A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The Strongest Force In The World: for good or ill
If you spend any time reading, listening or watching the modern “intelligentsia,” that is, the range of media from broadcast news, through talk-radio to internet postings of all stripes, an impression of the world of human troubles can begin to form: the revolving commercial/political door, global warming, financial pirates, vacuums of ‘leadership’ and the laundry list of lies, thefts, genocides, murders, wars without accountability, waste of money and other resources – it just goes on and on.
From the progressive camps we hear that we must sign petitions (I get a couple a day from Move On), join and take over the Democratic Party, stop the XL pipeline, return to full employment and economic growth and so on. The social forces of reaction, preach that humans need not consider the actions that they take on the planet’s biophysical systems because our efforts are too puny to affect such an infinite place as the earth, and when that argument fails, as in cases where it is completely clear we have changed some place beyond habitability, we are told that God has made the earth for us and that ‘He’ will see to our needs. These are the arguments of madness regardless of the numbers who believe and support them.
The reality is that we must seriously consider the full picture of how we are to approach a future in which our actions are so destabilizing that many of the planet’s biological passengers, as they have evolved over the last many millennia, will be gone forever in an ecological paroxysm. What are the conditions that must be meet over the next several years – economic, ecologic and personal – to accomplish the restabilization of major environmental processes – biophysical cycles, climate, biodiversity and ecosystem integration? There are essentially two levels of consideration: the unalterable general requirements and the debatable specific actions (I know that I have left out important considerations from what follows and so I encourage the reader to add to or modify these lists for themselves).
• Reduction in human use of planetary resources to a level roughly half, or somewhat less, of what is being used now, to make the summed total human ecological footprint equal to about ½ of the earth’s productive capacity (humans are currently using about 1.5 times that capacity).
• Complete (or nearly complete) secession of the use of fossil fuels, with the use of non-carbon sources for energy production as the only viable form of replacement, and ultimately a return to the capture of the solar flux as our primary energy source.
• Reduction in human population to about one quarter of the present population over the next several generations, with a goal of global human population approaching 1 billion by 2100.
• Reduction in the use of biocides and ‘chemical’ fertilizers toward zero levels – or to levels demonstrated scientifically to pose no threat to biophysical systems.
• Reduction in extractive and bio-extractive industries, chemical manufacture and general industrialization activities, including transportation, to levels at which the physical changes and pollutants created can be absorbed and processed by biophysical systems.
Specific actions (set one options – the “we are all in this together” model):
• Reorganization of agriculture to sustain soils, greatly reduce the use of biocides, increase the variety of food crops along with more widely distributed food production so that total diet can be derived as much as possible from the local region.
• Much larger percentage of the population involved in primary food production, at least on a part-time basis, as response to the reduction in mechanization of farming.
• Literacy and broad, basic education as an imperative, especially communication, health, economic, political and ecological education of women.
• Transparency of commercial and political action attained through an increased availability of full-access, unmonitored communication systems, especially distributed internet and cellular technologies, with an emphasis on developing high quality, accurate language translation software.
• The down-sizing of economic activity would require that individuals, small groups and immediate communities redevelop the expertise and organization to meet a variety of the primary needs presently met by industrial production and distribution systems.
• Emphasis on direct democracy enhanced by both general education and communication capacity. The necessary, but dangerous, trend to localism would need to be countered by global communication systems and international education goals.
• Capping of private wealth accumulation to a small multiple of modal wealth, something like 5 to 1. Total community wealth accumulation also limited by world modal wealth levels, which would be determined by the maximum sustainable human ecological footprint.
• Modal material wealth must be reduced slightly, but arithmetic average wealth must be reduced to approximately one tenth of present levels by large reductions from the high end of the continuum (paper wealth far exceeds the capacity of the earth to deliver goods and services and yet that wealth is a demand for such delivery).
• Social expectation for small families (or extended families with shared children) supported by both the education of women and the supportive social networks associated with agricultural activities.
• As difficult as this appears in today’s zeitgeist, end of life expectation will have to change dramatically. Devoting significant medical technology and practice to extending life, devoting a third of our medical expenditures to the last year of life, is madness. The human body wears out, gets damaged and is attacked by other living things; this must become, again, a natural expectation. It will become more and more important to give our emotional and practical resources, and understanding, to living with grace and dignity rather than the present extraordinary attempts at living long.
• An emphasis on and acceptance of the fact that the present human dilemma is the consequence of uninhibited and uncontrolled expression of our powers to create change; that, fair or not, “reasonable” or not, the next few generations will have to make the controlled and inhibition-based changes required to sustain both the species and the structure of life presently on the planet.
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It can be assumed that those who benefit from the present distribution (mal-distribution) of wealth will not willing give up such sources of power, impunity and insanity. Only great social pressure, even verging on revolution, can bring such changes. But such is our Catch 22: actual revolution would violate almost all of the mandatory conditions as well as throw the whole game into the second set of options.
Specific actions (set two options – the “every man for himself” model):
• The pathological members of the political and economic elite (increasingly recognized as a large percentage) attempt to gain control of as much wealth as possible as rapidly as possible using it to wall themselves off from the rest of humanity. Private wealth would remain, essentially, unlimited; human footprint requirements would be met by reducing the number of people rather than reducing wealth concentration.
• Development of military/policing systems and technologies for the containment and control of the general population, along with the increased use of surveillance technologies.
• Domination of media and information sources, increased secrecy in both commercial and political institutions and the denial of communication frameworks and platforms for the general population.
• The expansion of a variety of totalitarian forms of governance in actuality, regardless of what they are called, but all based on oligarchy and plutocracy.
• Population reduction by “natural attrition” can be encouraged by economic isolation and the withholding of essential needs. Accompanying plans to allow great population reduction can be reinforced with various chemical and biological agents if need be.
• The incitement of internal and external conflicts that both aid in wealth concentration and serve as a distraction from the discovery of genuine self-interest among the multitudes.
• Economic models based on several different forms of forced labor increasingly put into place. The fact that in today’s economic design almost no one can, by their own hand, meet their most basic needs gives those in control of the money-based production and distribution system huge leverage to extract the labor desired on any terms that allow life to continue.
The mandatory conditions could be met by either option one or option two, but is more likely to be met by option one, if it could be enacted, since option two contains violent deviations from Reality and the constant danger of internal disruption leading away from essential action.
Reaction today will only forestall any meaningful response other than supporting option two by omission. Ultimately, my only objection to the progressive approach is the focus on specific projects while remaining committed to present habits and understanding on almost everything else. This is a prescription for running around in circles.
The plutocratic oligarchs do not require a change in understanding, reorganization or new outreach. Business as usual for them is the road to option two. They don’t need to rethink the insane reality in which they reside.
The Great Many have it all to lose, either because they are enslaved by the plutocrats or because the earth’s systems convulse before corrective changes can be made in, first, our beliefs and attitudes and then in our actions.
How to accomplish these things (in option one) is unclear, but the first step could not be more clear: these ideas must be spread widely, argued, understood and made part of a great many people’s acceptance and expectation for their future. Only then will the synergy for action, sufficiently effective and powerful to oppose option two, be possible. The strongest force in the human world is an idea that a critical mass of people understand, accept and expect to be made real.