Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 8 Sep 04 13:17
I wonder, Taran, in the new networks of activism, connection and information that we're part of building at WC, whether the kind of human capital you describe will become somehow more quantifiable?
Wher's my blow up tree (sushi101) Thu 9 Sep 04 10:05
Many great posts, thanks for the many interesting views and inteligent conversations. I come from Denmark, a country that although we are small, have managed to become one of the most invironmental friendly nations in the world. Sustainability is a big deal here and although Lomborg made a stir for a while, overall we are one of the cleanest nations in the world. This is all very nice, but I think that it also telling something else about the country that I am from, something that is not so nice. Denmark is a parasite, it leeches of others and primairily live of export to the EU, primarily Germany, who alone (around 1.2 billions Euro) imports more from us than the rest of the word outside of the EU. Denmark is around the 4th or 5th richest country in the world and its cititzens is enjoying, free healthcare, free school from elementary all the way up to university level, when we reach 18 we even get paid to study. Our taxes are ofcourse high, 45-60% but people seem to accept it somehow. Our cars cost 3 times that of most other cars around the world because of taxes and we pay high so called "green taxes" for things that tair on the environment. So what is my point with all this. Well, the problem is simply this: Denmark can do what we do because we do not drive the world market, we only benefit from it. We are as I said a nation of parasites that have high standards, because of others. Our environmental friendly rules are unrealistic to apply to the whole world simply because it would require more basic premesis like food and education, clean water etc, premesis that are not currently available and likely will. But the problem IMO is deeper than that. There is a paradox that is inherrent in this whole debate. We want on the one side the poor people to get richer and on the other side rich people to be more aware of their "sustainable ethics", we think like this I guess because we then asume that when the poor people reach our levet they to will be able to dig into the planets resources. But is this really conistent with reality? Wouldn't an increase in a global middle class very quickly rech a sort of critcal mass that the environment cannot produce to? Does nature really have a future here? Does it really make any sense to try to keep nature with 7-8 billion middleclass people all wanting the same cars, the same clothes, the same perfume, the same water? I am beginning to doubt this and is therefor also beginning to doubt of sustainability is the right way forward. Ofcourse I am not against, it, I think that the more aware we are about this, the better, but I cant help fell that we are focusing on the wrong problems (although granted the nature does seem to be an imporant one) Sustainability means stagnation, the market cannot deal with stagnation in any form as far as I know and so we risc, the opposite effect where people out of need stop caring. Money makes people able to care about other people, it gives them the energy to look around, sustainability in all it's glory will kill that I am afraid.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 9 Sep 04 11:39
We debated earlier in the discussion whether the world has sufficient resources to sustain a relatively high standard of living for all the current population. I think the consensus was that, with continued innovation, we could sustain a standard that was high, but different from the sense some have of "high standard" - e.g. you couldn't have the degree of planned obsolescence that we have now in the U.S., and overall products and practices would have to consume less resources.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 9 Sep 04 11:40
Can you put any kind of math behind that assertion, working with the projecting population trends?
Thomas Petersen (sushi101) Thu 9 Sep 04 11:56
Well there is one problem though isn't there? Innovation is not a straight line. One can force it, but it will always requires more "energy" than it produces. Meaning that we need the obsolescence in order to progress. It is not a 1 to 1 relationship.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 9 Sep 04 12:20
There are some numbers if you look historically, though. Art Rosenfeld of the California Energy Commission calls it a "Moore's Law of Efficiency." I mentioned it a bit in post 26 of this topic, and posted in April on WorldChanging about it: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/000609.html From the article quoted in the post: From 1845 to the present, the amount of energy required to produce the same amount of gross national product has steadily decreased at the rate of about 1 percent per year. This is not quite as spectacular as Moore's Law of integrated circuits, but it has been tested over a longer period of time. One percent per year yields a factor of 2.7 when compounded over 100 years. It took 56 BTUs (59,000 joules) of energy consumption to produce one (1992) dollar of GNP in 1845. By 1998, the same dollar required only 12.5 BTUs (13,200 joules). --- Like Moore's Law, it's an observation, not a physical law. It's also an abstraction, as it encompasses both evolutionary and revolutionary innovations, process improvements, and behavioral efficiencies. But it has held true for quite a while, and Rosenfeld & co. (from personal conversations) are convinced it will continue to hold true for years to come. They also note that it's happened largely without any significant focused effort at improving efficiency -- the improvements were largely side-effects of other changes. Period when real effort was made to increase efficiency have seen sustained improvements in the 4% range. They argue that, if we can boost our average efficiency improvement from 1% to 2%, we could by 2100 use half the current level of energy, with nearly twice the current population.
Berliner (captward) Thu 9 Sep 04 12:28
I hope that statistic is adjusted, too, for the value of the dollar. An 1845 dollar and a 1992 dollar were two completely different animals in terms of purchasing power.
from JOHN ADAMS (tnf) Thu 9 Sep 04 12:32
John Adams writes: Subject: I just want to say... ...how bitter I am that someone beat me to contrasting Bright Green with Dark Green. I've been thinking it for some time, but have never found the time to explain what I meant by it. Once I get to read the thread, I'll have something useful to contribute, but for the moment, I simply wanted to whine--I haven't been this unhappy since The Drive-By Truckers named an album _Decoration Day_.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 9 Sep 04 13:33
<captward>, the text indicates that both the 1845 and 1998 values were in 1992 dollars.
Vinay Gupta (vinaygupta) Thu 9 Sep 04 14:47
Sushi101 makes some excellent points. I think the answer we all want to be possible is that we decouple increases in wealth or wellbeing from increases in ecological impact. There are two ways that could happen: 1> our perception of wealth could change to emphasize less ecologically straining resources 2> we could produce stuff much like our current stuff, but in super-efficient ways These are the two positive options. The negative options are: 3> nothing changes and we trash the planet 4> the poor don't get to consume, don't become wealthy, and stay impoverished for ecological reasons. possibly many of the rich join them there. I really feel that Positive Option 2> is the real hope. We are historically speaking much better at developing new technology than social movements which reduce resource use.
Alex Steffen (alexsteffen) Thu 9 Sep 04 15:24
I'm relatively certain that we can innovate our way back to living within the Limits, at a relatively high standard of living. Whether or not we will is a completely different question, as I said before. But I'm entirely certain that there's no closing the door behind us, walling off the developing world as permanently poor and the developed world as permanently rich. Any green future which relies on the South staying willingly simple and poor is a pipe dream.
Using plastic fuel for my plastic fantastic spaceship (sushi101) Thu 9 Sep 04 22:00
I am not sure this is really the crux of the matter. As I said, I doubt the whole idea of sustainability is sustainable. I think that we are forgetting that we need to obsolence if we want "progress" (i.e. better techniques), the system we are looking at is not a dumb system, it is not a computer system that does what it is being told to. The system we are looking at is a network of autonomus nodes, it needs something to strive for and ethics is not just gonna do it. Ethics is a product of overcapacity, it needs obsolence to exist, it is not a one to one relationship as I said before. I simply think we are looking at this the wrong way. Innovation is the only way out of our problems, but I think we will find that in that game, there is no room for nature. We will eventually have to at least put nature into system so that we can harvest the energy in order to fulfill our needs.
Jim Rutt (memetic) Fri 10 Sep 04 10:02
This a very good discussion. If ideas like those expressed in <26> had wider circulation, Green ideas would have considerably more currency in America. Voluntary asceticism seems only to appeal to a small percentage of people anywhere. Using human inventiveness and creativity focused by market or market-like mechanism to sort through the products of that creativity and we have pretty good chance I expect of getting to a way of life that most folks on earth can share if they want to (there will always be cranks, zealots, nuts, and such that choose not to, much like America's hippies, Amish, and homeless) that is at least as fulfilling as the current way of life in the West. As to the issue of stagnation - I don't buy that. We already have industries that are reasonably Green - like consumer electronics and the media that goes with them that are still absolutely obsessed with competition and progress. Just because manufacture in an industry is no longer strongly linked to the natural ecosystem doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of remaining dimensions for innovation and competition.
from KIM McDODGE (tnf) Fri 10 Sep 04 10:12
Kim McDodge writes: Sushi writes: 'The system we are looking at is a network of autonomus nodes, it needs something to strive for and ethics is not just gonna do it. Ethics is a product of overcapacity, it needs obsolence to exist, it is not a one to one relationship as I said before. I simply think we are looking at this the wrong way.' So let us go one step further and go for aesthetics, beyond ethics and its new little niche in the bureaucracies. We are then working with our senses again, rather than only with our abstract rationalities. Let Beauty pull us on, not just the the kind that is sequestered but the kind that pops up and pulls us around, musical. We can even find a place for ' looking at this in the wrong way' - just one wrong way? My best is often started, knowing I am way off. Aesthetics would be keeping to that what one finds in the confusion of thinking it out hitting that wall around rationality, stopping as a form of animation, to borrow from Patricia Berry. Kim McDodge
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 10 Sep 04 13:12
What an amazing and thoughful discussion this is! Though the virtual spotlight has turned to a new interview, I want to assure everybody that this conversation doesn't have to stop. The topic will remain open and available for comments, questions and general rants and raves as long as you wish. Thanks to everybody who's participated, and feel free to keep going!
Alex Steffen (alexsteffen) Fri 10 Sep 04 16:51
Thank you, Cynthia, and in Kim's wise words, "Let Beauty pull us on..."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Sep 04 19:41
Unfortunately I've been traveling this week and more limited in my ability to contribute... but I'm in favor of continued discussion if everyone else is up for it!
Taran Rampersad (taranrampersad) Thu 16 Sep 04 22:12
inkwell.vue 223: WorldChanging.com: Another World is Here #176 of 192: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 08 Sep 2004 (01:17 PM) >I wonder, Taran, in the new networks of activism, connection and >information that we're part of building at WC, whether the kind of >human capital you describe will become somehow more quantifiable? Sorry about the late reply, Emily :) I don't think we can quantify mankind's resourcefulness. We just crawl over or dig through whatever is thrown at us (including, and especially ourselves) - and if we come out on the other end, we prove it. I don't see how we can quantify that... other than we're here.
Taran Rampersad (taranrampersad) Thu 16 Sep 04 22:14
inkwell.vue 223: WorldChanging.com: Another World is Here #192 of 193: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Sep 2004 (07:41 PM) >Unfortunately I've been traveling this week and more limited in my >ability to contribute... but I'm in favor of continued discussion if >everyone else is up for it! Sorry, I'm floating in and out myself - with CARDICIS and all these WSIS related emails, I've fallen behind. This is a good discussion, let's keep going. :)
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 17 Sep 04 00:13
Tell us a bit about CARDICIS, Taran
Taran Rampersad (taranrampersad) Fri 17 Sep 04 16:35
CARDICIS was really very cool - I didn't know what to expect, which was probably the right thing. I wrote something about it here: http://www.knowprose.com/node/view/188 But that's what was in my mind almost immediately afterwards. Looking back *now*, it was really interesting. It was my first experience with real time translators, and it was sort of fun because the fellow who was handling the wireless setup was also from Trinidad - a fellow named Peter. There were some logistics issues, and he and I had some fun talking about Tech the way that people in electronics/computers do. Griping about not having equipment, and so on. The translation was done by students - very interesting people by themselves. I had some fun with them now and then when I spoke, because some things don't translate well unless you're really familiar with a culture. A simple thing like 'goose bumps' can become 'chicken skin', and so forth. I found out that the French phrase for Open Source was something like 'Intermediacion', which when translated back became 'intermediation', which doesn't mean much in original contexts. But I think Peter made the best point to me and a few others after the conference when he said, "So - does anyone want to tell me what an ICT is?" This was one of the points I had been making; a lot of people who ICTs are supposed to be helping really don't know what an ICT is - and that's a definite problem. There's more in my head, but I think that's worth a discussion by itself. How many 'initiatives' are there out there that are supposed to do so much good, and people don't even know about them? Of course, we could get into the United Nations alphabet soup, which is about as sensible as reading the contents of Chef Boyardee...
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 23 Dec 04 13:38
I just heard -- er, saw -- that WorldChanging just won the Utne Magazine Independent Press Award! I'll leave it to others to supply details and a link, but this is excellent. Hooray, WorldChangers!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 23 Dec 04 18:01
<scribbled by cdb Tue 28 Dec 04 10:10>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 26 Dec 04 15:36
Thanks, Gail! This award is a tribute to Jamais' and Alex's persistent hard work as editors. Here's a link to the 2004 Award announcements: http://www.utne.com/pub/2005_127/promo/11502-1.html And here's a link to Jamais' announcement at WorldChanging: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/001782.html
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sun 26 Dec 04 20:58
Thank you, Gail -- and thank you, Jon. We couldn't have done it without the consistently excellent work of our contributors, including <jonl> and <emilyg>.
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