Monthly Archives: March 2014

12. Manfred Max-Neef on barefoot economics

Wow!

Posted in 2010 on YouTube…(I wonder how big that rock was that I have evidently been sleeping under…)

Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist is interviewed…here is a small transcribed snippet:

The crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value in the world today.

What are the principles to teach about how economics should be … based on five postulates and one fundamental value are:

1. the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy

2. development is about people and not about objects

3. growth is not the same as development and development does not necessarily require growth

4. no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystems services

5. the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible

and the fundamental: no economic interests, under no circumstances can be about the irrelevance of life—nothing can be more important than life

 

Love this stuff…must learn more

 


11. Stuff on the fly

Busy, busy, busy trying to read and keep up with things, but two items that came across my desk today that are worth adding (read: I need to get back to these/distribute to others):

… an excerpt (as supplied online):

What is your personal carrying capacity for grief, rage, despair? We are living in a period of mass extinction. The numbers stand at 200 species a day.[3] That’s 73,000 a year. This culture is oblivious to their passing, feels entitled to their every last niche, and there is no roll call on the nightly news.

There is a name for the tsunami wave of extermination: the Holocene extinction event. There’s no asteroid this time, only human behavior, behavior that we could choose to stop. Adolph Eichman’s excuse was that no one told him that the concentration camps were wrong. We’ve all seen the pictures of the drowning polar bears. Are we so ethically numb that we need to be told this is wrong?

There are voices raised in concern, even anguish, at the plight of the earth, the rending of its species. “Only zero emissions can prevent a warmer planet,” one pair of climatologists declare.[4] James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, states bluntly that global warming has passed the tipping point, carbon offsetting is a joke, and “individual lifestyle adjustments” are “a deluded fantasy.”[5] It’s all true, and self-evi­dent. “Simple living” should start with simple observation: if burning fossil fuels will kill the planet, then stop burning them.

And something on the positive end of the scale: something that could well make an immediate difference for researchers:

  • The rise of citizen science via the Climate Council (see: http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/the-rise-of-citizen-science). I had a look at and indeed downloaded the link to BOINC: compute for science to allow the idle power of my computer to be used to run programs by whichever project I choose (Oxford University are running the climate prediction project)There is a stack of projects you can lend your individual computing power to, including astronomy, cryptography, chemistry, epidemiology … the list goes on! (see: http://boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php)

10. Nature and all her glory

I am up late, a bit tired, but pushing through readings and summaries for work on the group assignment. I have headphones in with some rather uplifting strains of Jordi Savall delivering Boccherini straight to my brain (currently listening to my fave track on this album: Boccherini: Quintet In D, Op. 31, G324, “La Musica Notturna Delle Strade Di Madrid” – 5. Passa Calle. Allegro Vivo P). Love. It.

Classical music works a treat by blocking out the TV in the other room without itself being too distracting, but between tracks, I can hear the blessed rain pounding on our tin roof. We have not heard that here for a long time.

Our not-so-traditional water tanks (read recovered and repurposed IBCs) are all full to the brim 🙂 Yay—4,000 litres of precious water for the soil garden.

But the rain reminds me of how much we need water: how our life literally depends on it. And we squander it and we pollute it and in so many ways we just don’t seem to be aware of it being finite (as with some many other parts of this system). I remember watching one of those BBC productions with Prof. Brian  Cox, not that long ago, where he was talking about our planet and he came to explaining about water. He was sitting in a rowboat, on a lake, with a bucket of water in front of him. He explained that all of the water in the bucket represented all water on Earth. He cupped his hands and dipped into the bucket and what was held in his hands, he suggested was the amount of available water. He then uncupped his hands and said that the thin film of water clinging to just one hand represented the amount of available fresh water. It was a very salient demonstration.

I went to find it online but couldn’t. In the searchI found some other great explanations about Earth’s water from:

The other piece of information that made me sit up and think how much we truly take this planet and its resources for granted and how we need to be mindful of our consumption, was a magazine article featuring an Irishman called Mark Boyle who decided to live a year without money (see: http://www.trueactivist.com/the-man-who-lives-without-money/)

My favourite bit, I have to admit, is this:

“If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it today … If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior décor. If we had to clean our own water, we probably wouldn’t shit in it”.

 


9. NASA … now there’s a credible source!

I get so tired of some of the people in my circle of friends who deny that the climate is changing because of anthropogenic (human) input. They say that the science is not in, and that even though 97% of climate scientists say they are certain of the effects of humans and that there has been a significant increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, that is still not enough evidence. And then the go on to cite some totally un-credible site.

The science is not in?I am sure that if 97% of specialists had diagnosed them with a particular medical condition they would be accepting of it … and doing something about it … like maybe modifying their behaviour or working like hell to find a cure. I would.

I really like the comment I picked up when researching for my first assignment (Coal Seam Gas—a very ‘wicked problem’) that ‘the sky is pink’ by a the leader of Pittsburg City Council—a man named Doug Shields who managed to pass a ban on fracking (for gas) across his city. His criticism of the media is summarised thus:

Most of the journalism out there is not investigative journalism … it’s called ‘He said, she said’ journalism. So if someone is in the room with the media and they say: ‘The sky is blue,’ they report that the sky is blue. But if someone comes in at the last minute and says: ‘No, wait, wait, wait, the sky is actually pink!’ well, then the media report that day is going to be that: ‘The facts are going to be debated!’ (see: http://vimeo.com/44367635)

‘Debated’ … hmmmm…

For the longer (over an hour), and well-worth-a-watch documentary by Josh Fox, please spend some time to be gob-smacked by Gasland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96AEzQYangE

Oh, and the link back to NASA? I received an alert in my email today from Fora.TV. In a small video snippet under the not-so-cheery banner of We’re Doomed: NASA Predicts Collapse of Industrial Civilization two NASA researchers discuss where we are up to, and name two important features that seem to be common across a number of societies that have collapsed throughout human history: ‘The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses.’

I like their comment about ‘growth’, and that even at 2% (which is a small and easily criticised growth level by anyone in opposition) this is still exponential growth!

No system or organism on this planet grows without limits, except cancer.

Hmmmm … humans as cancer. 😦

Here is the link (only 5–6 minutes): http://blog.fora.tv/2014/03/nasa-predicts-collapse-of-industrial-civilization/?utm_source=ForaSiteMaster&utm_campaign=7c582c1beb-Newsletter_3_26_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_de23702f3b-7c582c1beb-296027717

 


8. Powerful words from an amazing woman

I met, for the first time today, an amazing woman called Lynne Twist. She came to me via FaceBook in a post by Pachamama (see: http://www.pachamama.org/blog/getting-out-of-ecological-debt-lynne-twist-at-tedx-wall-street?utm_content=bufferbcdba&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer)

Lynne is co-founder of Pachamama and well known philanthropist. The following, from her website,  gives you some background on her:

For more than 40 years, Lynne Twist has been a recognized global visionary committed to alleviating poverty and hunger and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability.
From working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and the threatened rainforests of the Amazon, Lynne’s on-the-ground work has brought her a deep understanding of the social tapestry of the world and the historical landscape of the times we are living in.
http://www.lynnetwist.com/about-lynne-twist/

The TedX Talk I watched featuring Lynne was inspirational. In it Lynne argues, that as a species, we are in deep ecological debt. As a whole, humanity uses 41% more resources than the Earth can regenerate. She says,

“We are living off an ecological credit card we can never pay back.”

According to Lynne the economy is a subset of the world’s ecology because everything that we sell within the economy comes from the Earth. Thus, the only way to fix the economy is to live within our ecological means.

Lynne states that it is our responsibility to reverse this trend and create a better world for everyone. (The above information was gleaned from the above Pachamama link.)

Watch this TedX Talk. It is well worth it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn7s08wuCnY

Respect, Lynne Twist. Respect!

Oh, and now I have two more books to add to my(ever-growing) list:


7. Climate Change recharge

So today, dear readers, I watched and completed the first module on Climate Change through Open2Study, as hosted by Dr Tim Flannery and Prof Lesley Hughes. Really, really informative and well presented. See: https://www.open2study.com/courses/climate-change

I encourage anyone who has even the vaguest interest in the concept that humans may be impacting on our climate to give this a bit of a go. It is totally free! And it won’t bite you!

I have also started collaborating with those in my group on the second task in my course. It’s a bit of a mind spin—I have never been keen on group projects: instinctively I like to run my own show, and having been in groups and having assessed group assignments I know that inevitably there are stronger and weaker contributors—although I think our group is pretty solid. We only have two weeks to come up with the report (on poor diets of Uni students in the context of sustainability), and using the tools, including a group think-tank area called the Wiki, is a new thing for this old dog.

Other interesting developments of today:

  • the interchange happening between me and my partner is amazing. He is a big Lean Thinking advocate and there are really lovely synergies in what I am studying and how he thinks about processes. In a lead-up to starting my study I did a bit of research to decide if this was going to be ‘it’ for me…and in the process I discovered aquaponics. Being the ‘can do’ kinda man he is, it was literally a matter of a week from talking about it, until we had our system up and cycling. 6–7 weeks into the experiment we are harvesting vegetables and watching with wonder how the fish (mostly Jade Perch) have grown from 1cm to 7cm and put on considerable bulk. He has now taken over my white board with ideas of a community based sustainability group, and this loops back to one of our original discussions about local, community-based aquaponic installations as a feature of future communities.
  • I read on the FootprintNetwork blog that Earth Overshoot Day was on my birthday last year 😦 Translated, that means that as I was celebrating my 52nd birthday, on the same day (approximately) humanity’s ecological resource consumption exceeded what Earth can renew. See more at:  http://footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/blog/#sthash.HOTQlC7i.dpuf
  • I have more books to read (thanks Lisa), including:
    • Lindsay Tanner’s Dumbing Down of Democracy;
    • Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees;
    • Jared Diamond’s Collapse; and
    • Juliet Shor’s The Overworked American

I think I need many more hours in a day!

 


6. Population and consumption

I had a big win yesterday as I managed to find two of the three books I wanted in the library:

  • Confronting Consumption, Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates & Ken Conca [Eds]
  • The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption: Seeds of Change, Gill Seyfang

I was looking for, but did not find, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring which is the seminal work on environment and human impact on it written in 1962. It’s probably something I should buy anyways.

My head is in a bit of a spin, and comically, only after three weeks of doing this course I feel like I can and should try to change the world. I have NEVER felt like this before.

The lecture yesterday covered two main areas of concern: population and consumption. As a species we have been thinking about limits and population since the late 1700s and it seems from then until now, we still seem to apportion the ‘blame’ for ‘overpopulation’ on the unwashed masses—in the 18th century the church firmly blamed the unbelievers and today we do the same with ‘the Third World’ or developing nations. How crass.

As of this week, world population sits at around 7 billion souls. The projections for population growth are on a J-curve, are exponential so we will, as a planet, continue to grow and grow at an alarming rate. But what is the carrying capacity of the planet? There are many studies into this with a wide variation in opinion, but most scholars have agreed on a range of of 8–16 billion. But of those, let’s say we top out at 8 billion souls (and that is conservative), at what level can this population be sustained? The simple answer is that we cannot all be a Gina Rinehart 😦

I completed the Footprint Calculator exercise (see: http://footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/) and to sustain my lifestyle, it would take 2.1 Earths. This is a shock, as I have what I consider to be a smallish footprint—I work from home so I don’t use the car a lot (in fact going to uni to participate in this course is my biggest journey creating a bit of personal cognitive dissonance), we grow a lot of our own food, we keep chickens for eggs and recycling, have a substantial solar panel array (we feed into the grid), 4,000 litre capacity rainwater tanks for the soil garden, and a small but viable aquaponics system). Indeed it IS a smallish footprint, as most Western consumers would need 5–7 Earths to sustain their consumptive lifestyle.

So peeps…what the hell are we going to do about this?

It’s a tricky subject as we are so entrenched in this, our consumer society. I am a big consumer, and in the past, was an even bigger consumer. My reading this week is of the above books and probably other things I will inevitably find on the Net. So much of who we believe we are is invested in the possessions we have—and most of this is driven by corporations wanting to derive a profit through sales via the very persuasive advertising and marketing industries.

My interest in human behaviour—what motivates and drives us, and something which I could have spent more time on in my undergrad Psych degree, is being reignited in me.

As a closing note, two contrasting costs presented in the lecture:

  • cost for establishing clean water and sanitation for everyone on the planet = $9billion
    vs the money spent on ice-cream in Europe in one year = $11billion
  • cost for basic education for the whole planet $6billion
    vs the money spent on cosmetics in the US in one year $8billion

Oh, and in Australia, we spend more on our pets in one year (excluding purchase and vet bills—so focussing on food and toys and such) than we do on foreign aid.