TED Conversations

Stephen G. Davis

CEO, KnGrid


This conversation is closed.

Maintaining human civilization by focusing on the key challenges of our time: energy, food and resource depletion.

While the ominous threats of a changing climate have failed to prompt America or any other large economy to wake up from our consensus trance, there are other challenges equally as frightening and urgent: The certainty of increasingly costly fossil fuels and their impact on our banking system. Rising energy prices are taking their toll on the middle class already.

At the same time, we see a scramble by emerging economies to emulate America's suburban lifestyle. The problem is that America's perpetual growth model rely's on cheap energy to validate suburban home values. It is a problem that no politician can even discuss in today's hacked operating system for privately funded elections.

We must develop clear consensus about this problem. In order to avoid economic chaos, we need to chart an orderly course to a world that does not rely on ever increasing oil production and perpetual growth in consumption of all things.

We have an entire industry with formidable political clout that does not want this problem to even be acknowledged, let alone solved.

There are solutions:

1. More walkable and bike-able communities with local food production
2. Less Suburban sprawl which leads to stranded (and destroyed) wealth as liquid fossil fuel prices inevitably trend upward when daily production rates peak.
3. More emphasis on distributed energy generation with renewable sources combined with energy storage technology.
4. Developing less energy intensive farming techniques that don't rely on oil based fertilizers and pesticides. ("Perma-culture")

This transition will require decades. To avoid chaotic economic consequences, it needs to begin now. As T. Boone Pickens once asked "when's the best time to plant a tree? The answer is 20 years ago." Another salient comment from James Howard Kunstler: "No amount of renewable energy is going to allow us to continue running what we're running the way we're running it."

If this frightens you, it should.

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    Sep 14 2013: I think the key challenges of our time are completely different.

    Energy, food and resource depletion -> are not challenges at all. They are only consequences of the total ignorance and extremely low level of education.

    The key challenges are:
    (1) The education available to everybody and appropriate to the needs of the epoch. Nurturing an integral and systemic understanding of the society, sociotechnic and sociology, governance, economy, psychology, global historical process, religion, elements of mathematics; nurturing the constructive and methodological culture of cognition, thinking and communication.

    (2) Fulfillment of the appropriate maneuver towards the global society on principles of democracy (public sovereignty) and by that avoiding the third world war. This is a real challenge. The established practice and culture of diplomacy and global peace making is not appropriate: it accumulates conflicts in all regions of the Earth instead of discharging the conflicts, which have been accumulating for centuries of wars, racial and religious conflicts, etc. It is time to reevaluate the moral aspects of the interrelations between people of different cultures of the world. And build a new global culture which will not dominate over other cultures and erase them, but which will integrate them and persist their originality and unique identity.

    (3) Restrain the disruption of control in the technosphere, resolve the system crisis.
    (3.A) The growth of the amount of information and "informational garbage" is accelerating over years
    (3.B) It results in persistent increase of complexity of all systems
    (3.C) It worsens by separation of particular specialists in their domains: they speak different languages which only they understand
    (3.D) The growth of complexity results in the growth of entropy, ambiguity, unpredictability, "chaos". The technosphere becomes more and more unpredictable. Less understandable. We have the crisis of control.

    On what level are you agree with me?
  • Sep 14 2013: one of the key challenges of the modern era is our humanity is dying as in our very humaness is under threat due to the pursuit of power and money
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    Sep 6 2013: .

    The problem is easy to solve if we know
    "high standards of living" contains about 90%
    of invalid (harmful) happiness.
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      Sep 6 2013: You are so correct that I immediately understood the need to change the title of the conversation. I changed it from "restoring high standards of living" to "Maintaining human civilization." I do believe that, in the US, we could restore our middle class by focusing on the massive project of retrofitting the largest economy in the world to be more sustainable. That is a project that will take decades and require a lot of high wage jobs, but the larger question requires the global perspective on human civilization and what that means. You hit on it!
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    Sep 25 2013: A finite planet verses, unlimited growth, extraction and population, increasing consumption and waste and you believe we're not heading for a fall? Follow the trends....
    1804 - 1 Billion people
    1950 - 3 Billion people
    2013 - over 7 Billion.... and counting...
    Then look at the overshoot regarding extraction on every front.

    The future will be very different than the past.... just how much is the question... The gilded age is over...
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      Sep 25 2013: Could not agree more Craig. We owe it to our kids to try to 'manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.'
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      Sep 25 2013: I doubt there might be an easy and fast solution for overpopulation... I'm afraid.

      I find interesting all these reasonable solutions proposed by Stephen (walkable/bike-able, local food production, less Suburban sprawl, renewable sources, less energy intensive farming...). Check this thread, where we're specifically analyzing the sprawling of industrial parks and factories and trying to find solutions to integrate them into compact cities (as we've all already assumed residential buildings should be dense) http://www.ted.com/conversations/20134/can_we_think_of_factories_and.html

      All those things would perfectly work in developed countries and would definitely help to improve and optimize the life in wealthier countries. But what about the rest? What Craig mentions needs other type of solutions, as the projected over-population will mainly come from needy countries and we're probably not thinking fast enough.
  • Sep 14 2013: Reorganized political structures --> technocratic, science oriented global governance (locally managed, but operating from analytically deduced set of axioms minimizing room for dogma and subjectivity)
    1. Impose birth control (earn the right to reproduce)
    2. Redistribution of resources
    3. Reallocation of labour and specialism per area in the world (based on logical analysis of local potential)
    4. Reinventing the meaning and purpose of homo sapiens anno 2013 (focus on longterm survival, not personal gain)
    5. Adopt economic model based on actual value, not (blind) growth

    I agree this looks more like a bad proposal for a sci-fi film than it looks like a realistic possibility. Current dynamics are too strong and embedded in our psyche and through our psyche manifested in solid social, political and economic structures. The above could only be achieved by force (not likely since those with excessive wealth happen to control methods of force and largely want to keep things as they are) or resurrection after global catastrophe. Personally I think our (free market/individualized) civilisation will collapse (result of war both civil and international/economic stagnation/socio-cultural fragmentation) within let's say 100-200 years giving opportunity to the rise of new systems based on new principles (better or worse).

    Maybe for some I sound too radical and dramatic. But if my observations correspond with reality, windmills, electric cars, gay marriage and micro financing are just not going to improve the ever increasingly fragile position were in at the moment. But rest assured, history teaches we are not the first civilization to encounter serious issues regarding survival.

    Important note: I do not claim we should not take initiative and just lean back and watch the show. I think there are a lot of inspired people who could make great changes. However I am pessimistic about the timeframe vs. counterforces
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    Sep 11 2013: Stephen I agree that your issues are important and your solutions "could" be workable, like many other ingenious ideas one sees on TED. The important word there is "could". First I do not agree that we have decades for implementation. Second yours and most of the other ideas will not help soon enough unless we can rapidly reeducate a plurality of the population to the point where they are in agreement about solutions and priorities. TED itself is having a positive effect, but pleased as I am with TEDs burgeoning popularity it tends to be limited to people with relatively open minds and a level of education that enables understanding. In essence they are mostly preaching to the choir and those who already have an ear for music. To me there is only one true key and that has to be educational reform outside the box of government and from the grass roots up. If we can educate and empower a proactive plurality sufficient to override those who resist change then everything becomes possible. Without this I am very much afraid that no solutions will be implemented effectively.
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    Sep 10 2013: Mr. Davis.
    Me ????
    Snaky about California???
    You are correct.
    How could you "Californians" have taken some of the most pristine places in the USA and turned it into a over crowded, over paved, water hogging, smog filled places in the country. Then you stand on " high moral ground" about saving the environment and preaching about conserving resources and green things because the world is hurting from all the over indulgences of mankind....
    Nobody from my neighborhood went out to California and polluted the land, built houses on top of each other and spends hours on the freeways idling aimlessly trying to get to offices down town to write articles saying the world is coming to an end.
    Your world is... green stuff and all
  • Sep 10 2013: Stephen, Thank you for addressing this important topic.

    To make true progress, before consequences force action, I believe there needs to be a shift in public priority. This shift in priority will occur, the only question is will it occur proactively or reactively.

    With the support of the majority, several tax policy changes that would cause implementation of at least three of the four changes you advocate are, eliminate all oil subsidies, tax fuel consumption heavily and tax car ownership at the full cost of driving, particularly the building of and maintenance of roads. Increasing the tax on fuel now is a much better solution than the alternative, waiting until market conditions cause an unpredictable, uncontrolled, increase.

    The fact that a debate concerning elimination of tax deductions, for having additional kids, does not appear to exist, is confounding.

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    Sep 7 2013: Stephen, These are certainly prime issues and deserve the focus you suggest. I have a hard time thinking that they are being taken seriously by the leaders and spokespersons for energy etc ... Obama gave big stimulus to "green" development that had no chance and almost immediately closed the doors and pocketed the money ... Al Gore is a punch line for cocktail jokes and has become rich for preaching what he does not practice. As a grid specialist you understand that the administrations plan to close coal generation plants has no plan to replace the power on the national grid .. moving toward UN Article 21 by Hillary Clinton .. and much more ...

    I often refer to 1916 Argentina as a example of where the USA is going. Argentina was a major world player and elected leadership that made all of the same promises that the US is being made. The government grew to super size, the adopted social programs that were financially impossible to support, they levied heavy taxes on first the rich and when that did not work the middle and the poor were taxed to support big government ... Inflation was over 4000%. The solution was to print more money. The farmers left and moved to the city for government jobs ... the country went from a world leader to bankrupt and in total depression in one year.

    We have people who speak to us of the dangers of Keynesian economics, the banking industry, the federal reserve, the advent of social programs that are not funded, elite government officials, trade imbalances, etc ... yet the message is muted in a media that fails to report facts that would better inform the public.

    The issues you speak of are important and deserve attention ... however, larger problems continue to grow and will destroy our country making these moot. Again we fail to learn from history.

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • Sep 10 2013: Bob, Thank you for the excellent assessment. I would suggest that the threat caused by Keynesian economics and the corresponding government program of massive money printing and deficit spending may be more immediate, but the issue of sustainability is never "moot". Gerd
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        Sep 10 2013: I agree that the issues are not moot ... the statement I made referred to if the government collapses through any of the looming problems (including these issues) then the focus is unnecessary. What I see is a problem across the board. The immediate problems you have pegged. Only one greater issue that I can think of would be to have a congress that puts the country first before politics and personal gain. Since this a millionaires club this ain't gonna happen.

        Since the problems are seen ... what is the key to a better informed voting public that would not be swayed by political rhetoric from either party.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
        • Sep 10 2013: Bob, You are dead on with respect to referring to the voting public. I see congress as a mere reflection of the general public that puts much greater emphasis on personal gain than public good.

          The public is concerned about self, particularly the immediate future. Republicans stand for small government and low taxes and Democrats stand for more services associated with bigger government and more taxes. The public likes lower taxes and more services, politicians want to get re-elected, so republicans cut taxes and democrats increase services, and the national debt grows.

          The public wants immediate economic growth and government provides a solution, fiscal and monetary stimulus. The long term consequences are misunderstood and ignored in the process.

          If current government practices result in bursting of the bond bubble, the consequences will be more severe than those associated with the housing bubble burst. Personal well being will decline and the environment will be adversly affected.

      • Sep 11 2013: Gerd, I have some thought about the effect of Keynesian economic stimulus. When we talk about the sustainability, most discussion here are linked to the population growth and urban constructions. Now, imagine what were the result of such stimulus? First, the effect of such stimuli cause more consumption of goods and services. But, are we sure they were spent on goods or production labor based in the U. S. ? The answer is probably not necessarily true. A substantial portion of the consumption were probably imported from foreign countries. Moreover, a portion of the stimulus are spent on construction of highways and bridges which tend to increase the concrete or paved spaces, which is not ecologically friendly to mother earth. And then a lot more of the stimulus went to the welfare payments to the "poor", especially to many women and their children without a supporting father. What this spending has done is to encourage human reproduction without responsibility; i. e., increase the population with nonproductive, even delinquent children or adults. What I am saying is that the government spending not only increase the national debt, it also exacerbates the sustainability of the resource allocation and the ecological sustainability of the earth. I am not saying that we shouldn't spend money on welfare for the poor, but not on more reckless expansion of the welfare spending, entitled as economic stimulus, which is probably of marginal value and not cost-efficient. If you sum up all the stimulus money or the building up of the national debt, they are hardly less than the economic growth they were aimed at with the total spending. (they were probably no more than one to one, rather than the claimed $4 increase in GDP for every $1 spent in Keynesian stimulus.)
  • Sep 6 2013: The move back to the cities is listed in "the end of the suburbs" and an interesting documentary " the end of suburbia"

    The storage and distribution problem is huge but to make it truly solvable we need newer technology. Using current technology, we can create a band-aid system for the moment but it will not be efficient.
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      Sep 6 2013: I've seen "The End of Suburbia." I think that what may be more practical is to create "downtowns" within the suburbs and develop walkable communities within them using "New Urbanism" templates.
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        Sep 6 2013: This seems to be a very common strategy.
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          Sep 7 2013: Heya Fritzie! Have you seen David Harvey's latest offerings?

          He's smart, but when you stand back - what does a city do? How does it exist?

          At a suitable distance it looks a lot like a parasite ;)

          I have an intuition that we need to step back and comprehend what we actually are .. not what we pretend to be.

          From that angle, I feel there is a lot of work to be done to identify the default mechanisms of tribal dynamics - the systemic evolutionary mechanisms that phase-shifted us beyond the conditions we are truly suited to survive.

          I count exponential growth as a terminal strategy for a species. Microbes in a petrie dish only experience extinction on the last doubling.
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          Sep 8 2013: (from the post on Pat's thread -- my attempt to sub-phrase your entries resulted in a bazaar edit glitch.)

          ... David Harvey ... "right to the city"
          that's Harvey's basic starting point. I was thinking more of this one:
          Harvey assumes tribe-sizes have no limits. I argue that there are limits to tribe size dictated by the number of tribesmen that can be tracked in the autobiographical self (As per Damasio) - it's a physical brain-size limit. Cities might work better if this limit was recognised in design.

          socio-structural response to changing conditions.

          >I agree with Jared Diamond on this one - every tribe is an experiment. These experiments are dynamic adaptations to local geography - which changes.
          If it works - it works .. for now. One can criticise how well it works, or if conditions have obsoleted the adaptation.

          W.Ying .. look-up ..
          >I did. a while ago. W. Ying has identified 2 very important aspects: symbiosis and emergence from the Younger Dryas - these aspects are built-into my current interests and speculations. For instance, I speculate that symbiosis is a continuum. We classify only parts of it - behavioural inter-dependence and physiological merger. I think it is a lot larger than that. It is clear that sudden climate shifts change the adaptive vector .. I'm not sure if there has been much genetic activity in humans .. perhaps we were simply driven to the edge of sociological adaptive range by the ice age or the end of it.

          Authentic/inauthentic .. markets ..
          "authenticity" might point to a time-frame measure of validity. What is an "author"? I spent 16 years designing market systems .. you could say I "authored" them .. so to me, they were authentic.
          Yes, lots of people deny the existence of open systems - it's the downside of having perceptive frames as local minima.

          There is natural demand and there is promoted demand.
          Ill go into that in another post
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          Sep 8 2013: supply/demand - and the dynamics of authenticity.

          Without going into the history of the evolution of supply/demand, I can say this:
          There is natural demand, and promoted demand.
          Natural demand makes no assumptions about needs/wants - the supplier just satisfies it.
          There are problems with the changing nature of wants/needs. Although the Maslow pyramid describes the most stable parts, they are all subject to the seasonal geography - with "wants" being the most dynamic (fashion). Wants/needs are also qualitative .. there is an aspect of risk that correlates to quality - if you need water, you will drink muddy water, if you want it, you will only drink potable water.

          We can now forecast natural demand with pinpoint accuracy - so long as the satisfaction transactions are all recorded - this includes wants as well as needs.

          In a natural demand scenario, subsidy of specialist supply is ensured by the demand side. The specialist supplier will be subsidised to the extent that the "community" demands the supply - in that frame, you can include the market as a specialist participant of supply - and share the specialist subsidy.
          The dynamic assumes an abundance based on surpluses arising from specialisation - if geographical constraints induce a scarcity, demand will rise along with supply-subsidy.

          However, the qualitative aspect of needs - plus the fashion aspect of wants depends on demand-side perception.

          we find these qualitative socio-prestigious components are subject to supply-side manipulations(for increased subsidy). Scarcity can be contrived and prestige(fashion) can be induced.
          This is done via "promotion" - aka propaganda, PR, advertising.
          A promoted market behaves differently. The effective forecasts have to separate induced demand in order to retain the natural baseline. This is not easy - induction causes massive disruptions in the signal ..
          You could say: "wants are no longer satisfied - only expectations."
          Could say more - no spac
      • Sep 6 2013: I find it interesting we are moving to smaller villages - lived in Maynard, MA and it was quite small but had a center. Concord was similar, just richer.

        You might be interested in the cohousing movement. I have been tracking it for several years and am thinking of moving into one of the communities.
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    Sep 5 2013: Thanks Fritzie. I wonder how many people would embrace the competing ideal, however, if the externalities associated with oil production (IE, climate change, military costs, environmental degradation, respiratory illness, etc) were priced in. In my mind, that's the best policy remedy. It involves what many today (sadly) believe is inherently evil: government and regulation. I'm well aware that TEDsters talk about more walkable communities, but is that trend happening fast enough to save us? I doubt it when I read about the projected number of automobiles anticipated by 2030. (from 800M to 2.1B)

    Which gets to real challenge: There's not a single company on the S&P 500 that does make an implicit assumption in their business projections: unlimited access to growing supplies of oil. The banks certainly assume it every time they lend money for the purchase of a suburban home that has no value without the use of a car.

    Are we addressing this as though we understood it? Nope.
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      Sep 5 2013: Providing affordable in-city housing is a major challenge to be sure. Imagine how many people living in the suburbs of San Francisco would move into the city if they could afford to live there! Even if prices at the pump do not reflect the true cost, traffic congestion for those who need to commute in can make either in-city living or telecommuting look pretty good.

      Improving urban schools would be an extremely valuable policy lever. Many families choose suburbs primarily to escape urban schools.
    • Sep 6 2013: Is it possible that the "inherently evil: government and regulation" influence in all this creates an environment that lowers the standard of living? In return, removing both the power of demand and the consumption rates of oil. Of which results in conflicting business projections with the reality of the market and the eventually dissolve of established business models. This then providing an opportunity for alternative solutions to be implemented. Would the results of this increase the purchasing power of the dollar?

      The dollar's power is determined by our wallets, beliefs and the prospective prosperity that allows intelligent consumers to effectively dictate the relationship between commodity, regulation, government and corporations.

      We just need to work on the 'intelligent consumer' part...
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    Sep 5 2013: Several of the TED talks about cities are precisely about the virtue and trend of denser occupation of cities: http://www.ted.com/topics/cities

    I know that and better bicycle and public transportation have been big themes in regional planning for some time.

    Of course some people in all income categories really love having their own place with ground around it. That is the competing ideal.
  • Oct 3 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J01FZDh8_oM
    Jaguar attacks crocodile,When a jaguar pounces, sometimes bite is all it takes to receive a meal. video of a jaguar taking down a caiman in Brazil's Pantanal wetlands, pics of which went viral earlier this month.Jaguar attacks crocodile.
  • Sep 29 2013: Hi Stephen G.
    To get your questions about LFTRs answered, look up "Thorium: Energy Cheaper than Coal" by Prof. Hargraves of Dartmouth College. It is not only good on that subject, but covers the economics of all the other energy alternatives as well, and why they are inadequate. For some details on why Thorium was not continued from 40 years ago, look up the "Thorium Problem" on the Thorium Energy Alliance.com website. Also Kirk Sorensen on Youtube.
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    Sep 26 2013: Good question George....

    Particularly when our 'education' is educating toward a future that no longer exists. And

    Given the amount of WAR we are engaged in over our lifetime , I would also question how ethically or moral we are??? Particularly when the reasons we went to war are lies, and self fulfilling prophecies. The evidence hardly supports your contention, I would humbly suggest.
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      Sep 25 2013: I'm not sure I get the question, Craig. Wheres the evidence for what? I didn't say I that I don't believe we're in trouble. To the contrary, if you read my intro to this conversation, I posited that we are in trouble.
  • Sep 25 2013: Why are we trying to work out how we are going to fit another 4 billion people? When is enough enough? To me the first thing that comes to mind is capping, even reducing human population globally.
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      Sep 25 2013: I've seen good research on how to slow population growth in countries where its happening the fastest. The solutions? Education, particularly of young women. Providing adequate nutrition. Healthcare. Rising incomes and education result in declining birth rates. Empowerment and education of women means they begin to hope for more for themselves. They seek and use birth control. They see opportunities (in many cases, through micro-lending) to create a more prosperous life. It's worked everywhere it's been tried.
      • Sep 25 2013: Yes, I too have heard the statistics on these things & I don't doubt them. The problem is, its not like the countries still having large families are poor & uneducated by choice... So whilst we should always strive towards bringing education & equality throughout the world, its not going to happen fast enough. In the mean time they're spilling out of their own borders and migrating to western countries. And so the global population continues to swell.

        I wonder if wealth, equality & education leads to smaller families... Would forcing smaller families on the poorer countries result in a reversed effect? Surely a reduced strain on space & natural resources would lead to a time of plenty... And with that, time to focus on education & building wealth?
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    Sep 24 2013: Sir, Your idea of " Maintaining human civilization by focusing on the key challenges of our time: energy, food and resource depletion". How about "Maintaining human Civilization by focusing on "Simplicity" what is now the human civilization is not having, our desires have taken reality but when are we going to say stop it enough is enough; and even if we stop with our current needs, still in order to maintain it we will require all the three above. permanent answer is Sir Simplicity and compromise.
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      Sep 24 2013: Kuldeep: I think we may be in agreement. Energy, food and conserving resources seem simple to me. If we try living in a world without energy, people suffer. We obviously need food. Simple. Changing course to avoid resource depletion. Simple. What am I missing?
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        Sep 25 2013: I agree with you sir, alternate solutions mention in your script for the problems is the first step in the change of our consumption pattern and ultimately in our lifestyle.
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    . . 100+

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    Sep 24 2013: Hi Stephen,

    What a fabulous conversation and related Talks.
    I also love the way Ron's talk/ movement is transforming problems into solutions.
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      Sep 24 2013: Thanks Juliette! As I got deeper and deeper into this five years ago, my whole world changed. My entire career was taken over by this work. I now am involved in the electric power industry. (I was in international telecommunications before.) My company works on policy issues with state and federal government agencies and automakers (Electric Vehicles). This is so far afield of where I was. When I reflect on the immense scope of the challenge (retrofitting the entire global economy to be more sustainable) I used to get deflated about it, but things are changing. Will they change fast enough? We'll see, but we've no choice but to try once we grasp what's at stake.
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    Sep 24 2013: My contention is that all problems lead to the lack of education. Imagine,if everyone in this world is highly educated,and they completely accept the decent morals,and live it out through their lives,what the world would be like.
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      Sep 25 2013: It would be a world without a lick of common sense.

      Or as one friend once said, getting degreed in higher education is mostly about 'ritualized obedience'.

      Read, David Orr's seminal work, Earth in mind....it should connect the dots for you..
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        Sep 26 2013: I mean ethically and morally educated,not scientifically. If education is merely a matter of ritualization, why are the people in the whole world so concerned about their children's education?
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          Sep 28 2013: George, so how does that manifest?
          Are we teaching our children about a future they will inherent? Are there jobs after education?
          Look at the trends and reality of no jobs, compromised environment and centralized wealth. Not the foundation this country was built upon.
          Yes, many have good intentions for their children and is it enough?
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      Oct 4 2013: George, Here's a description from Earth in Mind, David Orr.

      In Earth in Mind, noted environmental educator David W. Orr focuses not on problems in education, but on the problem of education.

      Much of what has gone wrong with the world, he argues, is the result of inadequate and misdirected education that: alienates us from life in the name of human domination; causes students to worry about how to make a living before they know who they are; overemphasizes success and careers; separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical; deadens the sense of wonder for the created world.

      The crisis we face, Orr explains, is one of mind, perception, and values. It is, first and foremost, an educational challenge.

      The author begins by establishing the grounds for a debate about education and knowledge. He describes the problems of education from an ecological perspective, and challenges the "terrible simplifiers" who wish to substitute numbers for values. He follows with a presentation of principles for re-creating education in the broadest way possible, discussing topics such as biophilia, the disciplinary structure of knowledge, the architecture of educational buildings, and the idea of ecological intelligence. Orr concludes by presenting concrete proposals for reorganizing the curriculum to draw out our affinity for life.

      I invite you to read it and take your understanding deeper...
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        Oct 5 2013: Hi Craig,thanks for sharing the thoughts.

        Since I haven't read Earth in Mind, allow me to argue in some pieces of your comment. I think as we all recognize the 'problem of education', this does not discount the importance of education,in stead,it shows the urgency of upgrading education system.

        Yes,I agree that our current education is inadequate and sometimes misdirected, but I think it is not the purpose of education,it is the result of some of the students or teachers don't follow the principles of teaching. Does education teach students to bully on the weaker students? Does education teach students to lie,to quit when things got tough?
        It is the rebels who defy education by neglecting their responsibility to learn,they ruin the educational environment,they undermine the harmony in the schools.

        A non-education man is no difference to an animal,in other words,education differentiates us from animals. I firmly believe in the description'reorganizing the curriculum', it is the way to get education back to track,to perform its innate and unalienable destiny,nourishing mankind to meet the needs of the trends.

        The question then how do we adapt our education system,I'm keen to know the'concrete proposals for reorganizing the curriculum' . would you mind sharing with me? Thanks
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    Sep 24 2013: What happened to zero population growth?
  • Sep 21 2013: Starting with the assumption that cheap energy is what has enabled our present (for many) comfortable level of Civilization, it would seem that a cheap, safe , widely available non fossil fueled economy might just solve the problems you mention. Luckily, and fortuitously, such a source is available. The Thorium LFTR nuclear fission reactor has all the virtues one would want, and negligeble downsides, since it does not have any solid fuel rods, water, steam, high presssures, or hydrogen explosions. The whole subject has been quite neglected for 40 years, for dubious reasons.
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      Sep 24 2013: Shawn: I concur about LFTR. Oak Ridge National Lab built a prototype in the 70's. What I've read today is that only Idaho National Lab is looking at LFTR today and they're saying 25 years to commercialization. It just strikes me as odd. Why no push? Why no urgency? It resolves carbon, fuel cycle, safety and proliferation issues. I have no idea about costs/kWh. That may be the problem, which has always dogged nuclear. Still, I think you're right on and have thought this for some time. Bill Gates pushes the 'traveling wave' reactor technology. Again, quite a while before commercialization. In the meantime, there are considerable options for zero carbon energy and conservation. Conservation, of course, is the cheapest solution of them all.
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    Sep 19 2013: It is a common saying in the corporate world that "Greed is good".
    Unfortunately greed is making vermins out of humans and is striping us of our humanity. Selfishness has never benefitted any society, but these days it is being given another toga, which makes it easy for us to pursue it like zombies; without any care!

    In most cases we know the truth, but we prefer lies because of the burden of responsibility. But truth is truth; it is what it is. Ignore at your peril.
  • Sep 14 2013: I like your ideas and eagerness to develop a credible economic model for solar power. Lambasting big oil though for being who they are is like criticizing someone with a disability for being disabled. This criticism worked 30 years ago but is an outdated environmentalist pitch to right the wrongs of the world. You possess knowledge and your focus should be education and identifying best practices for implementing solar power. Ratings on panels, best conversion methods etc. What you haven't identified is how to create a market place for solar power that all stake holders and some new stakeholders can participate. You hit on an important part of the change process by listing the communities that have changed local laws to implement an economic model for distributive power. What your focus should be is to lobby the representatives in your network to create an economic model for distributive power that creates a new economy, If our federal government divided the country based on factors related to distributive power, ie, concentration of available rooftops, current base load consumption, days of sunlight, it would create for all stakeholders an economic model. If the rights to implement and create are offered in an auction it would provide for consumers and companies the assurances of a return on investment, market financial incentives, and tort limitation in exchange for competent management of distributive power. Power companies and early stage investors or the winning team could bid on the creation of multiple districts. Imagine companies as small as yours participating with large corporations to bid for the Western District for Distributive Power. Setting a hypothetical bid at 200 billion U,S, dollars for a 100 year franchise to provide and maintain rooftop solar voltaic panels. With a guaranteed return on investment distributed power will be the new norm for how we get electricity and through an auction consumers are assured buy in by the winning bidder.
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    Sep 12 2013: Yes Stephen, you raise some very important points and identify a number of equally important issues and are to be commended for your ability to think outside the box.

    But the sad reality is that nothing will change until we change the structure of our decision making process. That is to say, as long as we continue with this top down hierarchy of decision making whereby a small group of self-interested or special interested individuals are able to gain control of the WHOLE of a nations decision making process - and political parties are, themselves, special interest groups promoting their own agendas and interests - then we will always be at the mercy of those who control the process.

    I suggest you explore some of the Direct Democracy and Participatory Democracy websites to see what a grassroots, bottom up decision making process could look like. Because until we take back the responsibility for the decision making process we will continue to victimized by those are able to seize control of a nation's political decision making in order to promote their own narrow minded, self- interested agendas and to impose whatever whacky and/or misguided beliefs they might hold upon the rest of us.
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      Sep 12 2013: William: I share your concerns about decision making today and agree it must change. I do believe there are pathways to sustainability with existing channels, however. One is Community Choice Aggregation for electric power. That's quite common in Illinois and is gaining ground here in California. A city (or group of cities) can offer via local ballot a choice to become, in effect, there own power company. They still pay the local utility to manage the distribution network, but they're then able to purchase electric power (and whatever renewable portfolio they want) from the wholesale power market. This is already happening. Marin County has already done it. San Francisco has announced it and will purchase 100% renewable power by 2020. This is state law. Other states are going forward with this also. Other things people can do at the local level is get involved.

      In the end, we live in a republic. If you don't like how it works, you've no choice but to get involved and start trying to change it. Nobody suggests that it will be easy, but we have to try.
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    Sep 11 2013: Hi Chad: For the record, I said this will "take" decades. I don't suggest that we have that long. I tend to agree with you that we don't, but that won't change how long this will take given the existing built environment. As eager as I am to effect positive change, I get uncomfortable when I hear terms like "rapid reeducation."

    My belief is that my conservative friends place tremendous faith in free markets. That creates potential for common ground as I believe nothing stimulates change like price signals. Imputing externalities would dramatically change the way people live and work. Fossil fuels have gotten a free ride as power plants and automobiles have been permitted to pump 90 million tons of CO2 (not to mention lots of other particulate pollutants) into the air everyday for free.

    Put a cost on that, and substitutions will emerge. More efficiency will arrive first, followed by changes in living patterns. Locally grown food will become the cheap food. Walmart's warehouse on wheels won't make sense anymore.

    Human nature is not particularly well-suited to planning ahead to deal with problems that are easy to ignore. Just look at any crowded freeway.

    In the end, I think this will come down to people getting the word out. It will come down to people 'in the choir' speaking to those outside the choir and recognizing reality. Will it happen fast enough for us to save ourselves? I don't know. As I said, if this scares you, it should.
  • Sep 11 2013: What countries have fast population growth rates?
    They are not the USA nor any other industrial or post-industrial country. They are countries that make most of their wealth off agriculture and resource extraction. Going "green" in the USA WILL NOT CHANGE THOSE COUNTRIES.