Truth in [Free] Marketing — does this have to be an oxymoron?

I am currently reading Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times. In the chapter titled “The Stone Age Didn’t End Because We Ran Out of Stones” this quotation appears:

“Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.” – Oystein Dahle, former president of Exxon for Norway.

“What he meant, of course, is that the basic paradigm of modern, industrial-age capitalism, which flowered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, treated things like pollution, waste, and CO2 emissions as essentially irrevalent “externalities” that could be ignored. As any economic textbook will tell you, an externality is any cost or benefit resulting from a commercial transaction that is borne or received by parties not directly involved in the transaction . . .”

“. . . We have been fooling ourselves with fraudulent accounting by not pricing these externalities. As [Ecologist] Lester Brown put it, we as a society ‘have been behaving just like Enron, the rogue energy giant, at the height of its folly.’ We rack up stunning profits and GDP numbers every year, and they look great on paper ‘because we’ve been hiding some of the costs off the books.’ Mother Nature has not been fooled. That is why we are having climate change. That which is not priced is not valued, and if our open lands, clean air, clean water, and healthy forests are not valued, the earth, when it is this flat and this crowded, will become a very hot, no-cost landfill very fast.”

So, add “Change the direction of the Free Market and the mindset of all those involved in it” to the list of things to do in the next few years in order to save our species and our planet. One more in a long and growing to-do list, each of which would be described by almost anyone who considered themselves rational as “IMPOSSIBLE” . . . but all of which have to be done, and quickly, if our descendants are to have a chance at being born.

Uncoupling From the Dog Train

After 60 or so years of living in the world of the trite, I find it exhilarating to be unfettered, able to think in a developmental way like a 13 year-old. Being a bit like the only dog at the park to be allowed off-leash, one can watch the rest of one’s kind running around with their noses up each others’ butts, looking for answers but finding only worn out mantras; “perpetual economic growth” . . . “jobs, jobs, jobs” . . . “free markets regulate themselves”.

I find this frustration permeating the work of many of the authors I have been reading over the last several years. My current read is Our Way Out by Marq de Villiers who has just observed “But we the people sometimes seem to be the no-brains in the no-brainer of energy improvement”. I find that it helps to be able to look from an objective vantage point to see that most of the drivel in the evening news is just that, and especially to realize that the majority of your fellow beings simply cannot detach themselves adequately to do so.

The recent railway tragedies in Lac Megantic, Quebec and Santiago de Compostela, Spain may be seen as a metaphor for the dangers of crowd based thinking. While it may be comforting to be part of the group, it can be catastrophic to be unable to decouple in the event of a runaway. So turn off the TV or other device of choice, go the the library, used book store, yard sale or all of the above, surround yourself with a mound of good books and start your search for Leonard Cohen’sCrack in everything” because that truly is “how the light gets in”.

Skeptics, Delayers (and millions of other deniers)

My current read is HOT AIR – Jeffrey Simpson, Mark Jaccard and Nic Rivers (2007). Like many other books on the crises currently facing the Earth, the Human and all other species, this book has a section about our individual and collective failure to understand and/or face reality.

Below is an excerpt from this section of the book:

“Beyond the skeptics and delayers are millions of citizens for whom climate change has been an abstract problem divorced from their daily preoccupations. Part of the problem in attracting their attention concerns timing. Acting seriously against climate change would impose short- to medium-term costs on companies, governments, and individuals; not taking action will result in costs and risks over a much longer term. The immediate costs tend to be traceable and measurable; the long-term gains tend to be diffuse, and the long-term costs, by definition, remote and uncertain.”

“Even if people feel that doing something about climate change is important, their attention is easily and understandably diverted to more immediate concerns about health care, taxes, jobs, personal security, education. Most people are likely to display only a passing interest in problems lacking a direct link between action today and results tomorrow. Traditionally, cynical politicians count on this.”

“There are also uncertainties about climate change — fewer and fewer with each new study, but nonetheless estimating risks is a challenge. Critics therefore have argued that we should not act until we are certain about the precise dimension of the risk. More study before action has been a constant refrain of climate change skeptics and delayers for two decades in Canada.”

“Curiously, that is not how we address other risks. We follow rather a standard procedure with other hazards in our daily lives and businesses. If many independent experts tell us that a risk is significant, we do not usually pretend that we know more than the experts and act as if the risk were zero. We put on seat belts in case our car crashes, or the police detect us without one — two kinds of risk. We spend money on fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire insurance, heat-activated sprinklers. We take these precautions even though we are far from certain that our house will catch fire.”

In the past insurance underwriters have charged reduced premiums for those who have done their best to mitigate (the underwriters) risk. Good drivers get a preferential rate on car insurance, those who protect their homes with fire resistant materials and systems that reduce fire risk reduce the premiums they pay for house insurance. Perhaps its time to start lobbying for reduced premiums for policy holders who can show that they are acting in a range of ways to reduce their overall carbon footprint. Since the same companies underwrite all classes of insurance, anyone who reduces carbon emissions will save such companies money – so why should they pay the same premiums as those who do not? This would get the public’s attention!

The Great Enemy of Truth

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic”.
This was John F. Kennedy speaking to the Yale graduating class on June 11, 1962.

I am currently reading “Smelling Land” by David Sanborne Scott and the author opens a very good explanation of human reluctance to changes in the way we think with the above quotation.

Below is an excerpt from the book:

“It seems to me there are three ways we acquire knowledge—by accretion, integration or substitution. Depending on which route we’ve traveled to knowledge, new information sometimes requires that we pay an emotional price for the insight, understanding and comprehension we’ve found. So let’s try to anticipate how the route influences the emotional price.”

Accretion is the process of gluing additional information to the body of knowledge we already have. It can be fun. Usually the new information is accepted willingly and without stress. A single, easily understandable factoid is added to our brain’s immense memory capacity—disturbing no embedded knowledge, demanding little intellectual effort, requiring no emotional price. Everyone has their own examples—a new football scoring record would suffice.”

Integration is the process by which we come to appreciate a new and better way to link together the knowledge we already have, to place bits and pieces within a clarifying pattern. Since integration requires refitting many data chunks, to test how they fall within a new template, the process often needs a little more thought, more reflection. Still, although the effort may be greater, the resulting synthesis can be joyous compensation. We seldom need to pay an emotional price. Indeed, we often get an emotional high. An integration experience for a student mechanical engineer could occur when, in a moment of revelation, she suddenly realizes that the vector calculus equations she’s been applying to fluid mechanics can be wonderfully applied to the electromagnetic field theory that her electrical engineering roommate is studying, so that, together, they understand both fluid and electromagnetics a lot better.”

Substitution is different. New, discordant. white-knuckle information crashes in upon long-held beliefs, upon our convictions. We first scurry about looking for counter-arguments. for rationales that will undermine the new information, allow it to be set aside. But if all defensive arguments fail, and if we’re willing to push aside pre-existing flawed perceptions, then substituting new knowledge can be a painful process. None but the courageous will tread here. A childhood substitution, a few days before Christmas, in your parent’s cupboard, the train set you’d asked for from the North Pole—and you suddenly realize there really isn’t any Santa Claus. Or even tougher, because we’re older with beliefs more solidified, might be when we come face to face with implacable flaws in political or religious ideologies we’ve held for as long as we can remember.”

Tricks, Lies & Powerpoint Slides

An explanation of why information regarding the scope and pace of Anthropogenic (human caused) Climate Change is being withheld and “softened” at every level – Academic, Corporate, Governmental and Journalistic.

Pour yourself a coffee (it’s almost an hour long), you may want something stronger by the time the lecture is finished.

So here is what the “most powerful person in the world” thinks about that:

“I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going to go for that. I won’t go for that.” – Barack Obama at 1st 2012 post-election press conference.

Apparently, despite opinions to the contrary, the US President is simply another guy that “doesn’t get it”. Creating the almighty jobs is “simply to address the need for more votes” because, if climate change is ignored no one will have or want a job – continuing to exist will be the primary need for future generations.

The even more almighty growth is, of course, the root of the climate change crisis and all the other factors which are lining up to cause the extinction of the human species. So, ignore climate change and work to destroy the Earth and humankind, not at your peril but at the peril of every scrap of life on the planet – the votes will keep on coming until they don’t, that will be how you know it’s time to assume the position – “crash position” that is.

Five Orders of Conciousness

David C. Korten in his book “The Great Turning”, lays out five Orders of Human Consciousness which I have greatly condensed and which are presented below —

The first experience of consciousness takes place in the womb where we float effortlessly in the warm amniotic fluids. There is no beginning, no ending. There is no “I” and no “not I”. Just to be is sufficient. For the first one to two years we learn to adapt to our physical world and to differentiate the “I” from the “not I”. From this point on, we progress through some or all of the following five stages of increasingly mature consciousness.

First Order: Magical Consciousness

A child of two to six years of age experiences a world influenced by magical beings, both friendly and sinister, such as those that exist in the classical fairy tales. Magical Consciousness is limited in its ability to connect the actions of the self and future consequences and cannot accept responsibility for such actions. Magical Consciousness depends on external figures to make things magically right.

Second Order: Imperial Consciousness

Transition from first order to second usually starts around age six or seven. A child at this age begins to discover that many relationships are predictable and that actions have consequences, and begins to explore its ability to influence the world through its own actions. The Imperial Consciousness is able to acknowledge another person’s point of view for purposes of calculating how to get what one wants but with little concept of loyalty, gratitude, or justice.

Third Order: Socialized Consciousness

Transition beyond the second order normally begins around age eleven or twelve. Coinciding with the onset of teenage rebellion, it brings a growing emotional intelligence and a recognition of the extent to which personal security depends on the mutual loyalty of the members of one’s group in a sometimes hostile world. It also brings an ability to see one’s self through the eyes of another and is capable of empathy.

Socialized Consciousness internalizes a play-by-the-rules, law-and-order mentality where fairness means a society that rewards those who work hard, leaves slackers to suffer their fate and demands retribution for wrongdoers. It adheres to culturally defined moral codes but lacks the ability to subject those codes to critical examination. It is the conciousness of those who have a “Small World” view defined by their immediate reference group and who expect that playing-by-the-rules will give them, their families and their communities a decent life. They do not yet grasp that complex system relationships may prevent whole classes of people from finding jobs or staying on the right side of the law.

Fourth Order: Cultural Concsiousness

Adulthood brings encounters with people whose cultural perspective is different from that of those in one’s own group. The initial reaction to such encounters is often a sense of cultural superiority or even absolutism: “The way of my people is the only right way”. A Cultural Consciousness is rarely achieved before age thirty, and the majority of those who live in modern imperial societies never achieve it, partly because most corporations, political parties, churches, labor unions and even educational institutions actively discourage it.

If, however, the Socialized Consciousness is secure in its identity, it may come to recognize that culture itself is a social construct and that cultural norms and expectations are subject to choice. This represents a profound step in the development of a true moral consciousness based on examined principles , and the beginnings of a capacity for cultural innovation. Those who have achieved a Cultural Consciousness are concerned with equal justice for all people not just for one’s own kind, and they work to repeal or revise unjust laws.

Those who raise significant challenges in an imperial society are likely to be subjected to a loss of standing or outright rejection. However, because they have the capacity to question the dysfunctional cultural premises of Empire, those who have achieved a Cultural Consciousness are essential to the cultural renewal and maturation that the Socialized Consciousness suppresses as threatening to the established social and moral order. They have an “Inclusive World” view that sees the possibility of creating inclusive, life-affirming societies that work for all.

Fifth Order: Spiritual Consciousness

The Spiritual Consciousness, the highest expression of what it means to be human, manifests the awakening to Creation as a complex, multi-dimensional, interconnected, continuously unfolding whole. It involves coming full circle back to the original sense of oneness of the womb experience, but with a richly nuanced appreciation for the complexity and grandeur of the whole of Creation as manifest in each person, animal, plant, and rock. Persons who have attained a Spiritual Consciousness have an evolving “Integral World” view.

Spiritual Consciousness is the consciousness of the elder statesperson, teacher, tribal leader or religious sage that supports an examined morality grounded in the universal principles of justice, love and compassion common to the teachings of the most revered religious prophets. It approaches conflict, contradiction and paradox not as problems to be overcome, but as opportunities for deeper learning. Each encounter with diverse people and situations opens a window to a piece of reality previously hidden from the conscious mind. Eventually, what appeared to be disconnected fragments of experience link together to awaken a profound sense of the spiritual unity of Creation.

The Socialized Consciousness is prone to characterize persons who have achieved a Spiritual Consciousness as lone contemplators disaffiliated from society because they disavow special loyalty to any group or identity. However, the Spiritual Consciousness simply transcends the exclusiveness of conventional group loyalties to embrace an identity that is inclusive of the whole and all its many elements. The sense of duty and loyalty once reserved for members of one’s immediate family, ethnic group, nationality or religion now extends to the whole. To the Spiritual Consciousness, the satisfaction of living in creative service to the whole is its own reward.

Collision With a Slow Moving Asteroid

I just watched an end-of-the-world movie. This particular one was an asteroid collision with a few weeks notice. Suicides,  a love interest, atonement, riots, orgies, all the usual things that happen just before the world ends. There were also references to keeping the status quo including the news anchor signing off a few hours before impact and reminding the audience to turn their clocks back as daylight saving time was ending.

Then, the movie ended with a flashbang and it was back to reality and the slow-mo version of the apocalypse with an ending that could be every bit as catastrophic but spread over generations of human suffering instead of weeks of debauchery.

If, instead of climate change we were facing an asteroid collision, discovered but not yet publicized,  would governments and corporate owned media be trying to silence scientists and covering up the impending disaster so another trade agreement could be signed, investors could be given a window in which to adjust their portfolios and environmental laws could be revoked so that mining stocks would jump . . . and would the markets stay open late on doomsday to optimize profits?

Blissful or Wilful, Ignorance is Dangerous

In most, if not all, civil nations there is a law under which people can be convicted for “Failing to provide the necessities of life” or something very like it. Prosecutions under such a law would often be against those whom the law saw as responsible for human beings such as babies, disabled persons and the elderly who are not capable of providing for themselves.

What perverse logic demands, under penalty of law, that we provide for a minority of compromised individuals who currently live in our society, something that would be done in most cases without question; but demands nothing of those in positions of responsibility who willingly refuse to make provisions for the continuance of the necessities of life for our entire species in the not-too-distant future? The making of profits by those who need them not one whit now takes precedence over efforts to protect the biosphere and the people who live in inter-dependence with it. And why? Because those wealthy investors and the public figures they control with that wealth preach the insane gospel of eternal growth to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else and everything on Earth outside their castle gates.

As the realization that this destructive and unsustainable way of life cannot continue slowly spreads through the populace, all recourse to make change is being removed by the political puppets in order to prevent legal challenges to their corporate masters. Failing removal of the cancerous corporate/political elements now prevalent in the industrialized world, I see only two possible outcomes of this situation in the medium to long term; species suicide through acquiescence, or armed revolution.

In Canada, our government has taken our country from being a respected supporter and keeper of peace to an ugly collaborator in war-making. Efforts now being carried on to build and maintain the Canadian military are those of an aggressor and could easily be turned on previously friendly nations or even Canadian citizens if those in power detected dissent beyond the instantly adjustable boundaries they were willing to allow.

As this is written, those corporate/political elements within Canada are signing treaties and enacting laws in private and without debate to enlist the governments and business interests of foreign nations if required in a fight against the Canadian people and their country. Democracy, justice, sovereignty and common decency have been sold for a few years of profit for the already filthy rich.

Lies, half-truths, hidden agendas and secrecy are now the norm in government and corporate-owned news media and the majority of people still seem to be blissfully and wilfully ignorant of what is going on in their country or the wider world. We may already have passed the point of no return with some of the positive feedback loops of climate change and a number of the indicators are triggering earlier and with greater effect than predicted by any of the computer models. While no single weather event can be positively attributed to climate change, it makes sense to open the discussion in order to have people thinking about what lifestyle changes might be required. If any more proof of wilful ignorance is required, think about the two points below:

– one survey showed that in 94 US news stories about Hurricane Sandy prior to its making landfall, exactly zero mentioned climate change or even extreme weather

– in all the flash-and-dash, thunder-and-lightning of the US presidential debates and speeches, climate change was never mentioned by either camp nor the debate moderators

Are we Condemned to Eternal Dumbnation?

It seems that, after a couple of generations of “dumbing down” by corporate controlled news media, advertising agencies, Saturday morning cartoons, and our own willingness to allow the proverbial someone else to think for us as we spend our time watching sitcoms or jetting off to a warm, winter destination to make hats out of Budweiser cans, we are finally and terminally dumb. We saw it coming after America twice elected George W. Bush to a position described by some as the most powerful in the world. But we simply pitied America. Most of us were convinced after America suffered a major terrorist action on its own soil and the most powerful individual in the world countered by exhorting everyone to go shopping. But, as complaisant Canadians, we eventually followed suit and elected Steven Harper (not to say that Steven Harper is other than very intelligent, he is, dangerously so).

Now we’re screwed. Our “leaders” spend their energies (and our resources) funnelling our money into the accounts of the filthy rich in our country and elsewhere. They silence, defund, or get rid of scientists and any other academics that might make a positive difference in mitigating the perfect storm of crises which threatens the Earth’s biosphere and the survival of the human species. They discourage independent thought and attack dissent, verbally and often physically. They encourage the destruction of the resources upon which our survival rests and they excise from the laws of the land anything that would prevent such destruction.

So now, as a species we are facing the need to be super objective and make decisions as important as any could ever be. And all this within a critically tight time frame and while fighting a global pandemic of dumbnity. We are collectively and severely brain injured. I go to bed half-hoping that I will awake to find that one of those smart-ass fifth graders that seem to always cause the big people to come up short on any question more difficult than “What is your name?” has led a coup in Ottawa during the night. But so far . . . no such luck.

Anybody know where I can get a pickup load of empty Budweiser cans? Oh, I forgot, I could buy them full and empty them myself . . . Doh!