Economy

Shrinking economy. Will we choose to fight over the available resources or grow a new social structure that is sustainable?

Quality is not great, but a good discussion.

Bare Bones Biology 057-Levels and Population II

Last week I told you about my little informal research project that involved talking to protestors and supporters of our local Planned Parenthood organization. What I learned from that was that the basic goals of both groups are — both right. At levels of organization one (that’s individual people), and two (our human communities), respectively. Today I’ll talk about level four (which is the ecosystem), and level three (the corposystem).

First I will remind us that the ecosystem is a living entity of which we all are a part. We cannot survive without the ecosystem. The ecosystem provides the food energy that we eat to stay alive. There is no other source for our food.

Second, I affirm that humans need compassion for their welfare but the ecosystem does not require compassion. It requires balance. When it becomes unbalanced, the ecosystem responds by trying to reset its balance points, so the carbon cycle and the water cycle and all the cycles that make food all try to stabilize in a new balance. We are adapted to the old balance. Any new balance will end up producing less food for one reason or another; when there is not enough food there is always more violence, war and genocide, and we are also growing epidemics of new diseases that cannot be controlled by the corposystem.

The question is, then, which life is more important – my life or the life of the ecosystem? It’s time for us to begin discussing that question, because the productivity of the earth is already maxed out. So – what is stopping us from getting together and resolving this problem? Primarily the corposystem is stopping us from getting together and stopping the growth, because the corposystem – to continue without changing itself – requires growth. The corposystem (in a “free” country) controls our thinking and our behaviors mostly in two ways. First is by taking control of the media and our school systems – dumbing down the people so they don’t have the knowledge to recognize the lies. Second, it spreads the lies and uses them to organize groups of us to fight with each other over relatively unimportant problems that the corposystem doesn’t care about. (That’s the old divide and conquer, we’ve all heard about that – here’s the modern version.)

This example first came to my attention when one of the protestors in my study referred me to a movie about population growth. The movie was pretty disgusting, with lies and false hate talk and fake statistics. It was made for conservatives and tried to convince us that dreadful things will happen if we don’t grow more. Actually, dreadful things are already happening that are CAUSED BY growth over the past couple hundred years. The movie claims these are caused by lack of growth. Now we can not change what happened before, and the you-know-what is hitting the fan. So it is all the more critical that we have good information. So I turned to another movie which was made for PBS and presumably for political progressives, and that’s when the light dawned. The only difference between the movie made for conservatives, and the movie made for progressives, is the style of presentation. Conservatives got a movie based in hate and fear; and progressives got a movie designed to appeal to those who believe technology will save us. As an aside, technology could help to save us if we were to use it to reduce growth, but of course that was not the message, and also that’s not what we’re doing.

So if you look at both movies, one right after the other, you end up pretty discouraged. The PRIMARY goal of both these movies is to get their respective audiences to continue fighting with each other so that nobody is talking or doing anything about the overwhelming need to stop both population growth and economic growth within this living earth ecosystem.

Folks, we humans all want and need the same basic things. We need food energy to stay alive and we need the compassion of supportive communities. We won’t get these things unless we are willing to define them as our goals and work together to get them. Instead of fighting with each other over something else. And the later we get started the worse it will be for everyone.

Bare Bones Biology 057 – Levels and Population II
KEOS Radio 89.1, Bryan TX
Audio available at http://www.barebonesbiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 057 – Levels and Population II

Last week I told you about my little informal research project that involved talking to protestors and supporters of our local Planned Parenthood organization. What I learned from that was that the basic goals of both groups are right, at levels of organization one (that’s individual people) and two (that’s our communities) respectively. Today I’ll talk about level four, which is the ecosystem, and level three, the corposystem.

First I’ll remind us that the ecosystem is a living entitity, of which we all are a part. We cannot survive without the ecosystem. The ecosystem provides the food energy that we eat to stay alive. There is no other source for our food. Second, I affirm that humans need compassion for their welfare, but the ecosystem does not require compassion. It requires balance. When it becomes unbalanced, the ecosystem responds by trying to reset its balance points, so the carbon cycle and the water cycle and all the cycles that make food try to re-stabilize in a new balance. We’re adapted to the old balance. Any new balance will end up producing less food for one reason or another. When there is not enough food, there is always more violence, war and genocide, and we are also growing epidemics of new diseases that cannot be controlled by the corposystem. The question is, then, which life is more important? My life or the life of the ecosystem? It’s time for us to begin discussing that question, because the productivity of the earth is already maxed out.

So, what is stopping us from getting together and resolving this problem? Primarily, the corposystem is stopping us from getting together and stopping the growth, because the corposystem, to continue without changing itself, requires growth. The corposystem, in a free country, controls our thinking and our behavior mostly in two ways. First is by taking control of the media and our school systems. Dumbing down the people so they don’t have the knowledge to recognize the lies. Second, it spreads the lies and uses them to organize groups of us to fight with each other over relatively unimportant problems that the corposystem doesn’t care about. The old divide and conquer we’ve all heard about. Here’s the modern version.

This example first came to my attention when one of the protestors in my study referred me to a movie about population growth. The movie was pretty disgusting, with lies and false hate talk and fake statistics. It was made for conservatives and tried to convince us that dreadful things will happen if we don’t grow more. Actually, dreadful things are already happening that are caused by growth over the past couple hundred years. The movie claims these are caused by lack of growth.

Now, we can not change what happened before, and the you-know-what is hitting the fan. So it is all the more critical that we have good information. So I turned to another movie that was made for PBS, and presumably for political progressives, and that’s when the light dawned. The only difference between the movie made for conservatives and the movie made for progressives is the style of presentation. Conservatives got a movie based in hate and fear, and progressives got a movie designed to appeal to those who believe technology will save us. As an aside, technology could help to save us if we were to use it to reduce growth, but of course that was not the message and also that’s not what we’re doing.

So if you look at both movies, one right after the other, you end up pretty discouraged. The primary goal of both these movies is to get their respective audiences to continue fighting with each other so that nobody is talking or doing anything about the overwhelming need to stop both population growth and economic growth within this living earth ecosystem. Instead of fighting with each other over something else. And the later we get started, the worse it will be for everyone.

Bare Bones Biology 057 – Levels and Population II
KEOS 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Download audio at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com (after Thursday)

I recommend the movie Mother, http://motherthefilm.com/for all conservatives and progressives and anyone else who is concerned about the future welfare of our selves. I also recommend the January issue of National Geographic on the same subject. It’s time we take charge of our own welfare and get together and begin the real discussion of a difficult challenge that may be very important to your grandchildren.

Bare Bones Biology 054 – Power and Success

Here on the internet I found a perfect example to illustrate the ideas of levels of organization and emergent properties, using other peoples’ words and experiences. For this illustration I’ll only focus on two levels, the economy and the universe, and I will not quote or link the authors because I haven’t asked their permission, but if you are one of them thank you, I appreciate your insights. First the economy.

(Post) “Modern economics is not a normative science. (Normative = establishing a norm.) Economists don’t say things like “business decisions SHOULD be determined by the market”; rather, they make bold assertions: “business decisions ARE determined by the market”. Firms …are either in business to make money, or they don’t stay in business. Charities put their donations to the uses the donors intend them for, or they don’t continue to get donations. In either case, the ones that survive and thrive are the ones who know how to give their patrons what they want. This is only depressing if you persist in the belief that the universe ought to be wired differently. Being “pro-market” is like being “pro-gravity”. Both exist, and both work according to their respective laws, whether you “believe in” them or not.”

Whoa, I thought when I read that. I was following this along OK until we got to the point where the ECONOMY is considered the equivalent of the UNIVERSE in terms of how it operates. The universe is MANY emergent properties more complex than the economy, and the economy is only a little tiny weenie subset of the universe, and furthermore it is man-made. Finally, I thought, finally I can understand why economists seem to me to be so illogical. But I did not respond on the internet. Happily, someone else did, and that post reads:

(post) “As for the “laws of economics”; (unlike the law of gravity) they have re-written those laws every fifty years since Adam Smith & continue to do so. So perhaps “rules” “guidelines-for-now” would be more accurate terms than “laws”.

That’s the end of that quote. Now we have another post, which I finally did get into the action, and this is roughly what I said:

“Yes! Finally someone gets it” ECONOMICS can never be more than a study of human behavior. If human behavior does not align itself with the laws of nature, then the laws of nature will simply eliminate humans. Therefore, the rules of economics do not MATTER to our human welfare on this earth. It matters how we behave relative to the requirements for our survival. The only good that economics has to offer would be if it were to help bring our human behaviors into line with the requirements of the ecosystem that we need to stay alive.”

That’s the end of that quote, and I will add that is not what economics is doing right now. But that’s my opinion as a biologist. Let’s next quote the opinion of the Dalai Lama, as reported in the 2010 report of the Mind and Life Institute.

“Classic economic theory is based on the assumption that humans are self-interested and rational actors, and casts doubt on the very existence of altruism. New research in both economics and neuroscience reveals a much richer and more complex picture of humanity where altruism and compassion are not only part of the equation, but can be encouraged and learned. Further, research is revealing that pro-social behavior is critical for the survival of humanity, while egoistic and non-altruistic behavior are antithetical to human well-being.” 2010 Annual Report, Mind & Life Institute

To the economist I say that “laws of economics” probably do exist, but I will not believe that you understand them until you can explain how they relate to the laws of the universe, of which they are a miniscule and relatively impotent subset.

Bare Bones Biology 053 – Winning
KEOS radio 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at factfictionfancy.wordpress.com
Audio at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

http://www.mindandlife.org/
Levels of Organization – BBB051-Levels of Organization
Emergent Properties – BBB052-Emergent Properties

Questions Answered

• What is your stance on overpopulation?

My stance is not relevant. Measurable facts are what we need to understand problems, whenever they are available. It is not difficult to know these facts. After we understand the problem, then we can have opinions about how to fix it. The basic problem is a balance of how much food is available and how many living things need it to eat. This can easily be measured. The person I know who has done the best job of measuring is Lester Brown (because he has been doing it for about 40 years and because he is honest).

• How can we stop it?

Overpopulation is a very complex problem to stop. Again, Lester Brown may have the most balanced view, because he tries to measure all the different factors that need to be addressed. I say balanced view because he studies many parameters: food resources, non-food energy resources, climate change and other problems that are brought about by an imbalance in the ecosystem. But we will need information from all fields of research to bring the problem under control in time. Apparently some people don’t want to control the problem, because there is one thing we could do tomorrow that would have a dramatic positive effect, and that would be to make birth control available to all women and men and families who want it. At the present time we are withholding this technology from the people who need it. Other kinds of solution would take longer and might be too late.

• Should we slow down birth rates?

If we don’t slow down birth rates, then they will slow down anyway beause the population will be reduced by war, starvation, genocide and epidemics. Providing birth control for people who can’t afford children or don’t want them would be very, very much kinder than killing them with war and genocide or letting them die in famines and epidemics. Those are the options — because this is a problem that is controlled by the ecosystem and neither humans nor the economy are more powerful than the ecosystem. We can’t change the natural laws that control the ecosystem, and if the ecosystem dies then everything inside it also dies.

The problem is very simple:

a) All food for humans and for all animals and for all ecosystems and also for all plants and most micro-organisms comes from photosynthesis. Only plants and green bacteria can do photosynthesis. They can make food for themselves. Every other living entity in the earth ecosystem must eat plants (or eat something else that eats plants or green bacteria) in order to stay alive. This is a good system as long as you have more photosynthetic organisms (producers) than you have of non-photosynthetic organisms (consumers).

b) The problem arises when you get more consumers than producers, and that is where the world is right now. From then on, something has to die so we can eat. For about the past 50 years it has been other species dying so we can use their portion of the available food. Now we are at the point where we are beginning to kill of each other and the plants. That’s when starvation begins because the plants make our food. The climate change question is similar. Photosynthesis makes oxygen. Eating and digesting food makes carbon dioxide, and it’s a cycle. I can send you a handbook that explains in more detail if you want it. Or you can download from this blog on the right side, Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook. The earth has a circulatory system of oxygen and carbon dioxide that must stay in balance. The circulatory system basically runs by the climate. Or is the climate. When that gets out of balance, the ecosystem will react. Just as any living thing will react when its physiology gets out of balance. It will try to not die. One of the important things that will then happen is that a lot of the plants will die because they are adapted to the balance we did have. It is the plants that make our food. We do not get food from oil wells or from the sun or from the wind, and we can not make food. (Because of the natural laws of thermodynamics that is also explained in the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook.)

• How could we slow down birth rates?

Answered above.

• Is a bigger population hurting the economy? Is it helping it?

That question is not relevant to the problem. It is a question economists like to ask so that we will not be thinking about the real food resource problem. The economy has no power in this relationship. The ecosystem has the power. The economy is inside the ecosystem. The economy cannot make food, and neither can it change the laws of nature that keep us all alive. A bigger population is hurting the ecosystem very badly and if the ecosystem crashes we will all die and there won’t be any economy.

• Why is population often so centered? For example 8 million people in NYC.

This is not my kind of question, though I know it is partly a result of overpopulation because when people lose their homes from any kind of disaster they will tend to go to cities. If they had a little farm and they got their food from the farm, and they lose it – then they have no food and go where they hope to get a job.

Overpopulation causes starvation, genocide, war, disease — and global warming is melting the ice. So a lot of people are losing their homes. Melting the ice, for example, means people lose their land for two reasons. One is that the oceans get higher, so for example Bangladesh and some islands and Florida and some other places are getting smaller because the water is higher. Another reason is that the mountain glaciers are the source of the great rivers of many continents. If the rivers stop running and the deserts take their place, then the people will have to go away because the plants will die and the farmers can’t grow food anymore.

• What do you estimate the worlds population will be at in 2025?

This is not relevant. Why would we want to wait around to find out?

• Will birth rates slow down?

There are no valid statistics on this because this has never before happened to humans. However, all normal organisms make more babies than can survive. That is one of the natural laws. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that humans are abnormal in this respect.

But we can guess. A standard growth curve for most species is exponential, so long as plenty of food is available. That means the population doubles in shorter and shorter and shorter intervals until the food runs out. Then the population stops increasing. Then it crashes. The reason it stops increasing is because of war, famine, disease, genocide, etc. In mice and rats, some of the animals become crazy and start killing infant mice and rats.

The difference between humans and mice and rats is that humans have a brain that can understand what is happening and we have birth control technologies that we are not making available to the people who need it. So right now is the time we should be using both.

Richard Heinberg

Our Economic Black Hole

In recent months economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has been saying that the American economy is “in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession”. It’s an interesting metaphor. The U.S. economy is assumed to be a satellite of some heavy object, and just needs a little more push (in the form of Federal stimulus) in order to achieve escape velocity and go on its merry way.

Perhaps the metaphor makes more sense if it’s reframed slightly. Maybe it is more accurate to think of the economy itself as the black hole. At its heart is a great sucking void created in 2008 by the destruction of trillions of dollars’ worth of capital. The economy used to be a star, spewing out light and heat (profits and consumer goods), but it imploded on itself. Now its gaping maw will inevitably draw all surrounding matter into itself.
You can’t see the black hole, of course; it’s invisible. It is composed largely of unrepayable debt in the form of mortgages, and of toxic assets (mortgage-backed securities and related derivatives) on the books of major financial institutions, all of which are carefully hidden from view not just by the institutions themselves but by the Treasury and the Fed. Added to those there is also a growing super- gravitational field of resource depletion—which is again invisible to nearly everyone, though it does create noticeable secondary effects in the form of rising energy and food prices.

The Treasury and Fed are perhaps best thought of as a pair of powerful Battlestars orbiting just outside the singularity, zapping propulsive jolts of energy (in the forms of stimulus packages, bailouts, and quantitative easing programs) at hapless spaceships (banks and businesses) in the vicinity in order to keep them from falling into default, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. Unfortunately, the Battlestars—with their limited and depleting energy sources—are ultimately no match for the black hole, whose power grows silently and invisibly with every further addition to its hidden mass. The Battlestars will themselves eventually be assimilated.

What are we puny, rank-and-file space voyagers to do? Sadly, we must resign ourselves to being absorbed by the black hole at some point. There’s at least the theoretical possibility, though, that at the heart of the singularity there exists a wormhole—a magical pathway to some other reality. In that alternate universe the economic rules are entirely different: money is not based on interest-bearing debt, and the economy is assumed to be a subset of the ecosystem, rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get to this through-the-looking-glass world without passing through the singularity.

However, what we do now may have some bearing on our prospects: a few physicists reportedly believe that there are many alternate realities, and by visualizing and acting according to the rules of the reality we prefer, we might be attracted toward it rather than some other.

At least that’s the way it works in science fiction.

Plan B

Here is the short version of Lester Brown’s Plan B as discussed in his latest book “World on the Edge.” Or you can download it from a link on the right under PDFs or at the earth policy website that is also linked to the right.

You can also get it on his website

But the movie is better – Plan B the first program in this year Journey to Planet Earth, that runs Wednesday nights on KAMU at 10 pm.

As far as I can figure out by their website, tomorrow night they will discuss the state of the world’s oceans.

If you want to watch a tape of it, come to the Peach Clubhouse some time around noon on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. It’s two hours. Very good.