Below is the edited footage from our webinar/livestream conversation on 22 May 2020.
A few thoughts from the garden …
A few thoughts to fuel the choices we all face about the world we make.
Here’s a nice 6 minute video that puts us in the picture. The big picture.
It’s not the whole story, but its brief and is a super introduction and a refresher for old hands..
We are past the point of stopping disruption. It was 15 oC this evening. (Ireland, December) 13 oC would be OK, maybe in the realm of normality. But 15oC is not a symptom of normality.
And then there’s the data. We believe in data because we live off it. It is data that runs our lives, our businesses, our cell phones. And data shows us what’s going on, what’s behind the hype. So check out the movie and research some data. Change is happening. Adapt.
ZERI, initiated by the founder of Ecover, explains why the “green” economy must evolve to the “blue” economy and how …
COP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night. Climate change is great, but it’s not good. I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze. But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems. Both civilisation and nature.
The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different. Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing. Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.
For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar. For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.
All of these people are connected by social organisation and media. We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows, … We tend to communicate with like minded people. It is not easy to cross over. But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation. (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)
Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends. Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?
While there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people: People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.
The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable. Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow. For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.
A litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg. So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2. Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement. It’s heavy! And it’s just one event on one day.
So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.
The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels. The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.
Civilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical. Every crisis comes about because of moral failure. Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion. There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power. If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.
So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle. It’s not about equality it’s about equity. Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve. The system is a result of everybody’s choices. We must all choose better. We must aim to do the right thing the right way.
Is the scale of marches for change today a significant number? They are certainly the largest individual marches and the largest globally coordinated march, and the first to include a virtual march which allowed people to participate without travelling long distance.
They say about 600,000 marched (excluding virtual marchers) around the world. That’s a lot of people bothering to go out to do a chore.
Maybe the number is higher. There are more on virtual marches. And many who were there in thought and spirit if not body.
It might not be enough. Politicians listen to money. Businesses might see opportunities, but are good at greenwash and we’re good at being blind-sided by advertising and mod cons – phones to cars, fast food to fast clothes, … must haves?
So we must remember tomorrow that we must still say no to more than enough. Less consumption. Less flying and driving. Less packaging and chemicals. Less deception and greed. It’s easy. We all know what to do if we think.
Does it matter?
Yes, in many ways. Climate is just one. Everything is connected. We must change the system to bring dignity to humanity, fix the financial system, clean up the food system, stop the waste of corruption and redress the pain of war.
Looking at climate alone, the temperature rise since 1850 has been 1 o C, while 2 o C is agreed ‘gateway’ to dangerous global warming. We’re well on the way to tipping point, if not there already.
We can emit up to 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. At this rate we’ll have done that in 15 years. That means we’ve got 15 years to stop, not we’ve got to stop in 15 years. By the way, oil companies have in their current reserves 2,795 gigatonnes worth of carbon dioxide – so they have an incentive to sell that stuff, which will kill the planet as we know it. (Living on Mars might be better…) And just so you know how much they want it the CEO of Exxon gets paid $100,000 a day, yes a DAY. And you’re paying it.
There’s been a 4% decline in Arctic sea ice per decade since 1979
9 out of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000
It’s not a debate. If you’re smart it’s immoral to question whether humans are the cause or if fossil fuels are the problem.
There are other important facts. Like that the human population has doubled while half the wildlife has been wiped out in my life. Like the 30 million millionaires owning more than 3 billion people. Like the suicide rate among farmers. Like not being able to afford the food you buy. It’s not about religion. We’re all in this together. It’s crazy. We need common sense. We need to take a breath and do the right thing the right way.
We need to say no to the bad things and use alternatives. Drive less, travel less, turn the thermostat down, eat less junk, throw away less (and don’t buy it in the first place), cheat less, … Eat more veg, run and bike more, say sorry, say I’m wrong, be with family and friends more. And if we’re in charge, we’ve really got to do better. We all are part of the system and we need to change the system.
They say that Ireland is back from the brink. The data shows it, the traffic on the M50 around Dublin shows it and the budget displays a touch of the old hubris we knew from the noughties.
GDP might be above 5% but we’re not feeling it so much on the ground. The growth is driven by trade, which dominates because Ireland attracts foreign companies that want a low tax jurisdiction. Pharmaceutical companies and IT companies have big operations serving Europe. And there’s a whole ecosystem around them from lawyers and accountants to property agents feeding of the nexus of activity.
There’s some trickle down. That’s good. But mostly it’s people at the top that are benefiting. Certainly here in Carlow, only 70km from Dublin city centre, businesses which are three generations old are still scraping to get get by, keep their staff and pay down the bank debt. We still feel the pinch.
That pressure is not just financial. It’s regulatory too. The raft of licenses, fees and new certifications required to do what has been done for years puts a crimp in the cash flow as well as the opportunity to innovate. For a country that prides itself on its “educated” work force that is a shame.
And while we’re on the subject, education budgets have been cut and the whole culture of pedagogy remains stuck in Catholic dogma and mantra. We are not taught to think but rather to perform. That does not set Ireland up for a great future. It is the same approach of the erstwhile feudal systems – train the monkeys to do what they’re told, not to think. There are moves to change the system, to open it up and modernise curriculum and pedagogy, but resistance is strong – after all everyone’s been trained to accept what we have.
Which raises the question of Irish culture and how that is faring as the economy “resuscitates”. On the ground, Ireland has always been about people. When it was poor there was still a pride in presentation. Yes there are prejudices born of incestuous communities and ignorance, but there has always been heart, and big heart at that. Ireland has a social culture which is about people and fun as much as porter. In fact it’s more about tea than porter. It seems that as we kow-tow to the international drug company and software company we are losing some of that joy. Too many of us have learnt how to be greedy while the rest of us have not yet learned to say “no”.
The future could be bright, but that is uncertain. We could have money, without happiness and maybe that’s OK. But if the markets turn and the vibrancy of those international companies pauses, we could be poor and sad. It’s important that we all take a moment to keep our communities alive, to help a neighbour and to ask for effective management of public services, like school (whose budgets are cut), health (ditto) and infrastructure (ditto again). We must put politics and predjucies aside and think for ourselves. Let’s not imagine we’re America without the guns, after all Americans likes Ireland because it’s Irish.
The prospect of your job being automated is increasing. The convergence of neuroscience, computing, biology and engineering has already made robotic prosthetics a reality and everyone carries a small thinking machine so that they can remember phone numbers, birthdays etc (media device/phone).
We are certainly choosing a future in which we don’t work. We haven’t addressed the consequences in a thoughtful way evidenced by the unchanged platitudes by politicians, ongoing agglomeration of industry and commerce (get big to survive) with its attendant pyramid of wages (little at the bottom, inconceivable wealth at the top) and public education systems still modelled on the factory.
The death of John and Alicia Nash on 23 May brought attention to game theory and the Nash Equilibrium, which offer insights into resolving the problems of today’s world.
As The Economist succinctly says: “In the real world of less-than-perfect competition, a “Nash equilibrium” may well be stable, but not optimal.” Game theory shows that competition yields a sub-optimal stability, which can only be enhanced by cooperation.
Today we live in a world where resource constraints are not just widening the chasm between “haves” and “have-nots” but are destroying the fabric of nature upon which all life depends. Human consumption is reducing access to clean water, land and air, is eliminating species and people increasingly rely upon junk (food, fashion and stuff) to prop up our confidence.
The way to reverse the destruction of the biosphere is to reduce consumption which can only be achieved with a cooperative approach to resource allocation. At the root of this cooperation must be the sharing of technology which allows efficient production and allocation of food, clothing, housing, energy.
A cooperative approach is not a bureaucratic approach, it is not mechanical and it can not be maintained with laws. Cooperation is founded on a culture of empathy which engenders trust which reduces enterprise overheads. The root of a the solution to resource constraints is in cultural maturity.
John Nash showed this scientifically half a century ago. Many others have shared the same wisdom over the centuries, but have been drowned out by the confidence of political and economic ego.
The Mereon Legacy: A Mereonic perspective on John Nash: Cooperation vs. Competition
Wikipedia: Nash Equilibrium
Tension is rising is the USA. Two US police officers were shot dead in Mississippi. Last week.a New York police officer was shot in the head while questioning a suspect from his police car. And riots bubbled in Baltimore after a suspect died in police custody. The mood is confused and angry.
The issue is justice. Minorities in America (non-whites, females, etc) have been depreciated by law and culture for too long. The solutions of education, jobs, and infrastructure have been neglected in favour of guns and incarceration.
System change is afoot. We can choose a soft landing by opening up opportunities, sharing resources, and the “rich giving to the poor”. Even if we do, cynicism and history means people will be sceptical of change for a while. But the longer we continue using command and control approaches the worse it will get.
In Europe, refugees are dying by hundreds as they try to escape feudal regimes, bereft of opportunity. Many are people like us – farmers, teachers, postal workers, shop keepers, even doctors and engineers. We can do more to stop them drowning, though, the real solution is again to promote education, infrastructure and jobs while reducing access to guns.
As long as we continue to turn a blind eye to unethical behaviour in the middle east, even to the extent of investing in weapons, the violence will continue. As long as we allow capital and corporal punishment in our own judicial systems the global moral compass will continue to spin.
We can’t stop earthquakes, like the recent one in Nepal. But we spent fewer, even no, resources on weapons, there would be more for education, infrastructure and jobs and emergency supplies for inevitable tragedies which will become more invasive as climate change and biodiversity loss impacts food supplies and our habitat.
Sadly, the push back against ignorance, immorality and injustice is going to get worse. The sooner global cultural enlightenment can emerge the sooner humankind’s destruction of our own living systems will be reversed.
On a happier note, dancing helps as Dimitri Reeves showed …. so let’s show a bit of love.
BBC: Nepal Earthquake