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Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

A friend of mine who I deeply respect sent me the website “Dark Mountain Project” to check out. http://www.dark-mountain.net/ I read their “Manifesto” and don’t completely agree with what they write here or completely understand what the point is. “A fall is coming” – Seems more like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Good writing, but doesn’t say much except gloom and doom. I prefer to work on sustainable solutions for society rather than rant on about the impending downfall and how it will be a good thing.

Ecological Economics is an area that is starting to bring our industrial system back in line with our ecology. Capitalism hasn’t absorbed the sustainability revolution; it is being transformed by it. Population growth is a big problem in the world that is causing much of the damage. Does the author prefer to ignore the plight of the hungry and impoverished and await the downfall of capitalism while billions die? Why not work within the system and try to change it? Women’s rights and education can go a long way in this area. The more educated women are along with access to birth control, the fewer children they have. In developed countries the population would actually be shrinking if not for immigration and nevertheless, it is in some places.

As for the developed nations, we can focus on preserving and restoring our natural capital, creating closed-loop industrial systems where nothing is wasted or thrown away, and moving away from oil and creating an economy that runs on 100% renewable energy. We can make our cities more dense and livable and tear down the suburbs to replant forests and farms. We can make our society sustainable! Overtime the population will start to shrink and we can restore nature.

In short, there is a lot we can do other than read well written, but unsubstantiated doom and gloom rhetoric. Try blogs like www.worldchanging.com or www.triplepundit.com for inspiration. For a critical analysis of the different future scenarios check out the Tellus Institute’s report “Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead.”

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From http://www.gtinitiative.org/documents/Great_Transitions.pdf

A Distant Vision
“Here is a civilization of unprecedented freedom, tolerance and decency. The pursuit of meaningful and fulfilling lives is a universal right, the bonds of human solidarity have never been stronger and an ecological sensibility infuses human values. Of course, this is not paradise. Real people live here. Conflict, discontent, mean-spiritedness and tragedy have not been abolished. But during the course of the twenty-first century the historic possibility was seized to redirected development toward a far more sustainable and liberatory world.

The fabric of global society is woven with diverse communities. Some are abuzz
with cultural experimentation, political intensity and technical innovation. Others are slow-paced bastions of traditional culture, direct democracy and small-is-beautiful technology. A few combine reflection, craft skill and high esthetics into a kind of “sophisticated simplicity,” reminiscent of the Zen art of antiquity. Most are admixtures of countless subcultures. The plurality of ways is deeply cherished for the choice it offers individuals and the richness it offers social life.
The old polarizing dualities—cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, globalism
versus nationalism and top-down versus bottom-up—have been transcended. Instead, people enjoy multiple levels of affiliation and loyalty—family, community, region and planetary society. Global communication networks connect the four corners of the world, and translation devices ease language barriers. A global culture of peace and mutual respect anchors social harmony.

The World Union (née the United Nations) unifies regions in a global federation for co-operation, security and sustainability. Governance is conducted through a decentralized web of government, civil society and business nodes, often acting in partnership. Social and environmental goals at each scale define the “boundary conditions” for those nested within it. Subject to these constraints, the freedom to fashion local solutions is considerable—but conditional. Human rights and the rights of other governance units must be respected. While sophisticated conflict resolution processes limit conflict, the World Union’s peace force is called on occasion to quell aggression and human rights abuse. Preferred lifestyles combine material sufficiency and qualitative fulfillment. Conspicuous consumption and glitter are viewed as a vulgar throwback to an earlier era. The pursuit of the well-lived life turns to the quality of existence—creativity, ideas, culture, human relationships and a harmonious relationship with nature. Family life evolves into new extended relationships as population ages and the number of children decreases. People are enriched by voluntary activities that are socially useful and personally rewarding. The distribution of income is maintained within rather narrow bounds. Typically, the
income of the wealthiest 20 percent is about two or three times the income of the poorest 20 percent. A minimum guaranteed income provides a comfortable but very basic standard of living. Community spirit is reinforced by heavy reliance on locally produced
products, indigenous natural resources and environmental pride.

The economy is understood as the means to these ends, rather than an end in itself. Competitive markets promote production and allocation efficiency. But they are highly fettered markets tamed to conform to non-market goals. The polluter pay principle is
applied universally, expressed through eco-taxes, tradable permits, standards and subsidies. Sustainable business practices are the norm, monitored and enforced by a vigilant public. Investment decisions weigh carefully the costs of indirect and long-term
ecological impacts. Technology innovation is stimulated by price signals, public preferences, incentives and the creative impulse. The industrial ecology of the new economy is virtually a closed loop of recycled and re-used material, rather than the old throwaway
society. Some “zero growth” communities opt to maximize time for non-market activities. Others have growing economies, but with throughputs limited by sustainability criteria. In the formal economy, robotic production systems liberate people from repetitive,
non-creative work. Most everywhere a labor-intensive craft economy rises alongside the high technology base. For the producer, it offers an outlet for creative expression; for the consumer, a breathtaking array of esthetic and useful goods; for all, a rich and diverse world. Long commutes are a thing of the past. Integrated settlements place home, work, shops and leisure activity in convenient proximity. The town-within-the-city balances human scale community with cosmopolitan cultural intensity. Rural life offers a more serene and bucolic alternative, with digital links maintaining an immediate sense of connectedness to wider communities. Private automobiles are compact and pollution free. They are used in niche situations where walking, biking and public transport options are not available. Larger vehicles are leased for special occasions and touring.
Advanced mass transportation systems link communities to local hubs, and those hubs to one another and to large cities. The transition to a solar economy is complete. Solar cells, wind, modern biomass and flowing water generate power and heat buildings. Solar energy is converted to hydrogen, and used, along with direct electricity, for transportation. Advanced bio-technology
is used cautiously for raw materials, agriculture and medicine. Clean production practices have eliminated toxic pollution. Ecological farming makes use of high inputs of knowledge, and low inputs of chemicals to keep yields high and sustainable. Population
stabilization, low-meat diets and compact settlements reduce the human footprint, sparing land for nature. Global warming is abating as greenhouse gas emissions return to pre-industrial levels. Ecosystems are restored and endangered species are returning,
although scars remain as reminders of past heedlessness. This is not the end of history. In some sense, it is the beginning. For at last, people live with a deep awareness of their connection to one another, future generations and the web of life.”

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A Distant Vision

Here is a civilization of unprecedented freedom, tolerance and decency. The pursuit of

meaningful and fulfilling lives is a universal right, the bonds of human solidarity have

never been stronger and an ecological sensibility infuses human values. Of course, this

is not paradise. Real people live here. Conflict, discontent, mean-spiritedness and

tragedy have not been abolished. But during the course of the twenty-first century the

historic possibility was seized to redirected development toward a far more sustainable

and liberatory world.

The fabric of global society is woven with diverse communities. Some are abuzz

with cultural experimentation, political intensity and technical innovation. Others are

slow-paced bastions of traditional culture, direct democracy and small-is-beautiful

technology. A few combine reflection, craft skill and high esthetics into a kind of

“sophisticated simplicity,” reminiscent of the Zen art of antiquity. Most are admixtures

of countless subcultures. The plurality of ways is deeply cherished for the choice it

offers individuals and the richness it offers social life.

The old polarizing dualities—cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, globalism

versus nationalism and top-down versus bottom-up—have been transcended. Instead,

people enjoy multiple levels of affiliation and loyalty—family, community, region and

planetary society. Global communication networks connect the four corners of the

world, and translation devices ease language barriers. A global culture of peace and

mutual respect anchors social harmony.

The World Union (née the United Nations) unifies regions in a global federation for

co-operation, security and sustainability. Governance is conducted through a decentralized

web of government, civil society and business nodes, often acting in partnership.

Social and environmental goals at each scale define the “boundary conditions” for those

nested within it. Subject to these constraints, the freedom to fashion local solutions is

considerable—but conditional. Human rights and the rights of other governance units

must be respected. While sophisticated conflict resolution processes limit conflict, the

World Union’s peace force is called on occasion to quell aggression and human rights

abuse.

Preferred lifestyles combine material sufficiency and qualitative fulfillment. Conspicuous

consumption and glitter are viewed as a vulgar throwback to an earlier era. The

pursuit of the well-lived life turns to the quality of existence—creativity, ideas, culture,

human relationships and a harmonious relationship with nature. Family life evolves into

new extended relationships as population ages and the number of children decreases.

People are enriched by voluntary activities that are socially useful and personally rewarding.

The distribution of income is maintained within rather narrow bounds. Typically, the

income of the wealthiest 20 percent is about two or three times the income of the poorest

20 percent. A minimum guaranteed income provides a comfortable but very basic

standard of living. Community spirit is reinforced by heavy reliance on locally produced

products, indigenous natural resources and environmental pride.

The economy is understood as the means to these ends, rather than an end in itself.

Competitive markets promote production and allocation efficiency. But they are highly

fettered markets tamed to conform to non-market goals. The polluter pay principle is

applied universally, expressed through eco-taxes, tradable permits, standards and subsidies.

Sustainable business practices are the norm, monitored and enforced by a vigilant

public. Investment decisions weigh carefully the costs of indirect and long-term

ecological impacts. Technology innovation is stimulated by price signals, public preferences,

incentives and the creative impulse. The industrial ecology of the new economy

is virtually a closed loop of recycled and re-used material, rather than the old throwaway

society.

Some “zero growth” communities opt to maximize time for non-market activities.

Others have growing economies, but with throughputs limited by sustainability criteria.

In the formal economy, robotic production systems liberate people from repetitive,

non-creative work. Most everywhere a labor-intensive craft economy rises alongside the

high technology base. For the producer, it offers an outlet for creative expression; for the

consumer, a breathtaking array of esthetic and useful goods; for all, a rich and diverse

world.

Long commutes are a thing of the past. Integrated settlements place home,

work, shops and leisure activity in convenient proximity. The town-within-the-city balances

human scale community with cosmopolitan cultural intensity. Rural life offers a

more serene and bucolic alternative, with digital links maintaining an immediate sense

of connectedness to wider communities. Private automobiles are compact and pollution

free. They are used in niche situations where walking, biking and public transport

options are not available. Larger vehicles are leased for special occasions and touring.

Advanced mass transportation systems link communities to local hubs, and those hubs

to one another and to large cities.

The transition to a solar economy is complete. Solar cells, wind, modern biomass

and flowing water generate power and heat buildings. Solar energy is converted to

hydrogen, and used, along with direct electricity, for transportation. Advanced bio-technology

is used cautiously for raw materials, agriculture and medicine. Clean production

practices have eliminated toxic pollution. Ecological farming makes use of high inputs

of knowledge, and low inputs of chemicals to keep yields high and sustainable. Population

stabilization, low-meat diets and compact settlements reduce the human footprint,

sparing land for nature. Global warming is abating as greenhouse gas emissions return

to pre-industrial levels. Ecosystems are restored and endangered species are returning,

although scars remain as reminders of past heedlessness.

This is not the end of history. In some sense, it is the beginning. For at last, people

live with a deep awareness of their connection to one another, future generations

and the web of life.

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You are what you eat is pretty obvious. However, I’ve been thinking about where the chemicals we put on our bodies end up. You know, the toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, make-up, hair spray, gel, shaving cream, cologne, perfume, lotions, and various other products to numerous to name.

As it turns out, when these chemicals are washed down the drain the water company can’t completely remove them from the waste water before it is discharged back into our streams and eventually the ocean. And this isn’t to mention the other substances that we use like synthetic hormones for birth control and various household cleaners. These chemicals end up right back in our food and water. It’s a tough realization, but there is no “away” to throw your waste. We are literally what we put into the environment: chemicals. There is no separation: the human system is just a sub-system of Earth’s system.

Even people that have been eating organic and using only natural body products test positive for the majority of cancer causing and bio-accumulative substances that we pump into our air, land, and water by the ton. I wonder what the statistics are for autism and various other maladies of the nervous system and how it might correlate with us increasingly using the environment as a toxic waste dump. Many young people even have chemicals in their bodies that were banned before they were born.

I discovered that you can get most of your hygienic personal care done with just a few ingredients: baking soda and apple cider vinegar are the main two. For shampoo, try one tablespoon of baking soda for every cup of water. Conditioner: one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for every cup of water. Make sure to mix both vigorously. Toothpaste: use only a very small amount of baking soda. All of these have worked great for me. You would be surprised how soft your hair is and how proud your dentist is of your teeth. I have yet to try the recipe for deodorant, but will soon.

It’s amazing how the corporations have marketed to us their poisonous products that really don’t work that great anyway. These products are bad for us, bad for the environment, and bad for society. It’s funny how things work out. All we needed to do to start living more sustainably was to look around the kitchen.

Another way to think about this (or a motto to live by?): if you wouldn’t eat it, then don’t put it on your body or down the drain.

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Paul Hawken argues yes in his newest book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming

“No country advocates trade liberalization more ardently than the USA as a means to improve any country’s social welfare, a policy known as the Washington Consensus. The irony of America’s overheated emphasis on free-market ideology is how miserably it has failed its most ardent proponent. The United States has the worst social record of any developed country in the world, and it is the worse than that of many developing countries. By almost any measure of well-being, the US brings up the rear: It is number one in prison population (726 per 100,000 people vs. 91 in France and 58 in Japan); first in teen pregnancies, drug use, child hunger, poverty, illiteracy, obesity, diabetes, use of antidepressants, income disparity, violence, firearms death, military spending, hazardous waste producation, recorded rapes, and the poor quality of its schools. (The US is the only country in the the world besides Iraq where schools need metal detectors.) It has the highest trade budget deficit as a proportion of national income and has seen more than 30 million workers laid off by corporations since 1984, most of whom were permanently consigned to lower-wage jobs. As a uniform trade system sweeps over the world, the monetary gain are called GDP, but the losses that suffered, even in the industrialized West, much less in the Third World, are not tallied, as if one were recording sales at the cash register but ignoring thefts at the back of the warehouse.

The theory behind market liberalization is beguiling and, on the face of it, inarguable: If poor countries had more money and freedom, everyone would be better off; the great flow of material goods would eventually improve everyone’s life. To those who carp about low wages and poor working conditions in developing countries free-market advocates argue that freedom and prosperity require time and sacrifice. But whose time and whose sacrifice? Critics see the further concentration of wealth and power, not the spread of freedom. The world’s top two hundred companies have twice the assets of 80 percent of the world’s people, and that asset base is growing fifty times faster than the income of the world’s majority. Wealth flow uphill from the poor to the rich.”

I don’t usually like to quote so extensively, but I don’t believe I could have said it better. The message is clear – we (Americans) are not the example for the world. If anything, we’re the example of what not to do. We need to get our collective head out of the sand. The question is, are we willing to take the hard look at ourselves that it is going to require for us to make the improvements to the world we need to survive and thrive? I would guess not. As long as corporate interests are overrepresented in our capitol we can be assured of more of the same.

The problem is huge and this blog entry doesn’t have the room to explore the question let along the answer in detail. Start by reading this book and all his others. Get involved. Stand up and demand change. Find an issue you care about and work towards a solution. I promise it won’t take up too much of your time and you’ll feel great doing it.

We’re at a turning point in our history and have the technological tools available to collaborate in ways never before seen. Now our previously faint voices can have a parallel effect to become a vociferous demand for change. Let’s start now!

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A Call To Action

“We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say, the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half fortunate, half miserable, half confident, half despairing, half slave — to the ancient enemies of man — half free in a liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all.” – Adlai Stevenson

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This is truly scary: Are Americans getting more Apathetic About the Environment? http://ping.fm/7021s

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