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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XX

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XX

Pompeii, Italy (1993) Photo by author

Today’s contemplation is once again generated by way of an article from the online media site The Tyee. It’s topic is the city of Vancouver’s (British Columbia, Canada) attempts to require ‘electrification’ of all new buildings as part of their Climate Emergency Action Plan and the pushback by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating.

My first comment below was to bring to the surface the Overton Window that most media articles tend to display when discussing climate change actions and associated issues, particularly that it is only via ‘electrification’ of our society that we can adequately sustain our complexities and wean ourselves from the energy provided by fossil fuels; and thus ‘save our planet’.

The comment that follows is in response to another who responded to my comment with the tendency of some to buy into false (magical?) ‘solutions’. We tend to do this for any number of reasons, most (all?) of which are bio-psychological in nature.

The Overton Window established around policies/actions to address our ecological/environmental dilemmas is on full display here.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XIX

Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

Andrew Nikiforuk is an author and contributing editor of the online media site The Tyee. He has been writing about the oil and gas industry for close to 20 years. In his most recent article he writes about the lies being told by the Canadian government regarding its attempts to reduce carbon emissions. The Canadian government is certainly not alone in its misinformation (propaganda?) and one of the issues I believe is contributing to the lies is a (purposeful?) misidentification of our planet’s fundamental existential dilemma. Below is my comment on Andrew’s excellent discussion.

Thank you, Andrew. You’ve laid out the case for some very, very difficult decisions/choices/discussions that lay ahead of us.

I’m not convinced we will make what I consider to be the correct choices or even engage in some meaningful and productive dialogue since the changes that I believe are needed (degrowth) would be viewed as exceedingly painful to many as it challenges not only some core beliefs but what could be considered rights/entitlements/expectations regarding living standards (and it doesn’t help that we are genetically predisposed to avoid pain and seek pleasure). The brakes that need to be applied to some social practices/policies (perhaps most? all?) would also be challenged by some because I would contend the fundamental dilemma we are having to address is not necessarily carbon emissions, which I would argue is one of the consequences of the underlying issue, which is ecological overshoot.

The finite, one-time cache of easy-to-retrieve and cheap-to-access energy provided by fossil fuels has ‘fuelled’ an explosion in human numbers and sociopolitical/cultural/economic complexities unlike any other time in human pre/history. With this energy resource at our disposal we have constructed a complex, global, and industrialised world with technological wonders that would certainly appear magical to past generations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh IV

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Tulum, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

My comment on an article in The Tyee about our federal government’s latest throne speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/09/24/Throne-Speech-Stew/).

_____

The idea that a sovereign nation can never run into trouble financially because it can create its own currency is certainly the dominant narrative amongst government and ‘mainstream’ economists/bankers. After all, who benefits the most from this storyline?

But is it in fact true?

Scratching below the surface of this ‘experiment’ suggests it is not.

If printing one’s own money were a panacea, then nations like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or the German Weimar Republic (and countless other nations throughout history) would never have experienced the hyperinflation that they have. They would be the richest nations ever to have existed.

One could counter that this is because they had to use their debased currency to import goods. True, but if one is debauching one’s currency through exponential ‘printing’, then this may be true for any nation dependent upon imports, which almost every nation is in our globalised, industrial world.

The solution that nations have rested upon given this reality is that the central banks collude to all print at relatively the same rate, so currencies don’t fall/rise too drastically compared to their trading partners.

Fine, but what does endless money/credit creation due to the purchasing power of this fiat currency created from thin air?

Previous trials in this approach indicate that it totally debases/debauches the currency, significantly reducing the ‘wealth’ of the people holding/using it because of the inflation that it creates.
Here’s what John Maynard Keynes had to say about this: “By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh II

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Monte Alban, Mexico (1988) Photo by author.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Cogs in the climate machine

Cogs in the climate machine

A short course in planetary time, for planetary survival

This is less of a blog post, and more of a howl.

The planetary climate clock, in human time

Let’s start by some human and planetary timescales. I don’t know why we don’t learn them in grade school (I never learned them at all). But they matter. And let’s represent them visually, in a stark, plain way.

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King Canute and Queen Aelfgifu, date circa 1020, from the register of Hyde Abbey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“_” : this is our unit of time, and it’s 1000 years long.

_ is 10 long human lifespans, 40 generations, the time separating us from the first millennium and the Middle Ages in European history, when Canute of Denmark ruled Britain, before Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road. It’s a long time by any human account: twice the duration of the Roman Empire.

_____ is 5’000 years. It’s the age of the oldest known living tree, Methuselah, in the Californian White Mountains.

____________ is 12’000 years. It’s the time span separating us from the last ice age. This time is the time during which humans slowly selected plants, developed agriculture, cities, writing: anything we would call civilization. It is the time when humans thrived, cultures multiplied, our population grew. This clement and stable climate interval, which sheltered us and the plants we depend upon to live so well, is known as the Holocene. Gaze upon that interval fondly, for it is already in our past.

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Figure 1.2 from the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees, showing that we have already left the temperature range of the Holocene.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fooled.

Fooled.

How Gullible Politicians Promoted the Destruction of the Global Economy and Threw Us into the Abyss of Serfdom

https://www.vox.com/2014/11/10/7157997/everyone-is-selfish-when-it-comes-to-politics

Anyone with some basic knowledge in mathematical modeling who had taken a look at the structure of the “Imperial College”-model would have noted the faults of this approach and its exaggerations. The model’s prognosis that the United Kingdom would have to count with more than half a million deaths and a complete overload of its health system reversedthe British government’s earlier decision to use prudential surveillance and specifically targeted intervention and to shift to the full-control strategy, which required massive intervention into the public and private life of the nation. The leaders of other countries that were somewhat still in doubt jumped on the bandwagon and the march into a tyrannical State was programmed.

It was too late when the authors of the model finally revised their original estimate from 500 thousand to 20 thousand and later on lowered this number even more. The governments had already set into motion their emergency plans.

After declaring the coronavirus a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), agendas that had been prepared years ago were set into motion and the state agencies followed the procedures that were prescribed by the International Health Regulations (IHR) as the international legal instrument that is binding on 196 countries across the globe, including all the Member States of WHO.

Even now, months after the outbreak of the virus, the true size of the threat remains unclear. The quantitative basis is still too small to make a reliable projection.

If the modelers and the responsible government bodies had looked at the basic numbers instead of elaborating an apparently sophisticated model, they would have noticed that there has been no noticeable rise of the death rate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Three Ways to Regenerate Bioregions

Three Ways to Regenerate Bioregions

There are many “edges” of intact ecosystems waiting to regenerate degraded lands.

Is it even possible for humanity to safeguard its future? Are we bound to a fate of extinction… a still-birth on the way to becoming a planetary species? Or might we evolve our diverse cultures toward the regeneration of landscapes and ecosystems — making it possible to continue existing?

These are not idle questions. Humanity is currently in overshoot-and-collapse. We are causing a Mass Extinction Event that will take us down with it if it really takes off. Simply look at the Earth from space and you will see how much we have degraded the mountain ranges and valleys, flood plains and coastlines, tropical forests and high plateaus, all over the planet. The human impact is impossible to miss and largely destructive at present.

But what if we learned how to regenerate landscapes at increasing scales? Might we learn how to organize our economies around regenerative principles that turn all of this around? It just so happens that there might be a way to save ourselves.

We need to organize our societies (and all of their material flows) around bioregions. Only then might we learn how to function as regenerative economies that restore ecosystems and heal the Earth.This is what my colleagues and I are supporting at the Regenerative Communities Network. We are mobilizing a growing number of existing efforts to create bioregional economies into a peer-to-peer learning network that shares tools and knowledge to speed up all our efforts.

In this article, I would like to share three ways that we are observing in our network of communities for how to design the regeneration of an entire bioregion. These are patterns of emergence we have observed arising on their own in each collaborative effort. And each is now a focused work stream for how we consciously evolve the global network.

#1 :: Regenerative Education and Transformational Leadership

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nurturing vital diversity & resilience: Scaling out, rather than scaling-up!

Photo: NASA

Nurturing vital diversity & resilience: Scaling out, rather than scaling-up!

There is an unfortunate knee-jerk response programmed into many people in leadership positions to want to ask: “How do we scale it up?” every time they hear a seemingly good idea. To a larger or lesser extent, many of the people who have this response have contracted the virus of neoliberal economic indoctrination. Once infected you do not question the economic growth imperative, its hidden subsidies and externalities, the inadequacy of GDP as a measure of positive progress, nor the implied assumption that bigger is better or more efficient and effective. Very often it is not!

Of course we need to find a way that regenerative practice and careful restoration of healthy ecosystems functions spreads from community to community and bioregion to bioregion to reach global impact as quickly as possible. We need to reach scale, but not by scaling-up!

Many regenerative solutions will no longer be regenerative if they are simply scaled up into a mega-project or replicated in a cut & paste (cookie cutter) fashion. Such expansionist approaches tends to loose touch with the necessity for solutions to be born out of the cultural and ecological uniqueness of a place — its people and its bioregion. We can learn from the patterns of natural system how to design as nature, create place-sourced solutions and create conditions conducive to life.

In general natural systems do not keep growing exponentially in quantity and size. They tend to follow a logistic curve of growing to a certain point and then changing and maturing in qualities, relationships and interconnections without continuing to grow quantitatively in size or numbers. Just reflect on your own development from childhood to adulthood, if you want an example for that pattern. Our species has long passed the point where we should have switched from quantitative growth to qualitative growth, from more and bigger, to better and more appropriate.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

Greta Thunberg appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on September 18, 2019, based upon a photo by Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists

Of Warnings and their Ripple Effects

In her testimony to the US Congress, Greta Thunberg did not prepare a statement for submission to the record. Instead, she submitted the most recent scientific report, issued by the IPCC three weeks earlier. She said simply, “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you.”

Alden Meyer, an elder statesman of environmental advocacy that I have been running into at every climate meeting since Rio in 1992, called it the shortest and most powerful testimony he has heard anyone give in Congress during his decades in Washington.

This week another headline blazed across newspapers and social media sites: World Scientists Warn of Climate Emergency.

Reading this newest installment in ecologist William Ripple’s series was a mixed experience for me. On the one hand, I was delighted that he and Chris Wolf at Oregon State, Tom Newsome at the University of Sydney, Phoebe Barnard at Conservation Biology Institute and the University of Capetown, and Bill Moomaw at Tufts were able to enlist 11,258 co-signatories from 153 countries for their paper published in BioScience on November 5th.

The first such warning, organized by Alden Meyer and the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1992, had 1,575 prominent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates, co-sign. The second, by Ripple, Wolf, et al in BioScience in 2017, had 15,364 signatories from 184 countries, which begs the question: Why fewer this year?

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Escaping extinction through paradigm shift

Escaping extinction through paradigm shift

‘Rebellion’ is not enough. We need to build new systems from the ground up, right now

Drone footage of displaced family tents in one settlement in Badghis, Afghanistan, due to ongoing drought and climate change. There are thousands of makeshift homes spread between mountain hills on the outskirt of Qala-i-naw city. (Source: NRC/Enayatullah Azad)

For the last month, as a journalist and academic, I’ve experienced a strange sensation of paralysis.

I don’t usually experience this. Usually I find myself driven by the pressures of wanting to cover with due justice a full spectrum of intersecting crises and potential solutions.

But this month watching the spectacle of political madness unfolding across Washington, London and Brussels, while chaos and suffering continues to kick off across Venezuela, Yemen, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Nigeria and beyond, I experienced something I haven’t felt in a long-time. A sense of total burn-out. Of futility. Of tiredness.

Watching the news has become like entering a psychological boxing ring where you get the shit punched out of you repeatedly until you drop to the floor, broken, bloodied, and inert: helpless.

I can’t imagine this is a particularly unique sensation. But I wanted to share it with you because this is common ground. Common ground across the deepening divides tearing our societies apart. No matter which side of the divide we stand on, that sensation of paralysis and helplessness is playing out in tangible form in the political processes we see out there.

The sensation of paralysis is therefore not just a psychological artifact. It’s the internal experience of the systemic dysfunction playing out in the world. It’s a reflection of the state of collapse that our prevailing democratic institutions are experiencing as they prove completely incapable of responding to and solving for the intricate complexity of inherently interconnected converging global crises.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US officials offered my friend cash to take down Tehran’s power grid

US officials offered my friend cash to take down Tehran’s power grid

It took a country-wide power outage in Venezuela, whispers of a cyberattack, and smug tweets from US officials to make me suddenly recall the cloak-and-dagger story of a close Iranian-American friend nine years ago.

My friend, an engineer — who I will not name for obvious reasons and who I will call ‘Kourosh’ for the purpose of this article — revealed to me in 2010 that he was approached by two “State Department employees” who offered him $250,000 to “do something very simple” during his upcoming trip to Tehran.

Kourosh was freaking out because he didn’t know how these guys knew he was going to Iran in the first place, and how they knew he was “cash-strapped,” in the second.

He wasn’t a particularly political person, though he had participated in some DC protests in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2009 presidential elections. He was just one of thousands of Iranian-American engineers in the Washington-Maryland-Virginia technology belt looking to make a decent living.

Kourosh told the US officials that he was not interested, that if Iran needed to make changes, Iranians inside the country were the only ones who should do it.

I begged him to let me write this story, but he was very nervous and declined. Over the next year or two, I pushed some more and he gave me further information, but wouldn’t budge on its publication. Here’s what he revealed:

The State Department guys had since approached him a second time. They offered him further details about the job. They wanted him to disable Tehran’s power grid in exchange for the $250k. They needed someone with technical skills, but said the job was a simple one. He would have to go to a specific location in the Tehran area with a laptop or similar communication device and punch in a code.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Qualitative systems thinking as a reflexive futures practice

Four Modes of Foresight (graphic from page 32 of review copy)

Qualitative systems thinking as a reflexive futures practice

Advanced praise for Anthony Hodgson’s forthcoming new book

I have the pleasure and the privilege to count Tony as a friend, a mentor and a colleague for more than a decade now. We connected over a UNITAR sustainability workshop in Scotland that I co-organized and facilitated which his wife attended. Their company name— Decision Integrity Ltd — sparked my curiosity. I did a bit of research and was amazed by the many parallels and connections I found to other key mentors of mine like Brian Goodwin and Henri Bortoft. Our first conversation was a four hour mind-melt at the end of which both of us were exhilarated and surprised at how time had past.

Tony invited me into the International Futures Forum in 2009. He gave me an opportunity to work with him in piloting early versions of the IFF World Game. In 2010 he hired me through his consultancy to do research and apply whole systems thinking and the IFF World Systems Model to two UK Foresight projects. In one of them we mapped the international dimension of climate change impact on 17 regions of the globe and how these would in turn affect the future of the UK. For the other, we tried to reveal systemic patterns and make visual sense out of the research a team of experts had done on migration and global environmental change.

Tony and I have also taught a three part workshop series on ‘Applied Systems Thinking’ together at Findhorn College, collaborated in various International Futures Forum project on ‘Transformative Resilience’, ‘The 3 HorizonsFramework’, and ‘Second Order Science and Policy’; and occasionally I joined a meeting or support efforts towards the creation of H3uni. In short, I have been richly gifted opportunities to learn from this remarkable wise elder.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brexit: stage one in Europe’s slow-burn energy collapse

Brexit: stage one in Europe’s slow-burn energy collapse

The Brexit fiasco and French riots are accelerating symptoms of Europe’s earth system crisis

Riots in Paris (source: Irish Times)

Everyone’s talking about Brexit. Some about the French riots. But no one’s talking about why they are happening, and what they really mean. They might think they are, but they are usually missing the point.

On 6th May 2010, the Conservative Party took the reins of power for the first time since 1992, propped up with some help from the Liberal Democrats. Hours before the election result, I warned in a blog post that whichever government was elected, it would be the first step in a dramatic shift toward the far-right that would likely sweep across the Western world within 10 years.

“The new government, beholden to conventional wisdom, will be unable or unwilling to get to grips with the root structural causes of the current convergence of crises facing this country, and the world,” I wrote, describing the failure of all three political parties to understand why the heyday of economic growth was unlikely to return.

“This suggests that in 5–10 years, the entire mainstream party-political system in this country, and many Western countries, will be completely discredited as crises continue to escalate while mainstream policy solutions serve largely to contribute to them, not ameliorate them. The collapse of the mainstream party-political system across the liberal democratic heartlands could pave the way for the increasing legitimization of far-right politics by the end of this decade…”

My prediction was astonishingly prescient. The global shift to the far-right began within exactly five years of my forecast, and has continued to accelerate before the decade is even out.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Does Cinema War Propaganda Really Work?

How Does Cinema War Propaganda Really Work?

It goes far beyond the government entertainment liaison offices

As the co-authors of National Security Cinema, we have become known — rather inaccurately — for encouraging two major ideas:-

1. That the government is really important in making movies more militaristic.

2. That Hollywood doesn’t produce dissenting films.

While the first of these is somewhat true it is a simplification, the second is a falsehood.

The government is involved in as wide a range of entertainment projects as you can imagine, from video games to chat shows to blockbusters to docudramas. While many of these were militaristic from conception, before the government got involved, there is no doubt the the Department of Defense (a.k.a. the Pentagon) has encouraged the militarisation of popular culture and is pro-actively seeking further influence in Hollywood.

However, we want to emphasise that government support is by no means a prerequisite for Hollywood making militaristic movies. The sub-genre we have proposed — “national security cinema” — does not necessarily require the involvement of the actual national security apparatus in the production process.

National Security Cinema — Beyond the Government

Some of the examples are truly striking. Consider Rambo III (1988), set in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The film demonised the Soviets and depicted our allies of the time, the Islamic mujahideen, as heroic — albeit wild and stupid (in keeping with long-standing Hollywood stereotypes about Arabs).

This portrait is consistent with other films set in that war both before and since, such as the James Bond movie The Living Daylights (1987) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). While Rambo III did technically receive some support from the State Department, this did not affect the script, and the film very much reflected US government policy on steroids.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Other Two Kinds Of Debt

The Other Two Kinds Of Debt

“Any corporation, private or governmental, that wishes to provide for a sound and equitable continuity of its business must take steps towards the systematic retirement of debt immediately after it has been incurred. Postponement of all payment for property or privileges by those who presently enjoy their benefits is calculated to bring uncomfortable consequences to them or those who succeed them.”
— Engineering Economics, by C.R Young. 1949
(Read on Guerrilla-Capitalism.com)

We frequently hear pundits and talking heads talking about how short-sighted government policies and unfunded entitlements are in essence “stealing from the future” or at best “borrowing from the future” and I found myself thinking about the difference between the two ideas.
Normally when we think about “the two kinds of debt” we think productive versus unproductive debt. Exemplified in the Richard Kiyosaki “Rich Dad / Poor Dad” series, we learn that productive debt is that which you incur and then use in a way that will help pay itself off.
Examples include vendor or bank financing on buying a business that you would then pay back with the earnings from said acquisition, something I’ve done a couple times over my career; or taking out a mortgage to buy an investment property. From there you would use the rent to pay off the mortgage.

I emphasize paying off the mortgage here as opposed to simply servicing the debt with minimum payments or interest only, and we’ll see why shortly. Contrast this with unproductive debt, which is borrowing money to go on vacation or buy consumer goods, or do anything else with it that leaves you with the bill afterward. As Kiyosoki frequently stresses, it’s the difference between debt that makes you money vs debt that costs you money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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