In the absence of a politicized citizenry, with their own independent political institutions, as long as the state provides just enough “bread and circuses” a social inertia can reign for extended periods of time. The Zapatista movement in Mexico shows the time and energy required to overcome such inertia, even when the ruling elite is in the process of restructuring society. Continue reading
A strategy of the elites highlighted by the Trilateral Commission report that complained of an “excess of democracy” in the 1970’s has been to remove as many of the important decisions affecting society from any possibility of democratic control. This helps lock society into a growth / corporate power / privatization path, where such things as international treaties, patent law, secrecy, and media control, can be used to remove impediments to the continued growth of corporate power – such as an informed citizenry, local sourcing policies and the protection of the commons from privatization. The current set of international “trade” agreements, which are more agreements to embed corporate power, as far away from democratic oversight as possible, are just some of the latest steps along this trend. Continue reading
An attempt at humour in a darkening world ….
A ship rests on the Arctic waters below a kaleidoscope of colours bouncing around the northern sky. A group of scientists sit chatting about methane emissions and hockey while enjoying a good bottle of vodka. Suddenly, the ship loses buoyancy and starts rapidly sinking into the arctic waters. Within less than a minute it is gone, with no time for anyone to survive its sinking. Only the bubbling arctic waters are left. It’s not the Bermuda Triangle; it’s the Methane Rectangle! We then jump to a waterlogged area of tundra in Siberia, where methane is bubbling to the surface … Continue reading
Over the past twenty-five years humanity has acted like a driver who accelerates when warned that he is travelling toward a brick wall, while debating whether or not the brick wall exists. Especially since 2000, as the industrialization of China gained in scale and its coal usage grew exponentially, climate-changing gas emissions have accelerated . At the same time many scientists are realizing that the brick wall may be a lot closer than previously thought. Not at 400 ppm carbon dioxide (which humanity already passed) and 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial times, but perhaps as low as 350 ppm or lower and 1 degree. Like the cartoon character Wile E Coyote, humanity may have already run off the cliff, but is kept levitating in the air for a while by the inertial tendencies of the climate system. Continue reading
Up until recently the general scientific consensus was that the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica would melt at a rate that would cause a very limited rise in sea levels this century. The predictions for sea level rise used by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) have used a relatively linear rise in sea levels to 2100 – resulting in the societal consensus of about 1 metre in the 21st century. Recent research has shown that the rate of sea level rise has accelerated, from an average of 1.2mm per year from 1900 to 1990, to 3mm per year since then . Given this observed acceleration in the past two decades, together with the possible non-linear responses of natural systems, the consensus view could be deeply flawed. The biggest variable that will drive sea level rise is the speed at which the ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica will melt. Continue reading
When looking at the predicament facing humanity, it can be comforting to take an individually positive piece of information as proof that things may not be so bad. Unfortunately, such false optimism is not warranted even though it tends to predominate in much of the media. This false optimism is dependent upon the information that is left out, as well as a lack of integration with other relevant information. Continue reading
My latest book, “The Schizophrenic Society”, is now available from Friesen Press and Amazon at C$9.99 for the electronic version (a little more for those wanting a physical book). It took 6 months of writing, and 6 months of editing – a year of my life. I feel that it really covers our predicament in a clear, and concise, way. Please buy a copy and let me know what you think of it by leaving a comment when you are finished.
Human society seems unable to move away from the exponential economic growth that is the underlying cause of the unfolding crises of climate change, ecological destruction and resource depletion. Instead, it works to adapt itself to the early manifestations of those crises while ignoring the fundamental changes that are required for long-term viability. Changes that will be wrenching, and extremely threatening to those that hold the most power, wealth and privilege. Continued economic growth helps ameliorate the problems created by extreme social and economic inequalities within, and between, countries. It also helps fund future promises of pensions and other incomes without excessive claims on current incomes. The recent responses to droughts, which may be a harbinger of much worse to come, tend to show the inability or reluctance of society’s to address the underlying issues rather than just the symptoms of those issues. Continue reading
The creation of what we now call capitalism, with its deification of private property and free (if “free” simply means free of democratic oversight) markets, has been a conscious project spanning a number of centuries. Central to that project has been the eradication, and marginalization, of competing ownership and business models. Continue reading
The dictionary defines the word “undulating” as having a wave-like appearance. In nature, nothing ever moves in a straight line. There may be a general trend, but things will undulate around that trend. Sometimes above the trend, sometimes below the trend. Human beings are not good at keeping track of the trend as the environment around them undulates around it. The immediate visceral reality can overwhelm any understanding of the trend. Continue reading