Problems and Solutions
February 14, 2005
Our Environmental Meetup, convened by Bob Walter, has had two most interesting meetings. The first, on January 10, 2005, was attended by Bob Walter, Ann Rumrill, and myself (Hank Stone). In this meeting we brainstormed a list of problems affecting our country and the world.
These problems we consider fixable. If it were not so, we would not bother with them. We are not concerned with human nature as a problem, since we can no more change that than stop the sun from coming up in the morning.
Then on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2005, while reasonable people were having romantic dinners with their lovers, we discussed how to solve these problems. Participants were Bob Walter, Doug Peterson, and Hank Stone.
Corporate owned and directed. Things one can find out on the Internet the newspapers and TV won’t report.
The Democrat party is corrupted. There is no populist party. Democrats shy away from important issues, including getting to a sustainable, secure, and just future.
Money spent on campaigns buys the candidates for corporations.
Campaigns last too long.
Election fraud in 2004 was permitted.
Short terms of office mean politicians always have their hands out, and cannot even consider long-term projects the country may need.
War crimes of the Bush Administration not investigated.
Torture, violation of international “law,” Patriot Act
Own our government and our media.
Are not loyal to the
Can incorporate offshore to avoid US taxes.
Are considered “persons” under the law, making it legal for them to lie to the public.
Do not have to operate in the public interest.
SOCIAL MODELS-where meaning comes from
“Growth” is considered good.
Pursuing self-interest is thought to benefit all
Economics says, you can never run out of resources
History is the story of wars, which are considered inevitable
Dominant model is laissez-faire capitalism
CFC’s and the ozone hole.
Extinctions of plants and animals.
Loss of habitat.
POPULATION / FOOD / WATER / RESOURCES
Lack of education.
Lack of jobs.
WAR / PEACE
The war system perpetuates itself because it’s so big, and profitable.
Approaching Peak Oil, which may collapse our economy.
Long lead time to transition to sustainability has not begun.
Religions give both helpful and unhelpful mythologies.
Government secrecy hides bad government.
Public is deceived by misinformation.
Public deceived with frames and myths.
Science and religion appear at odds—what is true?
Information coming faster than culture can evolve.
People see what they believe in, rather than just believing what they see.
People are superstitious.
Simplistic formulas blind us to the side effects of what we’re doing.
Restricted freedom for abortions.
Stem cell research thwarted.
Gay marriage issue.
War and killing as OK.
Evolution and the attack on science.
US and World interconnected and hurting
Not enough Jobs to go around; mfg. To
For what job?
Who decides what to teach children?
Rich / poor differences continue a cycle of poverty.
POVERTY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
High birthrate areas tend to get poorer and worse educated
Extremes of wealth and poverty make global citizenship difficult
Ecological damage from overpopulation
Criminal justice system jails the poor, not the rich
People can’t afford insurance in this country.
Can’t afford prescription drugs.
LONG TERM ECONOMICS
Social Security said to be in doubt
Energy- no plan
Jobs- no plan
No model for the future usable for planning
Throwaway economy / shoddy goods / no repairs
This is Hank’s take on the discussion, not to be confused with consensus of the three of us, and not presuming to speak for our group as a whole.
For purposes of this discussion, we assumed the role of dispassionate observers (as if watching from Mars through a telescope), not needing to worry about the fate of humanity. This is a reasonable position, since on the occasion of our meeting we can’t affect anything going on in the world. We are stuck in the NOW, unable to change the past or the present (but, conceivably, the future).
Since the participants were different this time, we asked whether we agreed these were real problems, and we did.
Bob noted that he was especially concerned about global warming and depleted uranium.
Dave felt we should look for key problems to work on, that would affect the others.
Why don’t people think more deeply about these things? 1) the speed of life, 2) breakdown of community-mindedness, 3) denial of what’s wrong, 4) no wakeup call from corporations, 5) no wakeup call from government, 6) no wakeup call from the media, 7) no wakeup call from churches. And, 8) as long as we can keep from thinking about the future and our kids, life is pretty darned good in this country!
A global crisis could be part of the solution. Tragedy and widely shared suffering might help—like learning to drive in the snow. At first there will be a lot of accidents, but as people get the hang of it they learn to drive more slowly and can make do. What did people do in the Depression? Some good things came of that, and especially lessons in character. Technology might be advanced.
We particularly talked about peak oil as a problem, since when the global demand for oil greatly outstrips the supply (expected soon), we anticipate a depression—sharp business slowdown from expensive oil, the price of everything requiring transportation going up, and lack of food, because of the pivotal role of energy in agriculture (e.g. tractor fuel, irrigation, pumping irrigation water, trucking, refrigeration, processing, retailing).
We didn’t find waiting for crisis satisfying, because so much suffering would arise during the long periods needed for retooling our infrastructure for prosperity despite low energy availability. Nature reliably keeps things in balance, after all, by killing off everyone who doesn’t have food. If we didn’t mind that, we wouldn’t have to lift a finger to change anything.
To change things with a minimum of crisis, we’d like to have a change of consciousness in people, with at least the effect of extending resources into the future. This, we think, would take 1) the restoration of democracy, so the people’s business rather than corporate business could be pursued by government, 2) education of the people in the objective facts of our situation (done through government), and 3) a national debate on how to proceed—since just having facts does not give us an agreed-upon way forward.
We note that there is a growing underclass in the
We can’t solve the global problems by the scientific method of reductionism, where we look at one problem at a time, break it down into its component parts, and work on them. The reasons why are 1) that’s exactly how we got where we are, 2) the problems are interconnected, so trying to solve one in isolation tends to make others worse, and 3) the planet doesn’t have enough resources (even if we all want to share) to provide a prosperous and sustainable living for the 6.4 humans now alive.
Also, centralized control over our way of life is not an
Also, we are not smart enough to know the most desirable end state to work toward. To the extent that we don’t know the final destination for our social evolution, we need a process approach. We need, perhaps, to deliberate as a society on what people find desirable, choose incentives and disincentives nudging society in that direction, implement those incentives, and go back and review plusses and minuses. And keep doing this, iteratively.
We can’t be too timid. If we limit our thinking to convincing people to make do with less, we cut off the ability to invent new solutions, and disallow non-traditional solutions like applying non-coercive incentives and disincentives to control the population. After all, our resource and pollution problems would tend to go away if the human population were back at 1-2 billion, where it was at the beginning of the 20th Century.
If we can’t solve problems piecemeal, and can’t have a centralized power center to think of the answers for us, what does that leave? The answer is, create a new religion (in the larger sense in which capitalism is a religion). Our society has lots of unquestioned ideas that get passed on from generation to generation, through families, schools, churches, work life, and peer interactions. We believe in endless growth, having enemies, God being on our side, war, capitalism, consumerism, etc.
Religion informs the direction of society, and society informs the direction of religion. And religion has always been a way to coax socially acceptable behavior from people, without their having to be of a philosophical bent, or even educated.
If a convincing prophet were to appear, or a spokesperson with a mission to redirect the thinking of an existing church, that might fill the bill. But that might be an unnecessarily narrow view of what the “religion’ could be.
At could be as simple as a new conventional wisdom, such as that sustainable prosperity is the right and proper concern for citizens, and should inform their participation in corporations, family life, and government.
Decisionmakers in our present society are too well off to seriously contemplate change. Corporations are locked into the short-term bottom line. Reelection of government officials is largely paid for by corporations. Governments, corporations, churches, schools, and the military are afraid to rock the boat.
But there are a few men—like George Soros and Ted Turner, who are so rich they can do anything they want. They are not owned by any government or corporation, and want to do good. Such people could begin the new “religion” needed by 1) calling together panels of wise and knowledgeable people, 2) having them deliberate on questions of the long-term direction of society, 3) paying public relations firms to have their recommendations turned into TV programs and written reports, and 4) paying the media to present their ideas to the public—as enthusiastically as if they were selling cars!
Even though elected officials serve only 2-6 year terms, the people could demand candidates who supported policies leading to long-term health of the society. Reforms like publicly financed elections, honest voting, and instant runoff voting would reduce the corruption in government, and help jump start American democracy.
With citizen control of government, we could demand independent news reporting. We could address ways of using our tax money to address some of the global problems, including global security, instead of pursuing endless wars. We could do real good in other countries and again earn the respect of the world.
We could consider whether we want jobs for everyone, and if so, what that implies for the population, resources, automation, and having poor people in foreign countries. If we want to live in a future world where people in other countries aren’t desperate, maybe we should be helping them get their women educated so they can get their birth rates down.
In a democracy, we could do polling to find out what people REALLY want, and devise programs and policies serving the public interest.