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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    W. Ying

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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.
    But....
    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.

    Gerd
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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.

          Gerd
      • 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:
          http://davidharvey.org/2013/09/video-speaking-in-salvador-brazil-on-marxs-capital-volume-1/
          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."
          Authentic/inauthentic?
          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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    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.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html
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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.
  • Sep 11 2013: And how do we reduce birth rates? Here's a hint: The methods tried by leftist governments are doing a VERY BAD JOB. The leftist crap of legislating birth rates ends up, instead, horribly unbalancing the population and leading to a great deal of official corruption (cf, China). Oddly enough, a way to reduce birth rates has been discovered, but leftists and other psychotics refuse to admit it: Prosperity and basic education of girls reduce birth rates. Now, "prosperity" does not mean "welfare". Countries with an overall high GDP/person (in terms of purchasing power parity) and lots of jobs to go around are prosperous. Education of girls does not mean "everybody goes to college and majors in Womyn's Studies". It means that girls get and take advantage of access to k-12 education and successfully complete it. College simply follows along rather naturally when your k-12 is top-notch. Birth rates fall--BOOM!

    In other words, when the peasants and wage slaves feel financially secure and little girls get as good a basic k-12 education as little boys, birth rates come under control, all by themselves, without need for leftist-style government meddling. This has been well-documented. Just look at Europe. The populations within Europe whose birth rates are not falling are the populations that cling to anti-girl cultural norms and have the worst job prospects. Look at Japan--prosperity and education equal population shrinkage. After all, once you are aware of 1) how easy it is to control ones own fertility in the present day; 2) you have more than a few pennies to rub together after you pay your bills; and 3) just how much other stuff you could do with those extra pennies if you only have one or two kids instead of four or five, it's amazing how quickly birth rates fall.

    It's a simple, non-leftist, behavioral calculus. Show people the net personal benefits of something, don't just tell them (right-wing-style moralizing doesn't work, either). They will probably adopt it.
  • Sep 11 2013: And how do we reduce birth rates? Here's a hint: The methods tried by leftist governments are doing a VERY BAD JOB. The leftist crap of legislating birth rates ends up, instead, horribly unbalancing the population and leading to a great deal of official corruption (cf, China). Oddly enough, a way to reduce birth rates has been discovered, but leftists and other psychotics refuse to admit it: Prosperity and basic education of girls reduce birth rates. Now, "prosperity" doe not mean "welfare". Countries with an overall high GDP/person (in terms of purchasing power parity) and lots of jobs to go around are prosperous. Education of girls does not mean "everybody goes to college and majors in Womyn's Studies". It means that girls get and take advantage of access to k-12 education and successfully complete it. College simply follows along rather naturally when your k-12 is top-notch. Birth rates fall--BOOM!

    In other words, when the peasants and wage slaves feel financially secure and little girls get as good a basic k-12 education as little boys, birth rates come under control, all by themselves, without need for leftist-style government meddling. This has been well-documented. Just look at Europe. The populations within Europe whose birth rates are not falling are the populations that cling to anti-girl cultural norms and have the worst job prospects. Look at Japan--prosperity and education equal population shrinkage. After all, once you are aware of 1) how easy it is to control ones own fertility in the present day; 2) you have more than a few pennies to rub together after you pay your bills; and 3) just how much other stuff you could do with those extra pennies if you only have one or two kids instead of four or five, it's amazing how quickly birth rates fall.

    It's a simple, non-leftist, behavioral calculus. Show people the net personal benefits of something, don't just tell them (right-wing-style moralizing doesn't work, either). They will probably adopt it.
  • Sep 11 2013: Hi Bart, You have touched on many important, interrelated, topics. To dissect and respond to them all would take much more than 2000 characters.Some related, important concepts follow: Government fiscal stimulus always causes short term economic growth but not necessarily long term growth. Economic growth requires the consumption of natural resources. What is true of the multiplier effect associated with government stimulus is also true when government spending ceases. If the government spends one dollar on building a bridge, a portion of that money is spent on wages that are, in part, spent again, and so on. I cannot confirm what the multiplier is, but there is a multiplier. Gerd
  • Sep 11 2013: stop this thought process and get me out of this super tribe i quit let me live alone in the woods for miles and miles without seeing another human but let me forever feel the collective consciousness. this is my wish
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    Sep 9 2013: Bryan: I would kindly ask that you find another conversation. Nobody here is advocating revolution. Nobody here is suggesting genocide. We live in a democracy. This is a marketplace for ideas and conversations based on a review of facts.

    You remind me of people I heard suggesting that Obama was going to round everyone up into "FEMA re-education camps." Perhaps you forgot your medication today, perhaps not. I don't know. I do think you're a bit paranoid.

    Relax. I hope you'll be OK.
  • Sep 9 2013: Petroleum is a limited resource. You seem to believe that you have telepathic powers and everyone who doesn't blindly bow down to your dogmas must automatically be among your doctrinal enemies. Pie-in-the-sky fantasies are all well-and-good, but if you want to implement them, you must either be willing to kill a lot of people or wait until things really crash. It's how humans do things. Are you ready and willing to implement the slaughter that would be necessary to force "improvement" before reality forces it upon us?

    People do not easily go along with cultural revolutions--and cultural revolutions always, without exception, become instruments of tyranny. Evolution, on the other hand, need not be tyrannical, but evolution is, by its very nature as "evolution" and not "development" is STOCHASTIC, indeed, one could potentially argue that it is a truly random process (if such things actually exist at the macro level). Thus, it may have direction, but only post-hoc. We can plan and hope, we can work out contingencies, but when we try to force them upon others, we end up getting down to shooting.

    We are, ultimately, still African plains-dwelling apes. Misguided attempts to pretend that we are not have always ended in failure or disaster: Pol Pot's "Year Zero". Mao's "Cultural Revolution", New Harmony (Indiana), Calvin's Geneva, Robespierre's reign of Terror, all started, or so they claim, to "improve" the lot of humans. New Harmony didn't end in slaughter, because the people had the ability to eventually opt out, but the rest, which were mandatory programs, did end in slaughter and repudiation.

    Make your cake-eating world attractive enough, and people will implement it, but it will be a paradise for the elites. The wage peasants will not benefit. This is how "green" scenarios always pan out in the real world. Too many people, not enough space. How will we dispose of the "excess"?
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    Sep 9 2013: Mike:

    I have a very soft spot in my heart for Texas. I lived in San Angelo when I was a kid. You're right about the open spaces and so forth, but if you believe that Texas is somehow immune to climate change and resource depletion, I think you've missed my point. North Dakota is not immune. Utah and Wyoming are not immune.

    To wit:

    1. San Angelo now faces dire circumstances after several years of drought. They're basically down to 1 year's worth of water.
    2. The Ogalalla Aquifer (a fossil aquifer with no recharge) is down to about 20 more years worth of supply. The US is heavily dependent on farm output from the states that harvest this water each year. Entirely unsustainable.
    3. Bark Beetles have devastated Ponderosa Pine forests throughout the Western US, Utah and Wyoming included. This happened due to the winters not being cold enough to kill them each year.

    I think you might want to be a little less snarky about California's problems. Climate Change knows no boundaries, sir. Neither do the economic effects of declining oil production if we don't act to reduce our demand.
  • Sep 9 2013: So, who will you volunteer for extermination? This proposal will not work at current population levels. Factories require concentration of people. They are not pleasant to live next to, even if they are "green". Waste processing is also unpleasant. Farming without petroleum smells bad in summer. Suburbanites are the first to demand that smelly farms be shut down in their little "green" areas. Goods will still need transport. "Renewable" sources only work in some locales, not others. Who will shoot those who refuse to abandon their homes?
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      Sep 9 2013: Dear Bryan: I think your comment reflects a misunderstanding of what I'm saying, so let me ask you a couple questions:

      Do you believe that oil production can increase in perpetuity? Do you believe that climate change is a hoax? You seem to believe that we can merely choose to continue business as usual without consequence. You then suggest that because I point out the problem that I have a death wish. That's pretty bad. I'm actually advocating for risk management given the facts.

      My hope is that we'll develop strategies that accept the facts as they are and develop a rational response to "Manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable." Your hostile remarks have a message embedded in them: "responding to these problems will involve limits and I hate limits."

      James Howard Kunstler put it well. He said "eventually, we'll have a new negotiating partner. Reality. We won't even need to be in the negotiating room anymore."
      • Sep 9 2013: Petroleum is a limited resource. You seem to believe that you have telepathic powers and everyone who doesn't blindly bow down to your dogmas must automatically be among your doctrinal enemies. Pie-in-the-sky fantasies are all well-and-good, but if you want to implement them, you must either be willing to kill a lot of people or wait until things really crash. It's how humans do things. Are you ready and willing to implement the slaughter that would be necessary to force "improvement" before reality forces it upon us?

        People do not easily go along with cultural revolutions--and cultural revolutions always, without exception, become instruments of tyranny. Evolution, on the other hand, need not be tyrannical, but evolution is, by its very nature as "evolution" and not "development" is STOCHASTIC, indeed, one could potentially argue that it is a truly random process (if such things actually exist at the macro level). Thus, it may have direction, but only post-hoc. We can plan and hope, we can work out contingencies, but when we try to force them upon others, we end up getting down to shooting.

        We are, ultimately, still African plains-dwelling apes. Misguided attempts to pretend that we are not have always ended in failure or disaster: Pol Pot's "Year Zero". Mao's "Cultural Revolution", New Harmony (Indiana), Calvin's Geneva, Robespierre's reign of Terror, all started, or so they claim, to "improve" the lot of humans. New Harmony didn't end in slaughter, because the people had the ability to eventually opt out, but the rest, which were mandatory programs, did end in slaughter and repudiation.

        Make your cake-eating world attractive enough, and people will implement it, but it will be a paradise for the elites. The wage peasants will not benefit. This is how "green" scenarios always pan out in the real world. Too many people, not enough space. How will we dispose of the "excess"?
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          Sep 10 2013: You are of course right, Bryan, that population is the problem, but you really are ranting. No one is suggesting that a solution to that problem is "to kill a lot of people." You reduce the population by reducing birth rates - it takes many generations to make a dent.

          Stephen's four "solutions" are all admirable but far from new goals. Implementing them will help a little bit. But there are a few hundred other, equally valid goals that we also need to make progress toward, dealing with transportation and energy use, food production and distribution, disease, education, housing, climate-related crises, conflicts, etc, etc. And underlying them all, making every problem we have more untractable, is the still-rapid human population growth that adds some 80 million people a year to the earth's population. Unless we deal with that in a rational way, we'll never keep up with the other fixes.
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    Sep 9 2013: I guess this conversation is most focused on America. Not all of America, mostly California. The dire situations noted are not that big a problem in.... Utah or Wyoming. Not even applicable to North Dakota.
    I see that some of this could come true in Texas in the next or maybe succeeding century, so we have time to "plant a tree".
    But all these problems are really problematic in California. Fuel and Energy costs are high and going higher with brown outs and gas shortages looming. Huge food factories use every conceivable chemical to insure massive production and some that are not conceivable.
    I wonder why there are "happy cows" in California.
    Urban sprawl has paved over thousands of square miles of some of the most pristine lands in all of the US.
    Air pollution has turned the skies yellow and environmental damage may be so much that even nature will not be able to repair.
    Yes Sir, Mr Davis, you are in big trouble there in California. And I think there is little hope that those problems you have noted will be corrected by Californians.
    Move to..... Plano, Texas. Clean air, low fuel prices, open space for gardens... the world as you would like it. And the natives are very friendly.
    • Sep 9 2013: Texas also has lots of sunlight and open space--lay out bazillions of solar cells and thin-layer algae farms that produce petroleum substitutes (corporations are actually doing this, right now). The coast is very windy--lots of wind farming going on.
  • Sep 7 2013: No, I don't think "More walkable" or "less Sprawl" is the answer. We don't need incremental improvements. What we should do is completely redesign the city from the ground up. We are living in cities that were laid out at the beginning of the industrial revolution or even earlier. We have a 2 dimensional design that tends towards sprawl and waste. We should have a 3 dimensional design that is based on the technological revolution, modern telecommunications and smart technology. In addition the city should be designed to minimize the footprint, ultimately to 0. That would mean putting a high value on land, water, air, etc.

    For example, we drive automobiles which are designed to travel at 50-60 mph and yet the average speed across a city like NYC is 15mph, this is a design error. Also, we can calculate the cost of services provided in a city based on the size of the city. Plumbing, electricity, internet increase in cost on a per foot basis. Once again, a clear error in the design of sprawl which is a direct result of a 2 dimensional grid.
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      Sep 7 2013: Thanks Stuart, I might also wish for a clean slate and a comprehensive redesign. When I say more walkable communities and less sprawl, that's simply a nod to reality. We live in a free society, not a command economy. We don't have consensus on the problem. We don't even have the majority acknowledging its scope or its implications. We can do magical things, however, by demonstrating well-designed communities and making them reality. Energy efficient community retrofits can: 1. Create good paying jobs. 2. Improve living standards. 3. Positively impact human health. 4. Lower living costs. 5. Lower Healthcare costs. 6. Decrease species loss 7. Improve air quality.

      Converting existing communities from their existing structures to these involves creative redesign. There are examples of new urbanism being done.

      Here's one from San Diego: http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/genplan/pilotvillage/paseo.shtml
      • Sep 8 2013: The society we live in is very quick to adopt technology that offers an order or magnitude in efficiency. Look at how quick the world adopted the internet.

        China is building cities for 350 million people over the next couple of decades. If those cities offer a dramatic advantage economically then the rest of the world will have no choice but to follow suite. Old design cities will go bankrupt just like Detroit.
  • Sep 7 2013: Yes there are solutions.
    Below, Mitch SMith says, "The world is financially/contractually committed to destroy all life on this planet - the law cannot help us now."
    It wasn't intended to or if it were, it has been changed to enable those who benefit from breaking the laws in all kinds of ways, for their benefit, namely profit, power and control.
    Since the "law cannot help us (people), it is time to not obey it. That should have been abundantly clear for some time now.
    Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Arizona known for his studies of consciousness, had a TEDx talk in Brussels in 2010. It was titled, "Do we have a quantum soul?" and he began with a statement that quantum mechanics can save the world. Next, he (to me, very quickly and misleadingly, in fact I believe it is intentional deception, just casually slipped in), listed "over-crowding, hatred, wars, terrorism, all basically overdue to overpopulation", adding, "disease, lack of food and energy, pollution and global warming, lack of purpose and meaning." It was this casual statement delivered in a manner that this was the truth, the reason and cause for our global problems - " all basically overdue to overpopulation", that got me.
    Our problems such as you are addressing in this topic, come not from global over-population but almost solely from the mismanagement of the earths resources and the insane and ludicrous belief that any one person, corporation, country or government should be able to or have "the right" to own or control them. Hence, our problems arise from this as all humans work not for money, but for their share of the earths resources that their meager money can buy for survival. There is enough, managed properly, for all life on the planet, as the resources were here, free, for all forms on earth.
    The only way to change this and stop an apocalypse of any sort is to take the power away from those who have it, they who only want destruction, fear and death.
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      Sep 8 2013: HI Random Chance,

      I just removed that post .it was unnecessarily gloomy.
      I got the gas market information from an industry insider. It's true, but it is also true for tar sands and coal.
      The law can be changed. But I question the effectiveness of direct revolutionary action to do that.
      In fact, I think the revolutionary dynamic is already built-in as food supplies get increasingly chaotic. This was the real driver of the "Arab spring".

      There are some pressure points that might be available for low-level revolutionary pressure - civil disobedience might be part of that, or it might only need legislative representation.

      Firstly, the "market" is ill-defined. Goods and services are not really "remunerated" they are supported by community subsidy. This is the true basis of surplus - a specialist can produce more of a social need than an individual can do for themselves - skill is the source of surplus.
      SO ensure that skills extraneous to the community interest are eliminated.

      Money is misunderstood - it is not the medium of exchange - it is the medium of subsidy afforded to specialists by the community the specialist serves. When it is expressed as a currency, the issuer of the currency sets the rules of its use - and thereby captures the community.
      SO, ensure that the community is the issuer of the currency.

      Investment is misunderstood. Investment is done by a community by using the surplus to secure the future needs of the community. It is not the deployment of an individual's hoard to secure the future interest of the individual. This is also obscured by the default tribal dynamics of humans - my next point.
      SO, ensure that the community understands that any surplus generated by the subsidy of specialists remains in the possession of the community.


      (cont'd.)
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      Sep 8 2013: Humans default to tribe-sizes of 200-300 individuals. This is not a behavioural peccadillo, nor is it open to interpretation - it is a function of our physical brain-size.
      You will see that any community that grows beyond 300 members will schism into camps - these are fully blown tribes. If they fail to recognise that they have divergent tribal interests, then conflict will arise which cannot be properly addressed by the internal tribal customs and codes.
      Not appreciating this dynamic results in fictitious assumptions - leading to unrealistic laws.
      When you get a "nation" pretending to be a 350 million person tribe, you will see that the laws drafted to satisfy the fiction balloon exponentially .. and how can you obey the law if it takes 3 lifetimes to read it?
      SO, recognise tribal boundaries as they form
      - recognise that a tribe drafts its own laws
      - begin the task of building effective inter-tribal conventions and codes
      - if necessary,begin building effective methods to manage hierarchies of tribal affiliations.

      This should not be impossible, we already have local/regional/national/trade-block/international jurisdictions. It just needs to be rationalised such that a single person can read the laws in a single day.

      I note that population growth correlates with GDP which correlates with interest rates which correlates with atmospheric CO2, which correlates with accelerated entropy of the planet.

      Sorry for the extended rant .. thoughts?

      (sub-rant:
      I was once a salesman for a high-tech junkyard - it consisted mostly of de-installed second gen cellphone infrastructure.
      When I visited the warehouse I was impressed how much of it there was - a giant warehouse full of functional coms gear - enough to wire a medium sized country.
      This was once a pinnacle achievement - all manufactured using the finest skills and resources.
      This gear was deployed for only 5 years .. and now it was all junk - almost worthless
      Waste on a breathtaking scale - it's normal these days)
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        Sep 8 2013: Do you consider yourself, as an example, part of a single tribe or of several tribes?
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          Sep 9 2013: At the moment, I am somewhat tribe-less.

          The tribal boundaries in my life, and most others, have become quite indistinct.

          I have affiliation to a number of tribes, but it is dilute - and chaotic.

          Being self-employed, I am not available to the artificial tribe-building conducted by governments (aka "jobs").
          Tribe membership is bound by some kind of neural opiate .. this leads me to get stuck in TED conversations .. so I suppose I am part of the TED community tribe.

          I am also part of the traditional folk-music tribe. That one is interesting because it can form-up into fully-functioning villages, complete with all services. I have an advantage in that tribe because I am part of the inner totemic tradition - I make musical instruments. So, in TED, I have little status - in folk, I have high status.
          If I were completely rational, I would have nothing to do with TED - I have tribal responsibilities of higher priority.
          This is where a good researcher might get some status in the neural-research-tribes - what is it about online text communication that produces the tribal opiate?
          (it is potentially parasitic).
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        Sep 9 2013: The reason I asked is that I think most people may be part of several tribes corresponding to their different values, interests, and local circumstances. This fact should be considered in envisioning natural social organization. Many people do not want to bound themselves by affiliation with one self-contained group of people or one thing. Many people may, rather, feel fellowship with or responsibility to more than one tribe, particularly once they enter adult life.

        I think you are part of the TED community tribe.
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          Sep 9 2013: I think we are under the pressure of a "war of the totems".

          This is responsible for the rupture of tribal membranes.

          Elsewhere I have posted about the difference between natural demand and promoted demand. demand promotion (propaganda) is the art of totemic manipulation. The totem is intuitively understood if you bring to mind national flags - these are the beginning of the craft of totems. You can't just have a flag - you have to associate primal motivators to it.
          To disrupt another totem or maintain an existing one, you battle for the motivational associations in the minds of the tribesmen.

          We have a situation now, where our totemic dynamic is hijacked. It was not always so.
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          Sep 9 2013: I'll indulge in some notes .. hope that's OK?

          1. There might be a specialised part of the brain which tracks tribal affiliation - there's aan avenue for research.
          2. If such a part of the brain exists, then it might be subject to plasticity.
          3. The primary motivator for tribal affiliation is expression. Expression being the contribution to the tribe .. or perhaps the totem? .. no .. just the tribe.

          There's something significant there . I'll think on it.

          Thanks for the opportunity Fritzie!
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        Sep 9 2013: You may conclude that you are looking for something broader than expression, if you are using that word in its normal sense- that expression is a manifestation of something larger rather than a motivator in itself.

        You will decide once you have thought on it.

        I think we can safely assume plasticity. What argument could there be against it?
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          Sep 9 2013: Well .. perhaps the word "expression" has too many shades of meaning.
          I like the etymological depth of the word "contribution": con - tribe - for the tribe.
          So anything that serves the potential advantage of the tribe is contributed via the expression of tribesmen - it might be noted that surplus arises from skills .. so the potential advantage of the tribe is served by skills expressed towards that advantage.
          Such skills are easy to see as expression in terms of discourse and the arts, but should be widened to incorporate the arts, system design and all contributions to the Maslow pyramid retained by the tribe.
          In this definition, expression resolves as a dynamic: the free-flow of contribution and acceptance of that contribution. This is most plainly demonstrated by the "freedom of speech" principle. .. although I have seen it more succinctly put: "freedom TO speak".

          It follows that one cannot enjoy a tribal relationship if one's freedom to contribute is constrained. And therein lies the default tribal attractor - acceptance. Of course, the antithesis of acceptance is exile.
          It might be argued that the ultimate social violence is exile - I believe it would be more effective than physical violence and requires less laws to maintain.

          Just thinking on the reality of multi-tribal affiliation . as well as totemic-competition, tribal size resulting from such competition may be too large to retain stability. This leaves a problem when considering skill-organisations: unions, schools and guilds .. in their raw forms, I don't think they are advantageous to tribal stability - there may be ways to remedy that .. but it looks tricky.

          The plasticity idea presumes a brain-node that does that trick .. part of the autobiographical-self sub-structure ... akin to face recognition .. or Brocca's area.
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    Sep 7 2013: Hi Stephen,

    I agree with everything you say .. big-time.
    we are at peak-everything - and the only way from here is down.

    Historically, Humanity has only ever reacted to primary changes after they happened.
    If we manage to do better this time it will indicate a quantum-leap in our species. I would hope that is what we do.
    For the first time in the history of evolution, a species would evolve pre-emptively!

    No .. I won't bet on that. We are animals, we go to pleasure and withdraw from pain.
    There is not enough pain yet. And the pain we are precipitating will be felt by every form of life on planet Earth .. I think that rates as "significant".

    Evolution may well be done with us - if anything remotely human emerges, it will be a new species.
    But I cannot imagine any hominid surviving what we have prepared for it.

    Perhaps our robots might make it through. That seems .. somehow .. fitting. The world retains life through a phase-change - it has done this kind of thing many times, as the fossil record shows.
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    Sep 7 2013: The reason why population centers around cities is because they work. Cities are more efficient at transportation, communication (more so in the past), division of labor, specialization, stability as cities become known for qualities that transcend decades, cultures that develop skills e.g. NY and finance, Hollywood and movies, San Jose and high tech, Seattle and airplanes.

    Fuel changes with technology. For instance peak oil changes with advent of fracking. It is going to be an issue in your neighborhood soon. With all the posturing about the environment in Calif I will lay you odds that they go for it bigtime here because of the revenue it will bring to the whores er ah politicians in Calif.

    At the end of the day this is best decided by the market not by government.
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      Sep 7 2013: I wish that was true Pat.

      On your prompting, I've just gotten through reading all of Adam Smith, Hayek, Marx and Keynes.

      The market/government thing is an incredibly narrow frame to make any judgement that affects the wider frame.

      We need some new stuff at this point .. there's no more juice in the "market" ideology - it has proven to be only a part of a greater whole. We need tools to apprehend that whole if we are to get through the current petro-dollar crash.
      Seems the world has tired of subsidising the USA via seigniorage - the empire is over at the instant the USD ceases being the reserve currency.

      Where next?.
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        Sep 7 2013: This is my reply to your question to me below for which there is no reply button.

        In terms of David Harvey, is this the component of his perspective to which you refer: http://newleftreview.org/II/53/david-harvey-the-right-to-the-city ?

        It is fruitful to consider "what we are rather than what we pretend to be." There is a long and ever blossoming tradition, both in the academy and in the lay population of studying and trying to understand what we are and the implications. Some think what we are is something static and that versions that have evolved in response to changing environments should be considered inauthentic answers to that question. I think W. Ying's below, in his reference to the 10,000 year norm, is looking back to the conditions of human origins in that way. You might track that down in his profile.

        Others take the perspective that what we evolve to become in community, including such communities as we build, cannot be considered inauthentic. In nature things change.

        In relation to markets, they are a system of organization rather than a description of human nature. Of course particular systems of organization are parts of a greater whole. Would anyone deny that? For example, we are more than our economic exchange relationships.
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    Sep 6 2013: Everything comes down to invention and applications of Graphene !!
  • Sep 6 2013: I recently viewed a Charlie Rose episode with Sir James Goldsmith in the "90's not long before he died. This covers the EEC, NAFTA, and GATT and his expected problems. WOW Charlie didn't get it either. Sir James was also talking about figures like America's average weekly wage Maybe he was tlking about that number. We have some serious structural problems here. I am not familiar with the English education system and what dropping out of Eton means. But this guy had all the key variables and numbers. Maybe that was why he was a billionaire when it was unusal.
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    Sep 6 2013: Agree!