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Conditioned To Believe

Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash

Many of us believe firmly in a Star Trek world to come, where technology and science would eventually have an answer to every problem we face today: from cancer to infinite growth on a finite planet. (Not that these are two different things at all.) This vision of the future certainly makes enduring life easier: it’s not unlike Promiseland here on Earth. It is giving people the hope that their descendants — far-far into the future — will have a better life, without the toil and suffering. Heck, in the big scheme of things fans of high-tech can even feel proud that they are part of this success story right here and now! A story of a single species from a fairly uninteresting planet conquering the entire Universe, bringing freedom and democracy even to the farthest reaches of the galaxy…

Is it possible though, that all this is but a magician’s trick, and we have been lured to believe in a future which might never come?

Remember Pavlov from biology class, who trained dogs by ringing a bell whenever he gave them food? After a few repetitions his dogs started to salivate in hopes of getting tasty bits just by hearing the bell ring. This is a perfectly normal reaction universally observable across all mammals, humans included. According to Britannica:

conditioning is a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn’t Exist

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn’t Exist

Instead of scaling up renewable energy, researchers promote unproved ideas

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn't Exist

Credit: Katie Louise Thomas

At last year’s Glasgow COP26 meetings on the climate crisis, U.S. envoy and former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stated that solutions to the climate crisis will involve “technologies that we don’t yet have” but are supposedly on the way. Kerry’s optimism comes directly from scientists. You can read about these beliefs in the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Integrated Assessment Models, created by researchers. These models present pathways to carbon reductions that may permit us to keep climate change below two degrees Celsius. They rely heavily on technologies that don’t yet exist, such as ways to store carbon in the ground safely, permanently and affordably.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Science—that is to say, Euro-American science—has long been held as our model for rationality. Scientists frequently accuse those who reject their findings of being irrational. Yet depending on technologies that do not yet exist is irrational, a kind of magical thinking. That is a developmental stage kids are expected to outgrow. Imagine if I said I planned to build a home with materials that had not yet been invented or build a civilization on Mars without first figuring out how to get even one human being there. You’d likely consider me irrational, perhaps delusional. Yet this kind of thinking pervades plans for future decarbonization.

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

The Failure of Imagination — Part 2

Are you sure that this is where we are headed…? Image source: Pixabay

Most people living in a high-tech modern society take it as a given that the only way forward is through even more technology. The matter of pollution and sadly the question of sustainability has now been successfully reduced to grams of CO2 — ecological overshoot, the rise and fall of civilizations, resource depletion and our utter dependency on hydrocarbons be damned. ‘We have electric automobiles, smartphones, AI driven lawn mowers and even indoor farming after all!’

From this short sighted viewpoint self driving cars, robots, and clean energy from hydrogen seems not only logical, but almost inevitable. Recency bias (discussed in Part 1) sheds some light to the psychological factors at play here. There is strong cultural element supporting this popular view however — a powerful story, something which is simply invisible to the everyday citizen. It’s like water to a fish. Something in which we were marinated in our whole lives from childhood cartoons to PhD awarding ceremonies, and throughout our entire professional careers.

This story, or set of stories to be precise, act like a modern albeit still very dogmatic belief system, not unlike traditional religions. Just like earlier cults it effectively prevents us from imagining a whole range of different futures, and urges us to dismiss these as unacceptable. It thus locks us into the false dichotomy of instant annihilation through a misconceived notion of collapse, and salvation through doing more of the same stuff that brought us to this point in the first place.

Technology is not a ratchet

The story originates in the false myth of progress. Namely, that cultures in earlier times were inherently inferior: undeveloped both in terms of technology and social structures…

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

It’s the End of the World’s Fair as We Know It: Why Technology Won’t Save Us (Episode 55 of Crazy Town)

Back in the day, the World’s Fair was a global showcase of innovation and a peerless cultural event where visitors envisioned a neon future filled with technological wonders. These international expos featured miracle inventions and opportunities to explore new ideas, but also on display were useless gizmos, silly stunts (who’s ready for a game of topless donkey ping pong?), and some of the most unattractive towers people have ever built. Worse yet, a dismal thread of racism runs through the history of fairs, and in recent times, faux sustainability has become a recurring theme. Explore the diminishing marginal returns of both World’s Fairs and technology in general, and consider what’s next as dreams of a high-tech utopia go the way of the animatronic dinosaurs. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Jason Bradford

I’m Jason Bradford.

Asher Miller

I’m Asher Miller.

Rob Dietz

And I’m Rob Dietz. Welcome to Crazy Town where your favorite ride at the amusement park is the self-driving bumper cars.

Melody Travers

This is producer Melody Travers. In this season of Crazy Town, Rob, Jason, and Asher are exploring the watershed moments in history that have led humanity into the cascading crises we face in the 21st century. Today’s episode is about World’s Fairs, the diminishing returns of technology, and bizarre notions of progress. The watershed moment took place in 1851. At the time, the estimated carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 285 parts per million, and the global human population was 1.24 billion.

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

I’m a Luddite. You Should Be One Too.

Editor’s note: Luddism is often dismissed as “backwardness,” but it is actually a more advanced, considered, and wise position on technology. To be a Luddite is to stand with workers and the natural world against the death march of technology. This essay is a general introduction to the Luddites.

However, we disagree with the author when he argues that modern technology is neutral and that “it’s how such technology is used” that determines its moral character. This view is fundamentally anthropocentric; it’s only possible when you discount the natural world and believe humans are more important than other species. For a more deeply developed critique of technological escalation (we do not refer to this phenomenon as “progress”), we recommend exploring the work of Lewis Mumford, Vine Deloria Jr., Derrick Jensen, Vandana Shiva, Chellis Glendinning, Ivan Illich, Jack D. Forbes, Langdon Winner, and other critics of technology and civilization.

Here at Deep Green Resistance, we use the tools of industrial civilization (such as computers and the internet) to oppose it. Some accuse us of hypocrisy. But did Crazy Horse and Tecumseh not use firearms to fight European colonization? As Arundhati Roy has said, “Fighting people will choose their own weapons.” We see a place in our movement for both principled rejection of technology and the establishment of counter-cultural spaces and organizations, and for the principled use of the products of empire to dismantle empire. These efforts may seem contradictory, but they are not — they are complementary, and in Deep Green Resistance, many of us practice both at the same time.

______________________

I’m a Luddite. This is not a hesitant confession, but a proud proclamation. I’m also a social scientist who studies how new technologies affect politics, economics and society. For me, Luddism is not a naive feeling, but a considered position.

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

The Techno-Fix Won’t Save Us

Editor’s Note: Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture, and one of the central authorities in the dominant, globalizing culture is that technological progress is an unmitigated good. We call this “the lie of the techno-fix.”

The lie of the techno-fix is extremely convincing, with good reason. The propaganda promoting this idea is incessant and nearly subliminal, with billions of dollars pouring out of non-profit offices, New York PR firms, and Hollywood production companies annually to inculcate young people into the cult of technology. In policy, technology is rarely (if ever) subjected to any democratic controls; if it can be profitably made, it will be. And damn the consequences. There is money to be made.

Critics of technology and the techno-elite, such as Lewis Mumford, Rachel Carson, Langdon Winner, Derrick Jensen, and many others, have spoken out for decades on these issues. Technological “development,” they warn us, is perhaps better understood as technological “escalation,” since modern industrial technologies typically represent a war on the planet and the poor.

In this article, Helena Norberg-Hodge asks us to consider what values are important to us: progress, or well-being? Breakneck speed, or balance? She articulates a vision of technology as subordinate to ecology and non-human and human communities alike based on her experiences in the remote Himalayan region of Ladakh.


The most recent topic explored by the thinkers and activists who make up the Great Transition Network was “Technology and the Future”. As writer after writer posted their thoughts, it was heartening to see that almost all recognize that technology cannot provide real solutions to the many crises we face. I was also happy that Professor William Robinson, author of a number of books on the global economy, highlighted the clear connection between computer technologies and the further entrenchment of globalization today.

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

Degrowth economy: The climate solution no one is talking about

For all the talk of renewable energy, electric vehicles and plant-based diets, there’s a gaping hole in the way we’re trying to solve accelerating climate change. We will not stay below 2°C of warming while pursuing economic growth — yet barely anyone talks about it.

Since the end of World War II, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been the metric of human prosperity in Western nations, the idea being that if the productivity of the economy increases so will the wellbeing of the people within that economy. And for a while, that was the case. But since the 1970s, increases in GDP have, on average, failed to translate into increases in wellbeing and happiness.

It is not surprising. Research has shown that once a certain GDP threshold, or level of wellbeing, has been met people gain little from consuming more “stuff” — a necessary requirement for continuous GDP growth.

Robert F Kennedy eloquently summed up the inadequacy of GDP as a metric of wellbeing at a speech he gave in 1968:

…the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

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

Why Not Admit Our Energy Addiction?

Why Not Admit Our Energy Addiction?

Bridge over Cataloochee Creek on the Old Cataloochee Turnpike; near Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina

There are apparently many people who misunderstand my articles, why I write them, and what it all means at the end of the day. I read scientific articles – LOTS of them, and I read them almost every day (scroll down to see the “FILES” here). I’m curious, and I am constantly searching for answers to a rather simple question; “Yeah, but WHY?”

Occasionally I misunderstand something or the science changes, and I make sure I correct myself. More often than not, the general theme remains unchanged. Such is the way of ecological overshoot. It cares not one bit what we think of it. It does not respond to our beliefs. It isn’t interested in our desires, opinions, or plans we have for the future. Is “it” ecological overshoot, nature, or the laws of physics? Does it really matter, considering all three are equally oblivious and disregarding of our emotions?

So, once again, my curiosity leads me to wonder why so many people fail to see the science as it really is rather than the way they want it to be. How can so many people ignore our addiction to energy (mostly in the form of fossil hydrocarbons) and that we (humans, collectively) are a superorganism (Nate Hagens’ description) which nobody is in control of? Given those circumstances, why is it that so many people think that there is some sort of answer or solution for the overarching predicament of ecological overshoot? When I tell people that a predicament has an outcome and not an answer or solution, what part of that don’t they comprehend?

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

Shell’s Massive Carbon Capture Plant Is Emitting More Than It’s Capturing

Shell’s Massive Carbon Capture Plant Is Emitting More Than It’s Capturing

A new Global Witness report found that it has the same carbon footprint per year as 1.2 million gas-powered cars.
Shell's Quest carbon capture and storage facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.
SHELL’S QUEST CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE FACILITY IN FORT SASKATCHEWAN, ALBERTA. THE CANADIAN PRESS/JASON FRANSON

A first-of-its-kind “green” Shell facility in Alberta is emitting more greenhouse gases than it’s capturing, throwing into question whether taxpayers should be funding it, a new report has found.

Shell’s Quest carbon capture and storage facility captured 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the hydrogen produced at its Scotford complex between 2015 and 2019. Scotford refines oil from the Alberta tar sands.

But a new report from human rights organization Global Witness found the hydrogen plant emitted 7.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in the same timeframe—including methane, which has 80 times the warming power of carbon during its first 20 years in the atmosphere, and accounts for about a quarter of man-made warming today.

To put that in perspective, the “climate-forward” part of the Scotford plant alone has the same carbon footprint per year as 1.2 million fuel-powered cars, Global Witness said.

“We do think Shell is misleading the public in that sense and only giving us one side of the story,” said Dominic Eagleton, who wrote the report. He said industry’s been pushing for governments to subsidize the production of fossil hydrogen (hydrogen produced from natural gas) that’s supplemented with carbon capture technology as a “climate-friendly” way forward, but the new report shows that’s not the case.

In an email, Shell said the facility was introduced to display the merits of carbon capture technology, but didn’t directly respond to the allegation that its hydrogen component emitted 7.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.

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

Living without ‘machines’

Living without ‘machines’

Quite early on in Mark Boyle’s book The Way Home, about living ‘off grid’, without what we might call modern technologies, he finds a dead pigeon by the road, recently killed. He takes it home, plucks it, guts it, and—concluding that it is less than one day dead—cooks it.

A page or so later, his partner says it would be nice to to have a hot tea in the morning without having to make up the fire, and he knocks up a rocket stove from an empty Guinness keg his neighbour has to hand and some lengths of pipe. (Rocket stove? Explained here).

He has, earlier, built from the ground up the cabin where they are both living.

As a reader, I’m not clear how he learned all of this, or remembers it, or whether it’s in one of the books he has.

‘Technologies’

Although the definition of ‘technologies’ is deliberately imprecise, it generally covers anything powered by electricity (so: no internet; no mobile phone; no television; no radio) and anything powered by petrol (no van).

When he wrote the book, in 2017, Boyle was in his late 30s, and had bought a smallholding in rural west Ireland. He’s had some practice in removing himself from our industrial complex, since he had previously lived for a year without money. The book about that paid for the smallholding.

(Small amounts of money do change hands in The Way Home. He makes something from a column in The Guardian, written in pencil and delivered by post; there are occasional pints drunk at local bars.)

Money and machines

It is worth piecing together his explanation of what constitutes technology, as well as what it is he is trying to escape from:

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

Why is Civilization Unsustainable?

Why is Civilization Unsustainable?

Top picture: Civilization; Pikeville, Kentucky
Bottom picture: Nature; Birch Knob, Virginia

So, what is it about civilization being unsustainable that people do not understand? I often wonder why this is and have come up with the idea that it is mostly cultural programming and indoctrination by industry that technology is good and more of it is better. Perhaps a lack of critical thought by most of society as to what is required for technology to exist and what is required in order for technology to continue to be used is to blame for the reasons as to why people simply most often do not realize that civilization is unsustainable. Another distinct possibility is the power of the denial of reality that humans frequently use when faced with uncomfortable truths which don’t fit into a person’s worldview.

Before I continue, I want to make mention that I was rather surprised by some of the comments on my last article which I published on Wednesday. My first recommendation is to visit the very first article I posted here a year ago and read this part, quote:

We often see people bring out certain ideas that they claim are some sort of “solution” or that “they work” and I want to try to explain why (once again) these ideas are nothing more than ideas and not “solutions” of any sort. One of the things I most would like to get others to see is the bigger picture. Many people focus on reductionist ideas such as non-renewable “renewable” energy, or alternative energy ideas such as hydrogen, or technological ideas; but fail to see how those ideas don’t really change anything and only allow for continued environmental destruction (and consolidate capital in the hands of the elite) instead.

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

The FBI Can Access Your Personal Data in 15 Minutes

(Click on image for higher resolution)

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) can legally access your “secure messaging app content,” according to a new report by The Epoch Times.  In fact, it would only take officers about 15 minutes to access the contents of iMessages to collect metadata from WhatsApp. Our phones and personal electronic devices can provide agents with our location, contacts, pictures, search history, and more. Numerous people believe that encryption is one-dimensional and their messages are secure.

There are different forms of encryption and ways to bypass poorly encrypted software. People believed iMessage was secure due to Apple’s encryption, but automatic cloud backups are not encrypted and can be accessed. WhatsApp only began offering encryption backup in September, and the feature is not the default setting. The FBI document noted that search warrants could provide them with backup encryption keys as well.

Signal, Telegram, and WeChat are a bit more secure, but the FBI can still determine data logs or when the user logged into the service. Some may shrug and say they have nothing to hide and, therefore, nothing to fear. The problem is that the government can and will twist any information provided to them in order to win or develop a court case. Also, the FBI is not a beacon of ethics, and no one wants to have their personal information publicized. Since the majority of the world is not a threat to national security or a predator, sharing this much information with the government without a subpoena is asinine. All it would take is 15 minutes for someone’s private life to become public government information.

Let’s Talk About Agriculture

Let’s Talk About Agriculture

An agricultural barn of the 1800’s located at Falls Mill, Belvidere, Tennessee
Agriculture is a technology (like fire and the wheel) and a system of extracting minerals and nutrients from the soil through photosynthesis. The industrial method of agriculture adds the use of fossil fuels through the Haber-Bosch process for fertilizer, many different chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and other toxic chemical treatments (including GMO seeds), and of course diesel-powered equipment such as tractors and all the equipment to plow, plant, spray, water, harvest, and transport crops today. The technology of agriculture is what allowed for today’s cities to exist, and it became possible only with the stable climate of the Holocene, which is now disappearing rather quickly. The recent events over the past 6 months in British Columbia, Canada (first the wildfires [especially around Lytton] and now the floods), should be more than enough to convince anyone of this; although plenty of events throughout the rest of the world are also proof.
The one thing which is rarely mentioned about agriculture or the Green Revolution is that it is all entirely unsustainable. Every civilization (which is based upon the bedrock technology of agriculture) which has existed has also collapsed and this current set of living conditions is in the process of collapsing as well, all due to the unsustainable practices upon which civilization is founded. These unsustainable practices eventually lead to overshoot and eventually the landbase surrounding said civilization is unable to support those living upon it. This causes collapse which results in those living there to scatter. Some people may remain in the general vicinity, but a large portion of the population must find new locations for habitat in order to continue to exist.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Technology that “empowers the individual” can threaten all of us

Technology that “empowers the individual” can threaten all of us

Whenever I hear about a new technology that “empowers the individual,” I know that one thing is likely to be true about it:  It will soon (if not already) be turned to negative and harmful ends. And yet, we as a society keep falling for the line that somehow every new technology will give us more control over our lives and make us somehow happier, more connected, safer and more powerful (but only in a good way).

It’s true that practically any technology can be turned toward harmful ends; we haven’t banned knives because they are used both to cut food and kill people. But it is the scale of damage that can be done by an individual that is changing.

Newspaper columnist Molly Ivins used to joke that she was not anti-gun, but pro-knife. In a 1993 column she wrote:

In the first place, you have catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

Ivins was getting at the increased scale of damage that can be done by, say, automatic weapons versus a knife.

Guns have been around for centuries and have been made more lethal over time. But their lethality may someday soon seem quaint given the future of “empowerment” that awaits us.

I start with unmanned aerial vehicles which are more familiar to us as drones. Their initial use case was actually as toys, remote-controlled model airplanes for which there remains robust demand among hobbyists. How innocent all that seems compared to the killer drones now deployed by militaries around the world! …

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

Degrowth–the promising climate change strategy no politician wants to handle

Degrowth – the promising climate change strategy no politician wants to handle?

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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