Abandonment of the parasitic Paradigm of Growth
Toward a Post-Growth Gaia-centric Paradigm
Governance by Natural Processes (GNP)
Autonomous Interdependent Regional Global Networks that:
blend Science, Nature, Human-Nature
into a dynamic viable sociopolitical economy
that can serve human-kind today,
while preserving our natural world
for future generations to experience
the joy of life within nature.
The Triad of Human Interest – A dynamic system
Energy time and mass are components of the billion year old universe. The central mass in this triangle is planet earth with energy flowing in from our sun. From a spark of life the intricate world of Gaian ecology evolved. This evolutionary process produced humans with our specific human nature and belief systems. The Gaian systems of life changed the appearance of our planet as seen from space, where our small home planet now looks like …. A Small Blue Dot
For the Ancient Greeks, Gaia was the supreme goddess, the universal mother who nourishes all that exists. Her majesty was acknowledged by the gods as well as by men. It was she whom the gods invoked in their proclamations. In Homer’s Iliad, Hera tells Zeus, “I swear by Gaia and the vast sky above her.”
We begin the new story with The Triad of Human Interest. Since there is a vast amount of information in books and internet about all of the items named in figure one, and many readers will be far more knowledgeable about some of the issues than this writer, most comment below will be extremely brief. A few subjects will have more detail because they are not often part of the conversation about population, economics, politics, ownership of the commons etc.
ENERGY TIME MASS – the center of everything
We are told the big bang was the start of things very long ago. In our resulting galaxy, planet Earth is one of several planets orbiting around a star we call the Sun. When energy is tightly imbedded within matter we refer to the result as mass.
Energy is the primary driver of all living things. The Inca civilizations of South America worshiped the Sun as their primary god. It is most unfortunate that such reverence for our source of life is missing in today’s dominant societies, religions and cultures.
Energy flows and issues will be discussed from time to time through this text because energy is at the heart of all biological nature, including human activity. Within this text the term, renewable energy, will not be used. It is a misnomer because the first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed – and it cannot be renewed. Instead we use the term, ‘flow energy’ [GL]. We simply capture energy from nature’s energy flows and it is therefore replenish-able. Sun, wind, geothermal, tidal are examples of flow-energy available to us. Biomass is also a renewing flow-energy when harvested within sustainable rates. (After paradigm change, regional capture of flow-energy will become a cornerstone component of regional wealth in the dynamic commodity-based monetary system.)
Gaia, Sunshine, Photosynthesis, CO2 and Heat
(Extreme paraphrase of Lovelock’s ’88 book, Ages Of Gaia)
Gaia is the mythical embodiment of animal, vegetable and mineral as a living system. Gaia was born out of reactions between energy, time and mass. James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis explains how, from a spark of microscopic life, this entity evolved into cyanobacteria which relished the largely carbon dioxide atmosphere of Earth, at that time. Carbon dioxide was the food/energy source for cyanobacteria. While they dined on CO2 their excretion was oxygen. Over time their populations grew and grew and grew until their oxygen pollutant became the dominant atmosphere of earth. After a period of overshoot and dieoff, their reduced population levels came into dynamic balance between their energy/food – CO2, and their polluted oxygen-intense atmosphere. Through magic-like evolutionary natural forces, oxygen-friendly variations of bacteria and cells evolved into various species as described by Darwin. From these early forms of life came the multitude of species – the insects, the fish, the birds and mammals – including us.
The Carbon Dioxide Issue
The rapid population growth to worldwide coverage by the tiny cyanobacteria eventually changed the energy-in/energy-out dynamic balance of Earth’s atmosphere at that time. They changed it from a primary CO2 atmosphere toward the mostly nitrogen (~78%) and oxygen (~20%) and C02 >1%) atmosphere we have enjoyed for the past few hundred thousand years of the human journey. As CO2 diminished, the earth cooled and the vast seas of cyanobacteria died off. The cooler oxygen-rich atmosphere enabled evolutionary forces to create the current catalogue of Gaian species.
One key point of interest in today’s human-predicament is that the energy from the sun arrives in the form of very short wavelengths, a spectrum range that includes visible light. This light is reflected off ozone, cloud, ice and other reflective surfaces, causing ~30% of the energy reaching Earth to be reflected back to space. The rest is absorbed into the dynamic processes of Gaian earthly functions such as plant growth and heat.
Geological churning and shifting of the earth’s crust over millions of years buried much of the carbon-rich biological material, and this process helped stabilize the oxygen/CO2 balance. These ancient biological materials eventually became the energy rich fossil fuels that we discovered about 500 years ago. This niche source of energy enabled humans to begin the era of exponential growth in human-activity.
But returning these millions of years of ‘captured carbon’ into the atmosphere creates a problem today.
For most of the energy wavelengths from the sun, CO2 is transparent, therefore changes to CO2 content in the atmosphere do not affect the amount of energy Earth receives. Earth’s heat energy radiated out, however, is a different story. Fig. 1 mentions ‘dynamic regulation’ associated with energy out. This is because CO2 in the atmosphere represents a barrier to the long waves of heat radiation. Therefore, as CO2 increases in the atmosphere it acts as a regulator (valve) that impedes heat escaping to space. Humans’ use of fossil fuels for a few centuries has taken much of the stored carbon from millions of years of photosynthesis in plant growth and dumped it back into the atmosphere. This is what global warming is about. We call it Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGM) because it is we humans who release the CO2.
HUMAN NATURE - Triangle bottom left
Most of the categories listed apply both to individuals, and to groups of people. The descriptions below simply give cursory snippets of the subject matter. When browsing these categories, it may be useful to consider – The 80/20 guideline. [GL]
When stating that under these circumstances, people will do that, generally, the 80/20 rules suggests that only 80% will do that, and the remaining 20% will not do that. However, the dividing line is fuzzy with sometimes a wide range of overlapping views. It might be 99% to 1% on some characteristics. It applies to both physical and mental characteristics.
It seems there is a wide variety of views about the source and power of the human spirit.
(Personal note) My early journey through life started in a loving Catholic family where all things spiritual were related to the Catholic Deity as defined by the local priest via handed-down doctrine. This understanding remained long after my departure from religion. I gave little thought to spirituality for many years. One day, at a Gaia Preservation Coalition meeting, a woman suggested that I was a very spiritual person. I was flabbergasted, and did not know if I had been insulted or complimented. That led to reading more widely on philosophy and varying views expressed throughout the centuries. I learned that my concept of spirituality was wrong: at least it was wrong for me. However, I have many friends and respected acquaintances whose spirituality appears to be deity-based. This difference, however, does not necessarily affect the likelihood of their active participation in pursuit of paradigm change.
We need to clarify somewhat the nature of the human spirit as used in this context. One that matches my understanding is summarized in a1996 book by Daniel A Helminiak, The Human Core of Spirituality: Mind as Psyche and Spirit. From a list of excerpts, this paragraph summarized my view of the nature of spirituality:
This understanding transposes self-transcendence from some mysterious, mystical, metaphysical affair into an everyday occurrence, for self-transcendence occurs whenever people are aware, understand, judge, or make decisions. Hence, the spiritual is nothing unusual or esoteric. It is part of every human activity. It is essential to the human as such. This insistence is simply a reiteration of a main theme of this book.
Helminiak suggests the concept of spirituality has no agreed definition but may include such ideas as, higher consciousness, transcendence, enlightenment, self-reliance, self-actualization, mysticism, community, bonding and love. He also gives the views of others such as Carl Jung, where, “Spirituality gives access to your divine unconscious”, or the thoughts of Black Elk, a Sioux spiritual leader, who suggests that individuals should Embrace Mother Earth Spiritually, or Embrace Gaia Spiritually.
The human ability to reason and to communicate complex thoughts, orally and in written form, has enabled us to accumulate a great deal of compound learning. It can be thought of as compounding because of development bit by bit over centuries, each layer preparing the ground for further exploration and learning. When a new invention is made, in most cases, it would not be possible without the accumulated pool of public knowledge that came before it.
The Cassandra Syndrome
To date, our accumulated knowledge has done little to alter the paradigm that demands infinite economic growth. The most fundamental logic tells growing numbers of us that this is simply impossible. We can see the certainty of calamity that will ensue. Perhaps some of the Easter Islanders were wise enough to envision their dismal future too, but could not successfully communicate the need to change their paradigm. It is likely that throughout human history some individuals could envision disaster on their collective pathway into the future, but were unable to implement needed change. In Homer’s Odyssey, Hector’s sister, Cassandra, was blessed with foresight enabling her to see the future: But she had been given a curse so that no one would believe her. Today we refer to this dilemma as the
It seems that wisdom and knowledge alone have, as yet, been of little value in solving governance-related human predicaments or moving the larger herd toward acceptance of that which they do not wish to acknowledge. Perhaps if our great wealth of knowledge is blended together with our spirituality, we can come up with yet another version of Black Elk’s thought: Embrace Gaia Spiritually and use our Wisdom and Knowledge to protect Her!
Strongly held beliefs can be a great strength and motivator but can also be our Achilles heel. Before scientific enlightenment, beliefs to explain the many mysteries of life were passed from generation to generation. Some of these beliefs became institutionalized as fundamental tenets of religions. Time passes and sometimes one of these basic tenet beliefs is proven wrong. But it is now integrated into a hierarchical structure and is the basis for a long chain of logic and reasoning. The religion’s leaders may be unable or unwilling to change all that would be necessary to accommodate this changed basic tenet. They may simply deny the evidence indicating that their tenet is flawed and may accuse those who say otherwise of being heretics.
A recent article from the journal Science 2.0 titled, Beliefs about beliefs, starts with: “Belief systems are the stories we tell ourselves to define our personal sense of "reality". Every human being has a belief system that they utilize and it is through this mechanism that we individually, ‘make sense’ of the world around us.” It goes on to explain the difference between Faith-based beliefs and Evidence-based beliefs, and the occasional conflict between the two. Evidence-based beliefs, as you would expect, can be verified by scientific or mathematical means. Faith-based beliefs simply require a consensus of individuals who attest to the belief (that can never be proven right or wrong). A widespread conspiracy theory can become a faith-based belief.
And this ‘sacred belief’ issue is endemic to many institutionalized organizations that have difficulty changing founding tenets, especially if close to the heart of the organization’s core values. Today’s key sample of this is the quest for growth everlasting by our governments. Growth seemed to work fine from the beginning of the fossil fuel age until we noticed accelerating rates of Gaian biodiversity loss, global warming and the spectre of peak oil came into view. But the growth tenet had become entrenched – a sacred belief impervious to physical reality and the impossibility of continuance. In Canada and some other jurisdictions, the scientific messengers are treated as heretics and have their voices muzzled in various ways. This issue was publicized in the March 2012 release of the prestigious UK journal Science. The writer demands that Canada’s Harper government, free the scientists.
This label is given to our ability to comfortably compartmentalize and time-share conflicting beliefs, where both beliefs are important to us, yet we are unable to resolve the conflict. This characteristic leads to the expression, compartmentalized mind. Someone may remark, Yes, I’m of two minds on that issue.
Here are some thoughts on issue-avoidance by Daniel Goleman, psychologist:
There is an almost gravitational pull toward putting out of mind unpleasant facts. And our collective ability to face painful facts is no greater than our personal one. We tune out, we turn away, we avoid. Finally we forget, and forget we have forgotten. A lacuna hides the harsh truth.
In avoidance we simply find ways to avoid having to face uncomfortable situations: There is an inhibition, or taboo against thinking about or discussing certain issues that may lead to increased anxiety or uncertainty. At the personal level, avoidance is sometimes an outcome of an addiction or abusive relationship. Or it can be about personal financial matters as in the example of Fatalist Denial [GL], describing a couple who silently and mutually agreed not to deal with their seemingly un-resolvable financial situation. This quotation from E.O. Wilson, from The Diversity of Life, 1992, refers to another much-avoided subject, sometimes referred to as the elephant in the living room:
The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct. To say, as many do, that the difficulties of nations are not due to people but to poor ideology and land-use management is sophistic.
But there is another elephant that is avoided with even more silence than the sensitive population issue. It is the significant corporate control of the issuance of US money. Back in 1860, Thomas Jefferson warned:
If the American people ever allow the banks to control the issuance of the currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property, until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power of money should be taken from banks and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs. I sincerely believe the banking institutions having the issuing power of money, are more dangerous to liberty than standing armies.
Jefferson’s warning was not heeded. Since then, a few wise political leaders have recognized the problem but they have not fixed it. As warned by Jefferson, several writers now state that we have entered a state of tyranny by such people as political science professor Sheldon Wallin. The chapter titled Money-Corporations-Politics hopes to makes it clear that our political leaders, are not actually in charge of our financial system. Resolution of the human-predicament cannot be made without dealing with this vital area now avoided, perhaps because it appears to be too big to fix.
Psychologists tell us addiction is fundamentally an escape from reality, a temporary avoidance of anxiety. Some of the behavioural aberrations of an addict are an exaggeration of characteristics within all of us; for example, denial is a major element that enables the addict to believe anything necessary to sustain his or her addiction. In his ’79 book, Mind and Nature, Gregory Bateson uses Adaption and Addiction as the heading of one chapter. His reason for relating the two subjects is to show that evolution should not be considered a totally successful process because there are sometimes disastrous results, and there are many borderline cases. It should not be surprising to realize that over 99% of all species that have ever evolved are now extinct. The human characteristic that gives us a propensity toward self-comfort, and need for a feeling of well-being whether illusionary or real, is cited by Bateson as a human weakness which could drop us into that 99% category. The elements of human nature mentioned next are often used in association with addiction.
From the indiscernible beginnings of addiction until a specific emotional event – or death – the addicted may deny the addiction, regardless of evidence that would be conclusive to anyone else. Such evidence can include any combination of: a broken car, a broken home, a broken career, broken health, or just plain feeling broke. To suggest to the individual that s/he may be addicted will usually result in some level of hostility toward the accuser.
Denial is a form of delusion which can sometimes become contagious. Those who are close to an addict may begin to deny the existence of the addiction too. The exact reasons are as varied as people but are generally related to the following example. A spouse is alcoholic. The mate accuses the spouse of poor behaviour and suggests s/he has an addiction problem. But it is denied, generally leading to hostility leading to high anxiety for everybody in the family. After a few replays, the wife/husband will not mention it. If a child suggests an alcoholic problem, either parent will chastise the child; all to prevent a dreaded peak in anxiety caused by denial and hostility. Soon they all pretend there is no problem. But a subtle anxiety level begins to creep into the family. Excuses will be made by the family similar to the excuses made by the addict. And the ring of denial grows among all closely associated with the addict. A form of madness has taken over all involved, states Goleman. While many recovering addicts use Alcoholics Anonymous Association (AAA) to help deal with their affliction, the Al-Anon group exists to help those close to an addict escape the madness that Goleman refers to.
Bottoming Out (an emotional event at the end of denial – similar to an epiphany):
This is one of many expressions describing the point at which an individual finally admits he/she is powerless over the substance or the behavioural pattern. The addict admits the problem is beyond normal self-control. Despair combined with faint-hope are necessary ingredients before recovery can occur. When denial ends, recovery becomes possible. Without bottoming-out, death or destitution usually follows.
One chapter in Al Gore’s book, Earth In The Balance, has the title 'Dysfunctional Civilization' wherein he draws comparisons between groups of citizens who deny the progression of Ecocide (), to families caught up in an addictive denial. Part of his text reads:
Many people seem to be largely oblivious of this collusion and the addictive nature of our unhealthy relationship to the earth. But education is a cure for those who lack knowledge; much more worrisome are those who will not acknowledge these destructive patterns. Indeed, many political, business, and intellectual leaders deny the existence of any such patterns in aggressive and dismissive tones. They serve as 'enablers', removing inconvenient obstacles and helping to ensure that the addictive behaviour continues.
Gore suggests, with regard to ecocide, society as a whole is like the addict, whereas individual citizens become dysfunctional because they love the addict and participate in the self-deception and group-think of their addicted society.
Both group denial and individual denial are a part of all of us to some degree. Individual irresponsibility is similar to the global ring of irresponsibility that causes world leaders, educators, economists and us, the electorate, to turn our minds away from Gaiacide and seek comfort in the company of other reality escapees (group-think). The first step toward recovery is private and public admission that elements of the seemingly intractable wicked problems that culminate in pursuit of growth take us far beyond sustainable limits. After that the 12 steps of The Gaia Principles may help.
Spread think [GL] While group think is a problem with leadership from the top, spread think is a problem with leadership from the bottom, such as in voting on policy or on a leader, especially when historic circumstances have changed. There is such a spread of cultures, ideas, beliefs and experience among individuals, that logical choice by “clear thinkers”, is quite unlikely to be the choice of voters because of the spread in ways of looking at things from each individual’s perspective. This diversity of views is also related to complexity overload and short term thinking. It often leads to outcomes not in the best interests of the collective voters. Spread think is one of many reasons that democracy seems to be inversely proportional to the size of the area governed – that is one of the reasons why, in the envisioned 050APC of Section 4, features relatively autonomous local Regions will hold the keys to all levels of governance. The Regions select the team of specialists at the United Regions that determine global governance policies. In his 2011 book, America Beyond Capitalism Gar Alperovitz argues that large continental states would be better governed if broken into smaller regional governments.
We all have a sphere of deep understanding, perhaps in several subject areas, but beyond these, we move from little understanding to none at all. For example we know how to get energy to a toaster that we plug-in, or to tank-up the car, but beyond that many of us have little understanding of the energy that makes things happen. The same idea applies to pharmaceuticals, or computers, or discussions on what determines interest rates. And in today’s world we feel that we don’t need to know, we have specialists for that. The danger associated with intertwined interdependent complex society was alluded to by Carl Sagan’s quote in the Preamble section.
Another danger of specialization is that our individual limited range of expertise leaves us vulnerable to false information from either individuals or from spin professionals funded by special interest groups to weave a web of disinformation casting doubt on factual data. For example, a few decades ago the direct link between smoking and cancer was clear to all who had studied the matter. Anti-smoking campaigns by medical institutes or governments were soon countered by professional spin specialists with paid advertisements casting doubt on science and encouraging smoking. The tobacco industry had been threatened by documented reality so they created and promoted their fake reality. Addicted smokers cherished the news that they didn’t have a problem: I just smoke because I enjoy it! Their smoking-is-good campaign prevented appropriate government regulation for many years costing untold numbers of lives.
Today, companies with vested interests pay professional spin agents to cast doubt in many areas to inhibit vitally needed social change. Climate change is one of these areas and the success of spin is partly due to the fact that it is discomforting to accept the extreme dangers presented by global warming. (Discussed further in Abstract Entities)
Short term thinking
The majority of individuals generally do not take the time, or do not have the opportunity to explore fields of interest other than their work, their family, sports and entertainment. With such limited scope, the more distant future is hazy and discounted. We protect today’s comfort zone. Cunning political campaigns are designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of understanding. They know that promises to keep taxes low are more appealing to the majority of voters than promises to take steps to ensure a viable future for their children.
Even the very nature of democracies, where every adult has the right to vote, appeals to short term solutions that are totally inadequate to deal with today’s dire issues. We have designed the tools that govern us to favour short-term over long-term, even though it is clear to any reasonably intelligent person that our current social heading leads into disaster.
Benevolence/Greed / Kindness/Indifference
Humans are known to be capable of all of these characteristics to some degree, sometimes. Within individuals the fuzzy line between greed and benevolence may change over time under different circumstances. A general guideline might be that as the circle of closeness (family, or friend) moves out to acquaintances or people unknown, kindness and generosity diminish with distance. “Greed is good”, has been a mantra of corporate governance, and is embraced by many when applied to economic gain. The greed motive appears to have no limits as apparently recognized by the 99% that became The Occupy movement of 2011.
As the 19th century historian and moralist Lord Acton succinctly stated: "Power corrupts: Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
ABSTRACT ENTITIES – Triangle bottom right
.. all institutions ..
Man makes many tools and uses them effectively in various fields of his activity,
but he is always exposing himself to the tyranny of the tools he has made.
The result is that he is no more master of himself,
but an abject slave to his surroundings,
and the worst thing is that he is not conscious of this fact.
This is especially noticeable in the realm of thought."
By Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Zen philosophical writer in 1949
The specific meaning of ‘abstract’ intended here is from Webster’s: Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept. We think of going to a bank, but actually we are just going to a building. With a few changes inside, this building could be a hospital, or hotel, or grocery store. The same applies to government offices or corporate headquarters. The point is that what happens inside is that we follow a human-invented, documented procedure with the agreement of enough people to enable a process that gets the intended function done. Money also is a human invention - with no physical existence except for a very small percentage as coins or bills - metal and paper. Even the relative value of currency is an abstract number based on a complexity of factors. The concept of Abstract Realities (AbReality) is described in the glossary:
Abstract Realities. Human-created systems of beliefs and agreed ways of doing things: constitutions, economies, religions, corporations, etc. In his ‘79 book, Mind and Nature, Gregory Bateson described in detail the meaning of Abstract Reality.
Bateson states that the AbReality process is a lateral extension of abstract components, and that all human organizations are the result of this process. Pillars of our society, such as the theatre, defence budgets, governments, sports or religions are all abstract entities. They do not exist naturally or materially but only in our minds. They are all convenient names for actions that we carry out. If suddenly all human action stopped, all of those AbRealities that we consider as real would cease to be apparent, except for the associated documentation and artefacts. But not all AbRealities are even documented. Many social norms are simply learned and handed down from generation to generation. When Carl Jung alluded to this line of thought he suggested that the individual is the carrier of the culture.
AbRealities have served humanity well. Archaeology shows evidence of complex social organizations in early humans in the forms of paintings, pottery and structures,. And yet all eventually collapsed. Today’s corporations, scientific institutes, and the governments within which they flourish, are the cornerstone AbRealities that made our energy-intensive high-tech civilization possible.
But there is a problem. The wisdom that guides these powerful institutes comes from humans. As illustrated in the previous section on human nature, both individuals and groups are rife with characteristics capable of causing very bad judgement in the control and direction of today’s powerful AbReality-based institutions. As Nietzsche succinctly stated, "Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule."
For several decades scientists have warned that excess human activity now erodes the Gaian foundations of life. These warnings have transformed into evidence apparent to anyone interested and willing to understand that the scientists’ warnings [GL] have been correct all along. And yet our powerful governments & corporations strive for the everlasting economic growth (HA) that simply cannot be.
You and I are part of the crew on Spaceship Earth. It is high-time for mutiny! Is it starting? According to data in the 2011 book, Economics Unmasked by Philip Smith & Manfred Max-Neef, there are over 300,000 grass roots organizations preparing for the end of the current corporate globalization. The book by Gar Alperovitz, mentioned above, points to thousands of localization initiatives including worker-owned companies. And it’s about time! Naomi Klein’s series of important books provide convincing details of how corporations now direct politics. Her latest book, This Changes Everything, bluntly points out that corporations are at war with our climate.
Mentioned above under Human Nature - Beliefs, is explained the difficulty for a large complex organization to change one of its core tenets, even when proven to be now toxic. They may even hire professional “spin” organizations to cast doubt on data that undermine the validity of their pillar tenet(s).
Shortly before the 1997 Kyoto Accord conference on climate change, hackers broke into IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) and claimed to have found data indicating the scientists had fudged data to make climate change appear worse than it was. This data was highly publicized to indicate the IPCC had fudged their data, including indications that human-caused climate change was a very real and serious issue. For many non-specialists, including politicians, this cast doubt and led to a weakening of the accord. As revealed later, the break-in was by a group of climate change-deniers funded by the Hartland Institute, a pro-growth US advocacy think-tank. This event was covered in a magazine article in The Monthly.
Growth-addicted governments found the spun data far more appealing than the ugly true scientific assessments. The betrayal of young generations is eloquently illustrated in a remarkable talk by a young lady, the final speaker at the 2011 climate change conference [R1].
And the ring of denial grows among all closely associated with the addict. A form of madness has taken over all involved. Daniel Goleman
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Chisholm is a Director of the Gaia Preservation Coalition. He is a retired Engineering Technologist whose career path dealt with dynamic systems, maintenance, design, management and quality assurance auditing, generally related to the aviation industry. The past thirty years have been spent studying human behaviours, energy, and other areas related to the human predicament. For his complete biography and contact information, click here.