Thursday, June 23, 2011

Economic Growth in a Finite World

 A Changing Business Community

This blog post by Tom Honig is an example of an antiquated, human-centered perception of economics. In this day of climate change, Peak Oil, habitat loss and depleted water and soil, this kind of thinking leads to economic collapse for all species, especially our own.

"they want a bike path across vacant land at Arana Gulch."

Arana Gulch is not vacant land. Arana Gulch is a verdant living ecosystem chucky-jammed full of life. This is a comment made in ignorance attempting to minimize the damage caused by development of a paved 12 foot wide bike road through critical habitat for endangered and sensitive species.

"economic growth does a lot of good things. Jobs, tax revenue for local cities and the county, opportunity for all ages and even a relief for the need to commute elsewhere for jobs, goods and services."

Progressive economists are learning that economic growth does a lot of bad things, chief among which is destruction of natural habitat and despoliation of natural resources.

See Czech, B. 2009. Ecological economics, in Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems. Developed under the auspices of UNESCO-EOLSS Publishers, Oxford, UK

At some point (now would be a good time) humans must grow up and join the rest of the world as contributing members of the web of life, not selfish takers considering our desires foremost above all else.

"Jobs" is not the answer to our economic woes. "Jobs" is the problem. "Jobs" require continuous growth and expansion in a world of finite resources. This is impossible.

What we need is meaningful work in exchange for, clothing, housing and social support. There's plenty of work to be done in our communities, enough for everyone who wants to live here on the terms set by the local bioregion. Those who want more than the local environment can provide must look elsewhere.

"Continuous growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell." Ed Abbey

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Self-proclaimed" Anarchists

The phrase "self-proclaimed anarchist" screeches on my mind like finger nails on a blackboard. It is used, even among Progressives such as Amy Goodman, as a pejorative, diminishing the value of anything a "self-proclaimed anarchist" might say or do.

How did this ethical judgement get embedded in our culture? Why aren't Democrats, Christians, environmentalists, Progressives and Libertarians equally singled out as "self-proclaimed," diminished in value compared to all the other "non-self-proclaimed" members of the offending group.

It's a peculiar phenomenon, unique to discussions about anarchism, in company with images of the becloaked mad bomber of 19th Century government propaganda. Most peculiar is that it is thoroughly embedded in literature and popular thought, even among anarchists.

What is the opposite of a self-proclaimed anarchist, and who are they? Who is responsible for officially recognizing anarchists such that they are no longer self-proclaimed? The government? The media? Other anarchists?

An anarchist is one who seeks an end to central, oppressive government, an absence of rulers in a self-regulated community of rules. Anarchists are known by their lives and their actions. Anarchists, by their own actions, proclaim themselves anarchists.

There is no need to add a modifier to the anarchist identification. Action speaks louder than any words.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Responsible Bicyclists Unite

As a daily bicycle commuter of forty years experience, I am constantly frustrated by the behavior of many other bicyclists I see on my travels. Many are simply ignorant of the law, especially young people riding against traffic or on the sidewalk. Many ride bicycles as an expression of rebellion and individualistic freedom, a middle finger upthrust into the face of motoring society.

My greatest frustration is reserved for older experienced cyclists who are completely aware of the rules of the road and choose to ignore them. They exhibit an attitude of entitlement, as if riding a bicycle gives them dispensation over other vehicles, exempting them from stop signs, stop lights and rights of way. Many wear multi-colored bicycling togs, acting out their Lance Armstrong fantasies on our urban streets and highways on the light weight, expensive bicycles.

There is plenty of room for all vehicles in our community, as long as everyone observes the rules of the road and operates their vehicles with respect for all others. When a few choose to flout those rules and expect special treatment, it's no wonder that others speak out in anger and frustration.

It is up to responsible bicyclists to police our own bicycling community, with zero tolerance for illegal and unsafe bicycling behavior.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cries of "Costly Fraud!" are as deceptive as their targets

This article: Anthropogenic global warming is a huge costly fraud! by climatologist Cliff Harris, has a great deal of truth in it, and much hyperbole as well.

Yes, Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is overstated by many, mischracterized in the popular press, and generally misunderstood by a poorly informed public. While this is an unfortunate error, it does not pass beyond to deliberate fraud... maybe.

There is indeed "no peer-confirmed scientific research that establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and higher (or lower) global temperatures." There is, in fact, no scientific research that demonstrates the validity of global average surface temperature as a measure of climate variability

Surface temperature is just one variable in local climates. An average of all surface temperatures on the Earth gives us a number, but one which is not particularly useful in assessing variability in local climates, let alone in the speculative concept of a "global" climate. 

To then take this nebulous methodology and attempt to project it forward into the future through the use of mathematical global climate models results in a product that bears almost no relationship to the reality of climate variation and is meaningless in terms of the contribution of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to that variation.

The simple fact is: We just don't know.

It's OK to not know.

Admitting our ignorance is a healthy characteristic of a well adjusted human being. To pretend that we know everything and that we can predict something as complex and chaotic as climate 100 years into the future, when we can't even predict the weather next year, is the height of folly.

The truth is, we're just going to have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, we can prepare ourselves for any climate eventuality by keeping ourselves and our societies as resilient and flexible as possible. This means not tying ourselves to finite energy sources, not building major cities and human playgrounds on shorelines subject to storms and inundation, not building on the slopes of volcanoes, active or "dormant," not building in flood plains and generally conducting ourselves as if we had learned something from 3.5 millions years of evolution.

Oh, and here's the toughy. We have to learn to control our population so as to not consume more than our planet can naturally replenish.

That's a pretty tall order. I have little confidence that Homo sapiens can pull it off.

Wouldn't hurt to try.