't mind if I make some comments. I live in New Zealand and am an organic fruitgrower and also just completing my PhD in philosophy, psychology and gender studies, and have also taught at Auckland and Waikato universities.
I agree wholeheartedly with you that global energy balance and sustainable production/consumption can only be achieved by concurrently - or even firstly - addressing imbalances within patriarchal societies, but I disagree that a move towards gender equality is the answer. Cultures that have already achieved a measure of gender equality are no less consumptive, and are arguably more so than those that adhere to traditional patriarchal structures of female/feminine oppression and exploitation. American, Australian and New Zealand cultures/societies, for example, in which women have achieved a measure of inclusion and equality within secular and non-secular institutions, are some of the highest consumers of non-renewable energy, and some of the highest producers of urban/rural pollution in the world.
The problem here, I beleive, is that, defined and practiced within a patriarchal social/linguistic/cultural order, the notion of gender is intrinsically unequal and oppressive of the female sex and all things seen as feminine. Even women who gain access to, and promotion within, traditionally masculinist social, political, cultural and religious orders realize that their access is always conditional and limited; always based upon their successful - but always boyish - imitation of men's persitingly same values and structures of organization. Subjectivity is still male, and shifting the gender roles only allows women a limited and collusive membership of persistingly oppressive, exploitative male subjectivities that rely upon masculine dominance of the feminine. In other words, gender equality maintains and perpetuates sexuate inequality, and the symbolic non-existence and non-recognition of woman as autonomously (and relationally) defined female subject. And so I believe it is not only misdirected, but also dangerous to the natural world, to call for gender equality as a means to global sustainability. The two are contradictory, for the more equality we achieve, the more we consume and the less satisfied we feel, as evidenced by the mass medication of the western world for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders etc.
So these are my thoughts, and thank you for the opportunity to express them...very best wishes,
PhD Candidate, University of Auckland, New Zealand
27 August 2011
I could not resist the temptation, so I went ahead to take a look at the piece on gender balance and energy balance.
I like the parallelism. I think it works well. The article expresses the urgency with which we need to reach gender balance very compellingly. Great stuff! I chuckled when I read the Plato quote because it is one I also used....I would like very much to have known Plato.
It is imperative that the world's dominant religions get onto a more positive path, one that works energetically to foster gender balance and that unreservedly and consistently opposes war. Getting them to do that is about as hard as getting people to seriously embrace a campaign to abolish war. But my feeling is that the religions need to either get with the program, or get out of the way so to speak. If they don't, they are supporting seriously maladaptive thinking. So hang in there! What you are doing, working to change the mind-set in the religious community to which you belong, is wonderful and important.
BTW - I am now in the post-production stage of a video of my lecture, "No More War: the Human Potential for Peace." I intend to make it readily available on the internet for a small fee. I think you will find it very very interesting. I'll keep you posted.
Judith L. Hand
19 August 2011
Having read The Pelican Web with interest, I thought you might be interested in my latest book, Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting. Here is Macmillan's page with some of the early comments, under "Praise":
The Sierra Club reviewer recently wrote: "Both critically and artfully, Nichols explores how our conceptions of nature have derived from Enlightenment-era ideas (humans and nature are separate) and Romantic poetry (humans and nature are connected). Relying heavily on poetic examples, Nichols also envisions an "urbanatural" future in which we see ourselves as part of the earth, but without a sense of atavism or regression, and how our environments will shift accordingly."
Another reviewer said: "Nichols offers a subtle, but significant new way of understanding many of the central debates in the nineteenth century, most notably around evolution, species, and extinction, and how they relate to pressing global concerns. . . . He gives us a new look at the most canonical authors of Romantic ecocriticism, from Thoreau and Wordsworth to Annie Dillard, and to one of its most cherished formal movements, the retreat to the woods. In the process, his wide-ranging knowledge of nineteenth-century natural history and the turn from "anthropomorphism" to "ecomorphism" produce readings of canonical works [. . . that] have the elusive quality of appearing at once genuinely new and almost intuitively true." See http://www.ncgsjournal.com/issue72/taylor.htm
I am sure that Macmillan will send you a review copy if they have not done so already. Let me know what else you may need to know.
Best wishes for the continued success of the Pelican!
B. Ashton Nichols
Walter E. Beach Distinguished Chair in Sustainability Studies
Professor of Language and Literature, Department of English
Dickinson College, firstname.lastname@example.org
22 July 2011
I am incredibly impressed with a cursory review of your journal and website. May I add you to our monthly email (free)? In general our own efforts at the Center for Ecozoic Societies (CES) may be summed up as follows:
The tagline or motto is "Seeking well-being in all life communities . . ."
What is "ecozoic"? "Ecozoic" means community of life. It refers to mutually enhancing relations among humans and the larger community of life in an ecological age. It also represents the promise of a new geo-biological era following the Cenozoic Era, the basic functioning of which is breaking down as a result of human decisions and activities.
What is the mission of CES? CES's mission is to advance ecozoic understandings and ways of living through publishing, education, art and action.
The premise for the work of CES is that we are in the midst of two great transitions: (i) a geo-biological change from the terminal Cenozoic Era to the emerging Ecozoic Era, and (ii) an historical change from industrial-economic societies to ecological-cultural societies. This premise creates a need to analyze these transitions, advance paradigms for new modes of human presence on Earth, support people in their journeys to the ecozoic, and take action to foster ecozoic societies.
What are the root problems CES seeks to address? The root problems CES seeks to address are inadequate understandings of
1. The nature of the world in which we live—the world is not a collection of objects for use, rather it is a co-evolving community of interdependent subjects.
2. The meaning of our times—our historical journey has brought us to a time that involves change not just in human affairs, but in the geo-biological functioning of Earth. The Great Work of our times is to move consciously into the Ecozoic Era.
3. The life-giving options for the future—we have the knowledge, technologies, traditional wisdoms and visions needed.
4. The processes of individual and social change leading to the ecozoic—change comes through awareness, acceptance, interiorization, understanding, vision and action.
In other words, CES is concerned with the nature of the world, the meaning of the times, life-giving options for the future, and the processes of change to bring about an ecozoic future.
We will certainly let our network know of your publication and other resources. I have a colleague who is working on an "ecozoic university" project whom I think will be very interested in your work . . . as well as others. We are also doing a journal online. I would be interested in the software you use to post your journal online. If there is a simple answer to this, please send it to me. Our website is a Joomla site.
Center for Ecozoic Societies
12 July 2011
I'm grateful both for your willingness to publish "Shaping the Future" and your comments on it. I will have to wait until late August to respond because I leave next week for a month-long trip abroad and am swamped with tying up loose ends. The trip highlight will be speaking at the International Humanist Congress in Oslo, my subject being "No More War: the Human Potential for Peace." When I return I'll look into shortening and editing "Shaping the Future."
I do want to make one important response right away, though. It relates to the central focus—the unique focus—of my work and why I use the phrase "prevention of war." I do not write as a pacifist or from a faith or utopian perspective. My expertise is in behavioral and evolutionary biology. Specifically, my areas of expertise are in communication, conflict resolution, and gender differences. It is from that perspective as a scientist that I address the issue of war. I speak and write about why we make war, on our potential to end war, and what it would take to do such a great feat. To my knowledge there is no one else with my set of credentials who addresses these issues related to one of our greatest evils.
I am keenly, even painfully, aware that the vast majority of global citizens do NOT believe this is possible. They live in the embrace of the paradigm "We have always made war, and we will always make war." Someone who has solid biological credentials needs to start saying, "That belief is not true." That person is me.
I am either cutting edge (a leader) or way way ahead of my time (a visionary). In either case, I know that what I say evokes immediate and strong skepticism. It can't be avoided. And most importantly, I should not avoid it. I must continue to say it in as many venues as I can as long as I'm able. I do this fully aware that it makes my road to acceptance more difficult. Others can and are saying we need to foster nonviolence. They are warmly acknowledged and presumably I could be as well. But there is nothing unique I can add to that point.
My calling, if you will, is to plant the seed of the possibility that we CAN change—really, deeply, and profoundly change—the course of human history and create a less violent future if we decide to do it. If you will, a future of peace. And a true future of peace will require of us that we put an end to war. It is a fact of human nature that if we don't believe we can do something, then we can't do it. I am working to change belief…
All of this is a long way to explain why I will continue to call FACE ("For All Children Everywhere") a partnership for nonviolence and the prevention of war. I do so always with the hope that as they read, at least some of the thoughtful readers will see a light go on in their minds and this concept will take hold.
FACE—For All Children Everywhere
A Future Without War ~ http://www.afww.org/
5 July 2011
About the "People's Agreement," I am certain that if you cite the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (PWCCC) and link to the People's Agreement web site, then you can republish the declaration at will. Most of the PWCCC organizations support the copyleft publication agreement and as such you should not need to ask for permission to republish. They would probably like you to send them a link of the publication afterwards. Use the contact form here.
I agree about idolatry. We don't need to replace one expansionist religion which did not play well with nature with another especially if it might lead to more war and more damage to the environment. That said, somehow we need to reallign our economic systems to come to a reasonable balance with what remains of the natural world. Taxation is an important step to curtail the profit motive (and lack of subsidies, which amounts to the same thing) but a rethinking of our priorities is also important. Doen't have to be religious but I think it is spiritual.
That is why I liked the simple logic of "Living Well" presented in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2011 as an alternative to "Living Better (than others)". Living Well is human community solidarity with respect for nature. It is a tribal concept across the planet which is as old as the hills. This clashes with the modern notion of global competitiveness when it comes to non-renewable resources. "Living Well" was the central argument presented in the Rights of Mother Nature conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 2010. In Quetchua, the language of the Inca, Living Well is "Sumak Kawsey". It is similar to the German concept of "Wohl zu leben" (a kind of integral balance to live in harmon with oneself and the environment). We now know reaching a balance soon is not just desirable, it is essential for us and many other species to survive.
Project Allende is a project of mine which began in 2003 with a two year drive of discovery from California to Tierra del Fuego, then many years of study here in the University of Buenos Aires on regionalism and about five years working on the issue of environmentalism. As to the Rights of Mother Earth issue, I was there in Cochabamba and worked in the working group called "structural causes" and I now manage a Website for those people interested in the theme in Argentina called Cochabamba 2010 where you may find some stuff which could be reprinted (it is mostly in Spanish). Also at Densidad Regional you will find some stuff in English. If anything is of interest maybe I can help with translations or interpretations too.
Tony Phillips, Project Allende
Movimiento Mundial de los Pueblos por la Defensa de la Madre Tierra
Buenos Aires, Argentina ~ http://cochabamba.org.ar
27 June 2011
I would like to inform you that I have defended my PhD thesis two weeks ago, which is titled Simulating Energy Transitions. The press release can be found
Have you ever wanted to know whether a CO2 tax outperforms the EU emissions trading scheme? Or how long it really takes markets to change and to let consumers choose differently? In this book, Emile Chappin explores simulation models to provide us with answers before policy interventions are implemented and shows that, by developing agent-based models, we can simulate energy transition.
Learn about a new framework that enables us to model energy infrastructure systems as complex socio-technical systems, which evolve as a result of distributed decision making by actors in the system. See how running agent-based models let the system structure and dynamics emerge from the interactions between actors and technologies. Understand how actors, who decide on operation and investment, are responsive to policy interventions, market rules, and technological development. Find out from simulations of the electricity production sector, the LNG market, and consumer lighting that interventions in these energy systems do alter their evolution – they invoke structural, systemic change: transition.
This thesis thus demonstrates that agent-based models yield a powerful tool for governments and companies: they allow them to assess the long-term effect of their policies and strategies in our complex, interconnected world.
The thesis can be downloaded for free here. In case you're interested, also the formal defense including the Dutch informal introduction is online here. In case you would like to know more about the research and/or receive a hardcopy, please let me know!
With kind regards,
Dr. Emile Chappin
Post-doctoral researcher, Delft University of Technology
E.J.L.Chappin@tudelft.nl ~ http://www.chappin.com
22 May 2011
I would very much like to be a part of any serious effort devoted to demonstrating that the progressive ideas of Henry George (and Tom Paine) remain as yet relatively unused treasures intended for the true benefit and well being of all humanity. I am further satisfied that both Henry and Tom were well aware that potential progress can and will be realized by acknowledging and employing whatever positive physical and intellectual developments have taken place so far since their work. In Henry's time, and certainly before, essentially all wealth was represented by land, and what all came from it. The only basically different form of "wealth" at that time, which remains today in more subtle forms, was and is slavery.
A generalized, universally guaranteed personal income addresses and minimizes the existence and intensity of slavery. And a generalized, universally applicable personal wealth tax, and now maximum allowable personal wealth limit, can guarantee universal distribution of the potential wealth derived from land and all its productive properties, maximizing the magnitude of nature's blessings for all humanity. In a meaningful democracy, this lowest bound on acceptable intensity of involuntary personal slavery and acceptable upper bound on personal material wealth would be established and maintained democratically.
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies
13 April 2011
I enjoyed two of the readings very much - the one about the founding of the Bahai religion, which I really knew nothing about - and the teachings of the Bahai around equality of men and women, which I appreciate very much.
I also read the one by Richard Newman on "Why I am a pro-feminist man." I found this to be an amazingly open and honest article by a man who had experienced sexual abuse as a young boy, and who found comfort in his alignment with the feminist movement, as a result - and at the same time, recognizing his "privileged" position as a man in this culture, expected to be the dominator of women, and not aligning with that emotionally.
I found both articles excellent, and both expanded my awareness of the need for our achieving egalitarianism - seeing both men and women as equal and treating them with great respect as whole people, not just as bodies to be conquered and dominated.
Pace University, Pleasantville, NY
14 March 2011
In response to your question about transitioning from Homo Economicus to Homo Ecologicus, I would highly recommend reading up on 19th century economist and social philosopher Henry George. A good place to start would be http://henrygeorge.org/ and reading his book, Progress and Poverty, which can be read on this website in an abridged format http://www.henrygeorge.org/bearings.htm
In exploring the question, "Why does poverty persist in the midst of progress?", George concluded, (through a very keen analysis), that ultimately the problem was rooted in the oligopolization of land, and that problem is what ultimately had to be resolved.
Some brief definitions are needed here. George based his analysis on the three factors of production: land, labor, and capital. Labor refers to human effort that goes into production, whether it be mental or physical. The difference between land and capital simply lies in their different functional relationships to labor: capital refers to all physical factors of production that are a product of human labor, (e.g., tools, buildings, inventory, etc.); land refers to all physical factors of production that are not a product of human labor, (i.e., spatial-locations and natural resources).
George's solution was simple: shift all taxes to a single tax on land, which refers to spatial-locations, (which would exclude buildings and improvements), and natural resources. His book spawned a significant international movement that lasted well into the early twentieth century. Notable proponents included Winston Chamberlain, Leo Tolstoy, and Mark Twain, amongst many others, (Albert Einstein was impressed with george, as well).
Now George's purpose was to address the issue of poverty. However, his analysis is just as applicable to environmental issues, as well. For if all taxes fell only on spatial-locations and natural resources, then the economic incentive would be to use as little land (including natural resources) as efficiently as possible.
Some simple examples: use of natural growth trees, (which would fall under "land"), would be fully taxed, but planted trees would not get a dime of tax, since this would be an example of "capital", (planted-trees are a product of human labor).
Most of our current energy resources would be taxed because they are typically natural resources, (e.g., oil, coal, natural gas, and so forth). Green technologies, however, tend to fall under capital since they tend to be products of human labor. So shifting taxes to natural resources and off of capital would put green technologies on a much more level playing field with natural resources.
In short, you effectively punish the behavior you tax. If you tax land, (which would include natural resources), you punish waste and inefficient use of land and natural resources. (Note how this would also create more incentive to recycle).
I talk about this a bit more in an essay that I wrote a couple of years ago. You can read it at http://newsflavor.com/opinions/georgism-and-the-single-tax-on-land-why-a-130-year-old-idea-is-still-relevant-today/
13 March 2011
Dear colleagues, friends,
I have looked at the papers in the current issue of the referenced journal [Mother Pelican], and am distressed to say that I firmly believe the papers miss one central point: a better, more sophisticated focus on the opposition to change, attention to the defenses it raises. I further believe that a behavioral framework is totally inadequate,
Current contentious public debates about global warming strongly exemplify the main point I argued in Averting Global Extinction (Jason Aronson, 2009): The opposition to giving the survival of the earth and its creatures the top priority it warrants is ubiquitous, resilient, apparently virtually immune to change via reasoned arguments and overwhelming scientific proof – and effective. (Why it is so effective is another matter.) Opponents to earth-saving moves have blocked serious ameliorative efforts, weakened and trivialized legislation, successfully distorted the facts, and so on. (Prime examples are Sarah Palin's continual ravings against scientific findings on global warming, labeling them "snake oil"; the House Republicans' efforts to "repeal the EPA's scientific findings" – I hope they don't vote to repeal Newton's laws, or quantum theory, next.) While on the face of it the nature and motivations of the opposition might seem obvious, I have argued that actually the roots are complex, puzzling, irrational – and highly pathological. Almost by definition, being opposed to dealing with the constellation of obviously disastrous, catastrophic looming dangers must in part reflect a serious failure to perceive and address reality; given that threatening reality, it is insane, in the deepest sense of the word, to be indifferent to it, to collude with the possibility of waging nuclear war, to be focused on corporate profits, growth, even on jobs, to thwart efforts to limit the population explosion, and so on.
The opponents' activities certainly are highly visible and widely recognized. They also are widely seen as adequately understood (they just reflect greed, political ambition, dogma, etc.) and dealt with. It is taken for granted that the usual commonsense countermeasures (e.g., using rational arguments and education, persuasion, presenting facts and expert scientific and technological supporting testimony) are adequate and appropriate. Actually, when one appreciates the complex, obscure dynamics that underlie this opposition phenomenon it becomes clear that the current standard ways of dealing with it are superficial, inane, simplistic, misconceived, and therefore seriously inadequate, as strongly suggested by the history of the past decades of failures to reverse our disastrous trajectory. (Remember that Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962!)
Then there is the matter of priorities. The obstructionist activities are widely seen as raising only peripheral, secondary problems – they are put almost in the nuisance category. The supposedly "real", supposedly fundamental problems are the various noxious, tangible, familiar material phenomena – global warming, pollution, missile threats, nuclear and chemical warfare, species extinction, explosive population growth, etc. Addressing these using familiar, conventional, heavily scientific-technological approaches is given top priority.
Against this view, I maintain that the pathological opposition to critically needed changes constitutes a core problem that is logically prior to these kinds of obvious problems. I maintain that until this opposition has been adequately addressed and mitigated, the usual strategies to save the earth and its inhabitants will not succeed – a point supported again by the history of the past 50 years, and also implied by a century of accumulated experience gained in dealing with irrational, pathological defenses and resistances in individuals. Almost certainly, any successes will be only temporary, more than likely to be followed and reversed by a severe backlash. On the other hand, we have already had rare examples of instances where there has not been any significant irrational opposition, and where communities have been able to take effective action.
I submit that where there is consensus and minimal pathological opposition, sanity and reality can prevail. Priorities become clear. A constructive start can be made; solutions can be found; one is willing to pay the price since reality clearly says it must be paid, no matter what it is; one stops arguing about how much effort and resources one is willing to expend, or where they should be allocated.
In sum: appropriately and effectively dealing with the defensive, pathologically driven opposition merits top priority and unusual responses. (That is not to suggest that we stop all other kinds of ameliorative efforts. However, one does need to be highly circumspect about identifying and pursuing commonsensical "solutions" – see Joel Kovel's The Enemy of Nature.) In order to deal with this irrational phenomenon properly, quite different, counterintuitive countermeasures would seem to be called for.
How, then, should we proceed? Do we really need to wait for global catastrophes before the opposition will dwindle? I hope not. What approaches can be developed to match the strange irrational nature of the problem, its pathological roots? That is the reason for this mailing. I am inviting you to think creatively and effectively about this. For me, an obvious first step is to make the nature and actual consequences of the pathological oppositions widely visible, to describe their roots appropriately and to call attention to their central role. (Note that this is not the same as, for example, the usual response of challenging and debating the opponents on facts about global warming.) That step – identifying this underestimated and largely overlooked problem, and indicating the opposition's dominant impact – should take precedence over other, more conventional problem-solving steps. (Actually, it is a problem-solving step: the first step in addressing and defusing the irrational pathology.) I tried to take that step in writing the 2009 book, but the work seems to have fallen into a black hole, perhaps predictably so. How to do that remains an issue. The book also gave an example of the next step that was derived from a century of clinical experience gained in dealing with analogous irrational resistances and defenses in individuals.
At any rate, I submit that reality tells us plainly there simply is no other issue – personal, professional, political, economic, moral, etc. – that warrants higher priority. If the globe goes, so do we all, of course. This mailing, then, is part of my continuing effort to make the problem visible and stimulate useful, appropriate actions. I hope you will seek viable approaches, find some, and implement them. Thanks.
27 February 2011
The crucial, elementary step is to recognize that our aims are almost bound, at some point, to be problematic. That is, what we seek is undesirable (because it conflicts with other desirable aims, or because it brings with it unanticipated things that are undesirable), or unrealizable - or both. Furthermore, we need to be ready to acknowledge that our declared aim is not the same as the real aim of our actions.
Once these elementary points have been appreciated, it follows at once that the whole domain of aims - especially fundamental aims - needs to be subjected to sustained imaginative and critical exploration. Is what we say we are pursuing really what we are pursuing? What do others - those outside our endeavour - say about what our aims are? Why are we pursuing the aims we are pursuing - historical "why" and rationalistic "why"? What undesirable consequences might come from realizing our aim? How might the aim be improved? What other possible aims are there, and how do they compare with each other, and with the aim we are pursuing?
This activity of imaginative and critical aim-exploration needs to go on within the framework of aim-oriented rationality. It is designed specifically to facilitate the improvement of aims and methods as we act, as we live. But no one is interested. The most direct application is to science. Scientists are not interested.
You ask: how can we be rational about choosing aims we are not conscious of? How can we be rational about what we do not anticipate? My answer: What reason requires is that we anticipate that our aims are likely to be problematic, undesirable in certain respects, and so actively explore what we seek for misrepresentations, for discrepancies between what we say and what we do, for as yet unforeseen undesirable consequences. We actively try to be more honest about what are aims actually are, and we actively seek out problematic aspects of our aims, and search for ways of improving our aims.
Your question might be compared to someone who asks: How can we be rational about what we do not know? The answer: reason requires that we seek to improve (relevant) knowledge.
That you, an intelligent person, ask the questions that you do ask is an indication of how dumb our culture is when it comes to improving aims. As Einstein said "Perfection of means and confusion of goals seems, to my opinion, to characterize our age." And there is a very good reason for it. It is not just that we have failed to put aim-oriented rationality into practice. It is not just that we have failed even to see the need to do this. We have not yet even got the elementary idea of aim-oriented rationality (despite my four decades of trying to get the idea across). Current conceptions of reason are all about means, not about ends: hence the world that Einstein noted - which has got much worse since his day.
I have attached two recent articles spelling out where aim-oriented rationality comes from, and why it is needed - although the full story goes back to my From Knowledge to Wisdom first published long ago in 1984 (and the first exposition goes back even further, to 1972, 1974 and 1976). It is, to me, quite extraordinary that my work has been so massively ignored for so long. When first published, From Knowledge to Wisdom received many glowing reviews. But the book had no real lasting impact.
25 February 2011
We need to build into our institutions - industrial, commercial, financial, political, international, etc - the hierarchical structure of aims and methods that I have discussed at some length in my writings because this is what we require to enable us to improve aims, something we need to do when they are problematic, as they will almost inevitably be at some point. By "aim" I do not necessarily mean what we are conscious of. The "aim" of an endeavour - economic activity for example - is what it is designed to achieve in the given environment, whether we are aware of it or not. Thus a part of the aim of economic activity is global warming, even though this was not consciously intended. A part of the aim of the banking industry before 2007 was financial crisis - even though this was not consciously intended.
Because current orthodox conception of rationality are all about means, and leave ends beyond the scope of reason, we have not even adequately understood the need to subject our aims to sustained critical scrutiny, to the imaginative development of modifications and alternatives, in an attempt to improve them when they turn out to be problematic. Critics of current aims, ends, ideals, are not listened to, and are not acted on. This was very strikingly the case in connection with the banking crisis. A number of individuals around the world warned of impending disaster: they were ignored. Those few bankers who warned of disaster lost their jobs.
What is so shocking is that we have not just failed to build aim-oriented rationality into our lives, institutions and social order; we have not even conceived of the vital need to do this. Even worse, we have not even yet arrived at the conception of aim-oriented rationality. As I said, despite my four decade attempt to get the idea afloat, current orthodox conceptions of reason are all about means, not about ends. A sketch of my argument is to be found in my article "Can The World Learn Wisdom?", Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence, vol. 3, no. 4, April 2007. It is spelled out in more detail at
and in more detail still in my "From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the Humanities" (Blackwell, 1984; 2nd ed., Pentire Press, 2007).
11 January 2011
Thank you for your efforts. Unfortunately, the Earth System has already
tipped too far for simple recovery. A change in human behaviour and
lifestyle is not going to make much difference on the short timescale we
have to put the planet back on course. There is already too much CO2 in
the atmosphere, the Arctic is warming dramatically, and the Amazon
rainforest is at risk from drought, die-off and burn.
One can argue that human stupidity has caused us to get into this
crisis. But the danger is that human stupidity will prevent the human
race from getting out of the crisis. The stupidity I see now is that we
are not doing the things necessary to keep the planet into a hospitable
state for enjoyment by future generations. These necessary things
include deliberate intervention in the climate system. Now most
environmentalists still think of such intervention as "tinkering" or
"fixing" or even "playing God". However I'm afraid we have no choice. If
we'd laid off CO2 emissions 50 years ago, all would be well. But now
there is enough CO2 in the atmosphere to cause global warming to
continue for centuries and ocean acidification to threaten marine life.
Global warming has already caused unexpectedly rapid warming in the Arctic. The Arctic summer sea ice could disappear within a few years, allowing Arctic temperatures to rise even faster, threatening both the discharge of massive quantities of methane from permafrost and the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet. The only conceivable way of stopping such potential catastrophes is through geoengineering ("solar radiation management") to cool the Arctic.
Thus our society has a stark choice: intervene in the climate system or
risk the future of mankind on this planet. Will we make the sensible
decision? Will we make the sensible decision in time? I doubt it, if we
continue to believe that the crisis can be solved without
geoengineering, or that there isn't a crisis!