Global[1]

Globalism contra Nationalism

~ Navigating the world of 21st century Politics

Introduction

In terms of western internal politics, the 2010’s has seen an increasing trend of anti-establishment movements, nationalists and populists from the right and the left attacking “the establishment”, turning from marginalised outsiders into third and second-tier parties – becoming serious contenders for power. Often, the established parties of the centre, whether left or right, tend to galvanise together against the outsiders. These new political actors were generally characterised not only by the different thoughts they brought in to their respective national discourses, but also by the overt hostility of established political power-brokers and by the media. Despite being generally maligned and closely scrutinised, these movements nevertheless have grown – though seemingly unable to breach the threshold of 50% necessary to make a decisive impact…

Read more: Globalism contra Nationalism

Until 2016 that was.

It can be argued that the triumphs of the Eurosceptics in Britain’s June referendum, and Donald Trump’s equally surprising and populist win in the United States presidential election were outliers, and it remain to be seen whether or not Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen can reach power in their countries. However, the establishment has been shaken and is seemingly at this point unable to put down the challenge from the populists.

The main questions we have to ask ourselves are:

  • Who are the populists and what do they want?
  • Who are the establishment, and what do they want?
  • Why is all of this happening?

TL;DR Summary

  • Our current financial system is dependent on economic growth.
  • When prosperity increases, exponential growth decreases.
  • This forces the system to increase its efficiency and engage in “creative destruction”.
  • One form of creative destruction is to deregulate and remove economic barriers.
  • This increases growth, but hurts groups that have won benefits from said barriers.
  • A new political conflict zone is emerging, with the third world proletariat and the billionaires on one side, and the lower middle class of developed nations on the other.
  • All this serves to hide the more serious issue of the global ecological crisis.
  • We would need to seek a solution which emphasises a confederational global order and localised autonomy.

Legitimate and illegitimate faultlines

In most liberal democracies, there is a political spectrum, consisting of diverging opinions, generally centred around the issue of taxation levels and the form, size and direction of the welfare state. Usually, we see a moderate right – which desires to have low taxes and low public expenditures – locked in a debate with a moderate left, which desires roughly the opposite. Most of the major newspapers lean towards one bloc above the other, but seldom tries to indict, disqualify or delegitimise the political opposition.

Usually, however, both blocs tend to share political sentiments on a wide range of issues. Both blocs are usually supportive of free trade, of a foreign policy consensus regarding the country’s role within the European Union and/or NATO, as well as several free trade agreements. Both blocs tend to be supportive of status quo when it comes to the financial markets, and tend to share roughly the same ideas when it comes to the issue of climate change. Both blocs also tend to see the role of citizenship (as disconnected from ethnicity) and the nation-state (as transformed and reduced) in the 21st century in a similar light.

Thus, there are issues which are seen as a legitimate arena for political debate – namely those which pertain the issue of the size of taxes and how to spend them. Other issues, like international entanglements, free trade and the role of the nation-state are viewed as far more sensitive, almost illegitimate to veer into. Then there are a few topics that are seen as absolutely toxic (criticising media, focusing too much on the banking system, and then – worst of all – ethnopolitics). The reason why some subjects are seen as legitimate and some as less legitimate is because the establishment has reached an equilibrium in the West, following the Second World War (which, by the way, is a prudent way of organising a society – judging by the instability of third world democracies lacking a national consensus). Upsetting the delicate balance and the status quo could risk destabilising society and create a situation where electoral democracy may be at risk. For many decades, the general population shared into these sentiments.

What would however happen when the political consensus achieved by the establishment is viewed – by large chunks of the general population – as unsettling to the status quo?

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s enter the age of Globalism.

The Politics of the Unipolar World and the nature of Growth

The spectre of globalisation became fully evident with the end of the Cold War on the 25th of December 1991. It had however brewed for a while already, with the first wave of offshoring production, first to Japan and then to other Asian countries such as Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia, which began already during the late 1960’s. This was made possible by two conditions – Pax Americana and the development of communications technologies, which allowed companies to distribute their investments to the locations with the lowest costs and the highest benefits.

Following the debt crisis of the 1980’s, dozens of third world countries were forced to open up their economies and sell out vital utilities to multinational corporations, which served to increase the flow of money in the system and to weaken the role of the state. During the 1990’s, this order was codified through the Washington Consensus and the formation of the WTO (World Trade Organization). While free trade agreements of the past tended to reduce and lower the amount of regulations, these new free trade treaties established during the past 25 years have served to introduce legislative measures (for example ISDS mechanisms which penalise countries for instituting laws which could damage the profitability of corporate operations within their borders, or anti-piracy laws), above and partially beside the scrutiny of the national legislative chambers. In short, these new agreements have a tendency to allow multinational corporations powers which are approaching those of state actors in their relationship with sovereign states.

Of course, the most far-reaching and deepest example of international cooperation and supranationalism during our era is and remains the European Union, though it is hampered by the problems of the European economy and by the fact that it is split between those who envision it as a future federal state, those who strive towards it becoming a template for global governance, those who wish to scale it back and those who desire to break it. The nation-state, we have heard, is growing increasingly obsolete due to technological development – and that is a good thing, for the sake of diversity, progress and growth.

And yes, economic globalisation is indeed a dynamic force, having a multiplying effect on trade and stock markets. It binds together the globe in linear networks, transforms entire bio-regions into landscapes intended for the production of goods, which then are brought around the globe to the vast supermarkets of the emergent super-cities. These cities join together tens of millions of people from all the continents of the Earth, forming vibrant, creative, multi-cultural hubs characterised by fashion, innovation and novelty – mobilising economic activity to never before seen heights.

There is however several shadow sides to this glitz of vitality – the one most apparent being that while the GDP economy has indeed grown – in several western countries it has more than doubled since 1980, automation, off-shoring and immigration has weakened the once dominant manufacturing sector. 25 years ago, it was still relatively easy for a high school dropout to apply for a manufacturing job. New positions within that sector demands higher skillsets, and are fewer in number – and still gradually shrinking in importance.

Instead, the new jobs which are created generally consist of fewer hours and a higher amount of insecurity. These jobs go into the service sector – the fast food industry, sales-by-phone, on-hour positions within the cleaning sector, and micro-jobs – popular as a solution in Britain and Germany. While older people are generally entrenched by laws protecting their employment, youths are more exposed for this new, emerging, hyper-competitive economy. Entire regions, once consisting of chimney-forests of industrial towns, have turned into basket-cases characterised by high unemployment and growing poverty.

While generally claiming that this process of creative destruction is “historically inevitable” (akin to Marxian historicism), the establishment in most western countries, from large multi-national corporations, to centrist political parties, mainstream media and academia, seems heavily invested into the furtherance of this mega-trend. That is hardly surprising, giving the positive net effects on economic growth.

As we previously have explained (https://eosprojects.com/what-is-money.html), our current monetary system has an in-built need to maximise growth and to never reach an equilibrium. States which have failed to open up their economies to the dynamic forces of globalisation – most notably Japan – has also stagnated economically. Stagnation breeds a risk for a loss of confidence in the system, and thereby a future financial crisis created by the mountains of debt owed by future generations.

One aspect of this trend has been immigration. The maximisation of growth necessitates the destruction of unproductive countryside regions and the expansion of urban cityscapes. In the context of cities, however, demographic growth tend to plummet. Opening up the cities for global immigration adds new workers and consumers into the mix, without the need for much extra investments into schools and universities. Even those who get stuck in perpetual unemployment are contributing to the profitability of businesses, because their existence as potential labour serves to depress wage increases and thus strengthen the employers in trade situations. If the immigrants are from impoverished or developing countries, they are usually willing to work for worse pay and under worse conditions than domestic labour would appreciate.

Enter the nationalists

I am well aware that the populist tide in the west is occurring both on the left and the right side of the spectrum. However, the strongest growing tide has occurred on the right, with nationalists rising nearly everywhere (except the Iberian Peninsula, if you discount regional separatists). There are several reasons for this, but the most logical one is that resistance against economic globalisation and for a return to 1960’s style Keynesianism is (what even Marx himself would have labelled) a reactionary stance.

The nationalist solution is simple, and is about strengthening the nation-state, introduce protectionism and decrease the growth of the labour pool by reducing immigration and utilising the tool of deportations. Of course, xenophobia and racism plays a role in this outlook – especially regarding the target of the ire – but the goal is economically linked to the fear of competition and of seeing increased risk in one’s own life. If the source with this risk is associated with what is viewed as an out-group (religious, ethnic, political or economic does not matter), then there will also be a heightened risk for inter-group conflicts.

The dilemma of the establishment has been the following: How to increase the competition between groups, without creating hate and animosity between them? The solutions have varied between countries, from trying to impose assimilation of ethnic minority groups, towards state-sanctioned individualism, the denial of the existence of ethnic groups and official anti-racism. Judging by the current nationalistic wave in the West, all these methodologies have failed in defusing the situation.

To some extent, the nationalist rage also represents the rebellion of the “economically unviable” regions against the metropolises, often characterised by the countryside and declining manufacturing towns joining together in an alliance against the capitols – against the rainbow coalition for globalization unifying capital and bare feet.

The venom of Ethnopolitics

While globalization represents a huge opportunity for economic growth to manifest itself, it also increases the risks and vulnerability. According to Ricardian principles, the implementation of free trade would necessarily increase the co-dependency between nations and between continents. The increasing reliance on linear transfer of resources, were raw materials are extracted, sublimated into assembly materials, assembled into products and finally consumed on – in order – four different parts of the world, is highly vulnerable even to regional disturbances. The social collapse in one region, or the disentanglement of one great nation from a number of treaties could affect a domino line of other factors in manners unpredictable even from the point of view of the most refined computer programmes available today.

Ethnopolitics – the basis of ethnicity as a separating identity – represents a dangerous powder-keg which, under the wrong circumstances, can blow up and create the conditions for crimes against humanity.

Nationalism is resented by the current establishment because the current establishment values the benefits of globalization, sees the process of globalization as not only necessary but as virtuous, and because it threatens to lead down into a slippery-slope where the normalisation of ethnically charged hatred can spiral out of control and lead to genocides. History has proven over and over again that there is a risk for such an occurrence.

Yet, as previously stated, the conditions for nationalism to arise are created by the effects of globalisation – which disconnects the countryside from the city and which is (partially) responsible for human beings being exposed to the stark reality that their existence may be economically unnecessary. Meanwhile, the establishment has largely embraced a globalistic ideology which welcomes and strives to transition their countries towards more of these rationalising forces.

Thus, a large share of the public has started to view the establishment as a radical force which threatens their traditional way of life and the values attached to it. Especially as the traditional conduit for communication between the elites and the people – mass media – have increasingly come to be seen as a medium for “pro-globalist propaganda” and for ignoring the sentiments of the traditional working class. Meanwhile, the nationalists represent a threat of the same magnitude against the professionals and classes which have come to rely on the dynamic aspects of the globalized economy. Thus, polarisation intensifies.

A dialectal process?

To some extent, the nationalist reaction is understandable. After all, interior, rural regions – no matter where they are located – are economically irrational in a world driven by the logic of linear systems and exponential growth, no matter their sense of their own values and importance. When agriculture and manufacturing soon would be completely automated, why then subsidise the existence of remote, rural towns dominated by retirees, public employees and the unemployed or underemployed? Just ask the people of the Dorotea and Asele municipalities, who saw their primary care gutted.

Yet, it must be said that the aggressive blame on entire ethnic migrant groups and the judgement on them as collectives is a scary trend which proves that humanity has not yet overcome the primal urges for tribal conflict, especially when said groups mostly are driven to the West by wars partially directly or indirectly initiated by actors based in the West, and for the sole purpose of creating a future for their children. These people cannot be blamed for being exploited as a wedge to liberalise the labour market. Moreover, this process is already underway, even in countries pursuing xenophobic policies – due to the destructive force of automation.

Thus, the alluring promise of a return to the early 1960’s remains a mirage, and the nationalist forces remain impotent to achieve that, though redistribution to declining regions and their tourist attractions may slow their demise.

If Karl Marx had been alive today, he would probably have hailed globalism as a progressive force which streamlined the productive capacities of the world, eliminated barriers of capital and moved the world closer to the foundation of two classes, the super-wealthy oligarchy and the teeming global proletariat. He would disdainfully have declared those forces opposing globalism as relics judged by the Darwinian forces of historical materialism to be flushed away and dissolved into the proletariat or into nothingness.

The endgame of globalism is a world with free movement for capital, goods, services and people and universal laws for the conduction of business. It would be a world of Ricardian divisions, where each region focuses only producing what it is least bad at producing, creating monocultures intended to feed the emerging Ecumenopolis the resources desired by its inhabitants.

The problem with this vision is not only that it is horrifying in its grandiosity as well as its shallowness, but that it is untenable.

Globalism and nationalism – a flawed narrative

Nationalism remains unable to achieve the harmonic stasis which it promises, because it is based on the backward technological paradigms of an age which was dying already by the 1960’s.

Globalism, however, also fails to meet the judgement of reality, and that in a much more chilling manner. It is not possible to entertain exponential economic growth for an eternity, because the more an economy grows, the less it will grow, simply because €1 of €50 may be 2%, but €1 of €50 000 000 is barely noticeable, because human beings have a limited ability to consume which gradually will lead to a flattening of their consumption curve no matter their income, and – most of all – because we are collectively as a species already annually using up 140% of the planet’s renewal capacity.

The logic of comparative benefits taken to an extreme leads to sterilised mono-cultures and to emphasising destructive surface usage practices which already have turned over a third of the Earth’s land surface to areas used to grow fodder for meat animals. The logic of emphasising exponential growth leads to the continuous rise of our exploitation of our home planet, and the very purpose of every WEF meeting at Davos is intended for the promulgation of the gospel of growth.

Maybe they believe that the environment is just an economic factor, but their policies are leading to deforestation in the tropics, to the destruction of soils and freshwater reservoirs, which have an importance for humanity which cannot be overstressed. If we are continuing down the current path, we will be on a good way towards accomplishing a Sixth Global Mass Extinction Event by the year 2100.

And to transition away from this, we will need a new kind of thinking. Even the UN knows (http://www.evergreenedigest.org/new-un-report-finds-almost-no-industry-profitable-if-environmental-costs-were-included). Nationalism can never achieve that kind of thinking, because it is based around the idea that what happens beyond the border does not exist.

The EOS Design and its relation to the struggle

To take a stand both against the destructive force of nationalism, and the if-not-more destructive force of thoughtless globalization requires far more than buzzwords. We need an alternative to the current model – and the Earth Organisation for Sustainability has created a blueprint, known as The Design. We do not yet however know whether it will work or not, it has to be tested, in thousands of simultaneous but slightly varying local experiments, and gradually grow up from the soil. We do not have much time at the moment.

What we do know, is that our future is dependent upon three criteria.

That we do not use more than 100% of the Earth’s annual renewal capacity.

That we aspire towards a circular economy.

That every human being on Earth has the right to life, which also means the right to have a guaranteed minimum income.

Ultimately, what this means is that we have to cooperate globally to create a confederation of autonomous regions, seeking to place power as closely to the human beings efficiently possible.

How we must make an impact

As chairperson, I envision the EOS as a movement for peace. We affirm that all human beings have a right to aspire to fulfilling their own life’s goals, as long as that does not entail the wilful injuring of the lives of other human beings, or of our planet.

The greatest physical and moral challenge of the 21st century is how we can proceed to shift our food production away from destructive monocultures towards more sustainable systems, without causing mass starvation or suffering amongst the peoples of the Earth.

To transit towards a sustainable future requires that communities are directly involved in the transition, and for that to occur, it must mean that communities should be empowered. This is, to a large extent, the opposite of the current trend of hyper-centralisation of power into the hands of financial institutes, multi-national corporations and the treaties intended to empower these actors. Humans deprived of the means to control their own destinies would increasingly become irrational and eventually act like cornered rats.

Instead of railing against groups or proposing simple solutions, we must organise locally and regionally, and seek to unify human beings on the micro-level. The election of Trump has proven that no Paris Agreement is strong enough to withstand the power of an angry people. The elites are powerless to curb the excesses of their own system, but a people who is enlightened, who can understand their own interests and who have the tools at their disposal is the most powerful in the world.

It is time to build a future where humans can live, can love, can be fully human!

art[1]

The Third of September 2016 Street-Art Workshop

The Street Art Workshop

The third of September 2016 was probably this summer’s most beautiful day in Umea, northern Sweden, which did contribute to the success of the event. With forty attendants and cooperation from several organizations, we consider the event successful. It was challenging to get every single piece of it working, but at the end it forged friendships and contributed to integration efforts. The weather was exceptionally good, with +24 degrees Celsius it was one of the most beautiful summer days, though the summer had formally ended a week before.

Read more: The Third of September 2016 Street-Art Workshop

From the perspective of our movement, sustainability is not only a matter of our species having a balanced relationship with the biosphere, but also that human communities should aspire to an active civic spirit and to the democratic control of the means of their sustenance. To achieve that, an active and activated citizenry is necessary. Moreover, if several groups share the same living space without interaction, there will be a heightened risk for misunderstandings and even conflicts.

During 2015, over a hundred thousand refugees arrived in Sweden, a country with a little less than ten million inhabitants. This has strained the government’s ability to both register, accommodate and help to integrate these refugees, since nothing like that has been experienced at least since the Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940.

While we have limited ability to help, and do not as an organisation try to advocate wholesale political positions on said issue, we believe that the EOS has a duty to aid integration efforts and to foment spaces where positive integration can be possible.

This is why we have launched the Umea Ecolab Project locally, with the goal of helping create a youth centre focusing on providing the opportunity for youths from divergent backgrounds to meet, form projects and create together. The centre aspires to contain 3D printers, media production equipment and computer systems, allowing youths in particular and people in general to master the latest technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Street Art-workshop was the first step on the winding road towards realising this dream.

We want to thank our partners at:

JAQ Studios

Studiefrämjandet

Kulturkraft

Texoferr, Steel & Construction

cooperation_2[1]

Enlightened Collectivism

Introduction

This article is primarily directed towards people who either have experience volunteering in local sustainability projects or people who take an interest in doing so in the future. The most usual result, when a mixed group of friends and strangers convene to discuss the ramifications for a practical project which will make an impact upon the real world, is failure.

There are of course hundreds of successful local sustainability projects around the globe. But for each one of them, there are at least a hundred failed projects. Thousands of young idealists try to improve their communities, only to be frustrated by collapsing projects and friendships ended due to misunderstandings and conflicts.

From observing countless such attempts at creating sustainability projects, both in my own hometown of Umea, which – despite its remoteness – is a thriving university town with tens of thousands of students, and in other parts of the world, I have started to see patterns emerge in terms of why projects fail.

There are several behaviours which affect the outcome of projects, which we can see as emergent tendencies towards collapse. If we compare projects which fail with projects that succeed, we can see that the longer time a projects is planned to last, the higher the risk for failure – especially if the participants are between 20 and 30 years old. Most projects which fail at an early or middle stage simply wither away because half to two thirds of the original participants have moved to other cities or continents.

That particular characteristic of project failures is unfortunately difficult to amend, but it wouldn’t need to have such damning consequences if it wasn’t for other problems which tend to plague sustainability projects relying on volunteers.

These problems are, in no particular order:

  • A division between well-motivated activists and semi-motivated hang-arounds, with somewhat blurred delineations between the groups.
  • That participants switch behind both groups, with more moving from the first group to the second group during the course of a project’s lifetime.
  • That some participants in enthusiasm over the project or a desire to make the rest of the group happy volunteer to take responsibility of tasks within the project, and then fail to deliver, either because of drug abuse issues, a low attention span or a failure to access their available time in relation with the time consumption of what they promised to achieve.
  • A tendency of most participants to passively observe the project rather than to take an active part in it.
  • Active and enthusiastic participants becoming increasingly disillusioned with the project due to influence from the more passive partakers.
  • Many participants expect instantaneous success and quickly become disappointed and disassociate themselves from the project when it faces its first setbacks or when certain aspects of it drag out in time.

What does these six factors have in common? They are all mostly coming down to the human factor. None of these problems represent financial constraints, deadline challenges, structural or even organisational inadequacies. You can have the best organisation on paper in the world, but if these six factors are prevalent in your team, you will not be able to succeed with your objectives – because the participants will not be able to successfully keep themselves to their organisational structure.

Then, the natural question is why so many movements with idealistic goals are failing in establishing working teams. I would, in this article, argue that it is partially a consequence of contemporary western culture. I would also argue that it is one of the dominant characteristics of the transformative challenge which we are facing today.

TL;DR summary

  • Humans are naturally cooperative and evolved to work together in small, collectivistic tribal-based units.
  • Culture and civilisation arose as a way to cope with societies too complex to work organically.
  • Following the Great Depression and the Second World War, Western Civilization transformed itself into a hyper-individualistic culture which – unlike any previous culture – preached the virtues of self-indulgement and hyper-individualism.
  • This culture of super-consumerism is one of the engines of exponential economic growth, and thus bears a great deal of responsibility for the destruction of the planet’s biosphere.
  • We need to move away from this destructive and unsustainable culture, and embrace a culture of enlightened collectivism, for the sake of the biosphere and of our own sanity.

“Human nature”

Anatomically modern humans arose around 150 000 years ago on the African savannah. It took our ancestors roughly 135 000 years to spread out over most of the planet’s land surface (bar New Zealand, which was colonised by the Maoris around the time when Frederick Barbarossa fought his Italian wars). During most of this time, humanity lived as sedentary hunter-gatherers, moving around within limited areas. For thousands of years, generations lived, loved, ate and died in the same places. There are for example caves in Greece where the same lineages have been buried for thousands of years.

Often, we hear the argument – even from otherwise educated individuals sometimes – that contemporary capitalism is an ingrained aspect of “human nature”, and that the current western civilization is the natural result of the uninhibited self-expression of the human being. Thus, our current society is not seen as an anomaly, but rather as the predetermined end-result of human biology.

Most scholars agree that the basis of capitalism is founded on the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which began around two hundred years ago in North-western Europe. In short, for 99,87% of the time that human beings have existed on this planet have they not lived in a capitalistic society. Then the question that arises is, what is human nature?

Human behaviour

The issue of what constitutes human being, is unsurprisingly not only a scientific but also unfortunately a political issue. While those who desire to conserve power hierarchies and inequalities have tended to favour biological determinism, many progressives have embraced not only their own particularist interpretations of research data, but also established political dogmas amongst themselves which seek to downplay if not reject any notion that there are biological foundations for human behaviour. I would argue that science should not be treated as a normative foundation for human society, and would wholeheartedly agree with the esteemed Darwinian Richard Dawkins that a society built around Darwinian principles would be quite horrible.

Nevertheless, knowledge of human behaviour in the natural condition is a valuable tool to better understand ourselves as a social species. The human being is an animal, equipped with the same instincts and motivators as other animals. We desire safety, food, sleep, sex and companionship. Humans also inhabit the same material world as all other organisms, and must act in accordance with the sustenance interests of their bodies.

However, it is impossible to state unequivocally that there is a human ‘nature’. We are not living on a “Planet of Hats”, and humans are evidently capable of a wide spectrum of possible behavioural patterns, judging by our knowledge of history and the observations we can make throughout the world. In some regions of the world, some behaviours are so ingrained that they almost have become a second nature to those espousing these cultures. In other areas of the world, the same behaviours would be unthinkable.

The same can apply between generations as well, even relatively recently. For example, in contemporary Sweden, pub fights between men are rarer than pub fights during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Also, amongst certain segments of the ethnic Swedish male population, violent expressions of homophobia were seen as natural and healthy, whereas today such behaviour is more or less relegated to the most extreme sub-groups. If we go further back in time, to the 970’s and 980’s, it was seen as completely natural for a Swedish man to abduct a woman in a foreign land, take her as a concubine and raise her children as second-class citizens. Instead of talking about nature, which is singular and unchangeable, we should instead talk about behaviour. I know it is not in the interest of those desiring to preserve the status quo, but we need to be truthful and see that while what we are has not changed for 150 000 years, who we are has undergone tremendous transformations in the past.

What, then, is the natural type of human behaviour?

In order to approach an answer for that question, we need to look at the entire period during which our species have existed. The challenge from that point of view is that we cannot possibly know what happened before written records started to appear, around 5000 years ago. For the 145 000 first years of the existence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, we do not have any certain methods to estimate what characterised human behaviour.

Luckily, there is a way to approximate primordial human behaviour – and that is through studying these societies which still exist in an undisturbed hunter-gatherer state. For the truth is that the Stone Age never ended, but rather still exists in remote and unforgivable areas of the planet. Millions of our kind are currently living in such communities, and many of them are oblivious to the fact that a Space Age Civilization has ascended around them. For them, aeroplane contrails, satellite launches and wasted products finding their way into their hands must surely be a sign of the divine…

For the societies which have been studied by anthropologists, a staggering diversity of beliefs, cultural traits, conflict-resolving behaviours and social codes have been observed. If we were to generalise however, we could say that these early human societies display a number of common denominators:

  • They generally consist of smaller units than 50 individuals.
  • They are either completely egalitarian or semi-egalitarian.
  • They generally aspire to a communal lifestyle.
  • They have not developed any concept of private property rights.

While I do not claim that human beings generally were happier or healthier in the primordial state, or that we should aspire to return to the period before we – allegorically – ate the fruit and developed civilization due to the fact that we for the longest time of our existence did not experience anything else, truth remains that life in the natural state neither can be said to be Hobbesian or Lockean. Thus, human nature – if there is one – is one of a communal species living in close-knit egalitarian communities without the concept of private property.

Traditional Individualism

Far more damning for those who claim that the current social order corresponds to a mythical “human nature” is the fact that most of the proponents of that narrative not only have little clue on human history or anthropology, but also fail to properly understand what contemporary western society is.

Often, these proponents imagine that western society is characterised by enlightenment-era values of free trade, capitalism, rationalism, parliamentary democracy, a Judaeo-Christian heritage and Weberian protestant work ethics. While free trade, capitalism and parliamentary democracy are still espoused, the last two tenets have been increasingly substituted by new moral codes, which in some aspects are the polar opposites of the previous ideals. This substitution – though incomplete – has been so thorough that it could be argued that the Western Civilization which arose from the ashes of 1945 is as new a civilization in comparison to the 1789-1945 early industrial civilization, as the post-Iconoclasm Byzantine Empire was in relation to the Eastern Roman Empire prior to the Crisis of the Eight Century.

It can be argued that Western cultures have always – to some extent – been more individualistic than most other cultures. The first literary masterpieces from the precursor of western civilization, The Iliad and the Odyssey, focused to a great degree not only on individual characters, but also on their inner worlds and their aspirations. The Histories of Herodotus are painting the ancient world in a colourful and vivid tone, where the reader can be able to empathise with the historical figures from both sides of the Graeco-Persian Wars.

The same could be said of the cultures fostered by Germanic warrior societies, such as the Anglo-Saxons (Beowulf) and the Vikings (Njal’s Saga), which emphasised individual heroism, often with a tragic focus. The medieval age was imbued with Romances, from the fictionalised tales of King Arthur to the beautiful El Cid chronicle.

With this, I do not claim that other cultures have been incapable of producing great Epics. To a large extent, the medieval chivalry concept came to Europe from Sassanid Persia via the Byzantine Empire, as were the Romance novels which preceded modern European literature. Truth is, however, that – for better or worse – it was adventurers from Europe who finally connected the two hemispheres, and sparked the second phase of globalization which established trade routes and a global state system which still today is the foundation of the world (the first phase was the formation of the Silk Road, the original one – not the Bitcoin one).

The seeds of Western Civilization may have been born on the Pontic steppe, when Proto-Indo-European-speaking chariot-driving tribes first crossed the Dnieper, the Dniester and the Danube and established patriarchal kingdoms in Central Europe. True sedentary civilizations, like Ancient Egypt and Imperial China, glorified the careful, risk-aversive gradual accumulation of status and wealth throughout the generations, and idealised a static existence characterised by harmony and social cohesion. Steppe Warriors – or as called by the Assyrians, the “Umman Manda” – whether they were Scythian, Turkic or Mongolian, were forced by nature to attain and uphold other ideals, often centred around a celebration of individual skill and character. Traces of this heritage may have survived throughout generations of European aristocracy, and eventually inspired the population at large to attain certain individualistic ideals.

Enough written about that, for it has little bearing on the current Western Civilization (apart from vestigial traces like the concept of action films and fantasy literature)… 

In 1914, Western civilization was at its peak. Most of the world was controlled either by European Empires or by western off-shoots of European Empires. Cities in Europe and North America bathed in electric glow. Radioactivity had been discovered, and peace had reigned in Western Europe for forty years. Thirty years later, everything was in ruins – a collapse as stunning as the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The crisis had been political, financial and cultural. The system of a balance of power between European monarchies lied in tatters. The increased technological productivity had caused an over-production crisis which had led to the collapse of the global financial system in 1929. The “warrior individualism” espoused as one of several ethos of Western Culture had contributed to the subsequent rise of Fascism and the absolute denigration of the human being. While genocides were nothing new, they had not been perpetrated on such a scale on European soil, against Europeans. Thus, aristocracy, protestant work ethics and warrior individualism were all more or less seen as confuted as a new world order was being erected on the still smouldering ruins of the old world.

Consumeristic individualism

Traditionally, the economic ethos of westerners before the advent of the 1929 crash had been to eschew impulsive consumption. The ideal was to work hard and accumulate wealth which could be used as a safety net in old age and also help the children to support themselves before they too would build their own wealth. Thus, people in general balanced their consumption with considerable amounts of savings if they had income. It was not unusual that retirees – if they ceased to work – lived entirely on the capital a life-time of work had afforded them.

This kind of behaviour had its roots in the Reformation (which transmitted itself into the Catholic world through the Counter-reformation), which was built around a zeitgeist where material splendour and fanciness was seen not only as tasteless, but also borderline sinful. It is no coincidence that the first capitalists in Britain were connected to the Calvinist sect. This outlook was individualistic in terms that spirituality and responsibility was wholly a personal matter – and that the individual was responsible for her own well-being and the perception which others had on her. Others had no duty to look after an adult individual. People were responsible for their own welfare and the welfare of their children, and those who failed to accumulate their own buffer had themselves to blame, in accordance with the Calvinist ideal of the presupposed Elect (the secular variation of which is Social-Darwinism).

The kind of individualism which appeared after 1945 is however starkly different. To understand in what way it differs, we need to understand the lessons learned from the Interwar period.

In the 1920’s, when production costs had decreased, agriculture and industry was able to meet the demands, leading to overproduction which caused deflation. Common wisdom had been to answer to crises with austerity, but in 1929 it had backfired and led to even less consumption which wiped out a lot of businesses.

So, during the period of 1945-1955, the foundations of a new culture were laid, and it’s most clear-cut characteristics were:

  • The increased reliance on debt, both in form of public investments (until the 1980’s), and later on cheap access to credit.
  • Establishment of generous welfare states, with safety needs which would not only make life easier but also encourage people to spend rather than to save.
  • The gradual transformation of the western consumption patterns away from “consumption as a means to improve life” and towards “consumption as a means to acquire and express identity”.

While subcultures had existed before, they became far more widespread during the 1950’s, and it became standard that youths should strive to own not only cars, but certain brands of them. Record player collections started to become average household items, and everyone should have the latest Elvis album as fast as possible. This was followed by more and more subcultures appearing, throughout the decades, and eventually diverging, in terms of adding more aspects than music taste, different subcultures forming in relationship to different socio-economic, academic and ethnic subsets and age brackets. Nowadays, there are for example subcultures for people in their 30’s and 40’s.

For the first time ever, the working class was included in the pursuit of trendiness, of showing that they mattered in terms of status by being able to purchase the latest fads. This behaviour, I argue, represent a novel type of human culture, which is vastly different from previous cultures. It could be called a culture of consumeristic individualism.

The foundation of this culture can be traced back into the 1920’s, with the blending of psycho-analysis and marketing undertaken by pioneers such as Eduard Bernays and Walter Lippmann. While the postulates of Economics derive from a theory-construction stating that the human being is a rational agent, the truth is that we to a large degree are socially irrational beings. The Bernaysian form of advertising is directed towards the subconscious, towards our desire to be attractive, well-liked and to acquire sexual intimacy. This is why for example cars during the 1980’s were photographed while being washed by scantily dressed models, even though there is no logical relationship between automobiles and prostitution.

In order to form a culture where this kind of constant subliminal messaging could be accepted, the values of ordinary citizens must be realigned. The process towards this particular realignment has partially been emergent/organic and partially planned. What the core of it means, is however to create human beings who have few inhibitors which would prevent them from fulfilling their desires. Human behaviour had to be transformed to a more impulsive and urge-driven state.

However, there are several kinds of urges, both those which are natural (needs for sleep, food, empathy and sex) and those which are learned by stimuli (substance abuse, paraphiliae, adulation, status, money, etc…). Many “needs” are not at all natural and are instead stimulating the centres in our brains which send out signals that feel rewarding. One such example is online games, such as World of Warcraft or Pokémon Go. To argue that such needs are equal to human needs in the natural state can be claimed to be demeaning towards human natural needs.

Modern-day capitalism is directed towards fulfilling these artificially constructed needs and stimulate them to the point where individuals start to engage in self-destructive abuse behaviour. Millions of people today are themselves knowing that their consumption patterns are hurting them, but are nevertheless unable to put a break on these behaviours. It is a testament to the strength of human will-power why not even more people have fallen into this trap, when the entire society engineered around them strives to stimulate them to engage in such activities.

What individualism means in the context of today’s western culture, is that it is something that you acquire through consumption. While profession and socio-economic status still is mattering much, character as a way to judge a person’s role in society has largely been replaced by consumption patterns. A pair of Adidas shoes are not only a pair of shoes, but a part of a lifestyle, and they are a discreet but substantive declaration of what lifestyle you intend to aspire towards and show towards your peers.

In this society, role models are no longer parents or professionals in the local community, but rather fictional characters in films and TV shows which signal what kind of lifestyle and behaviour that is appropriate to aspire to for a certain age. This has led to a sliding and gradual Americanisation of youth globally. At a certain age, you are expected to have a car – even if you can’t afford it. Credit is always so attainable. You are expected to travel abroad at another age. You are also expected to lose your virginity at lower and lower ages.  When you reach adulthood, you are expected to own a house at a certain age as well. You are expected to take interest in physical exercise, in diet routines, in certain forms of cooking, in attaining fashionable furniture and to see to it that your pet eat the latest fads in terms of dog food and vitamins.

If you are working class, you are expected to take interest in tattoos, partying, sports and cheap travels to Thailand and the Canaries.

It is no wonder that the western population generally does not have the time to really understand what a serious situation we are in today, since we all for the sake of our social status and our relationships within our peer groups are driven to learn the valuable skills of celebrity gossip, what music is “in” and what kinds of dietary regime that your peer group are engaging in. Given that human beings tend to strive for homogeneity, both friend clusters and workplaces more and more tend to frequent people with identical experiences, interests, tastes and values – creating self-referring echo chambers. Some of these environments have the capability to produce sect-like outcomes, where the participants look for aberrations in relationship to one another to establish a pecking order.

Even though the current Western Civilization is a hyper-individualistic culture, it strives to create an individuality that is manufactured outside of the individual and then implemented through peer pressure and the need to fit into a group. The individual as a concept also tends to become atomised – becoming the sum of all their social, economic and sexual attributes rather than a unique human being with a personality. The individual is basically reduced to their urges and their need for social acceptance within a peer group.

Sometimes, cultures emerge very rapidly.

One example is the ascent of so-called “cargo cults” in the South Pacific, where the population largely – incidentally following the Second World War – started to worship household items like porcelain toilets, televisions, telephone sets, electric ovens and toothbrushes as divine magical artefacts known under the name “cargo”. If these applications are treated with worship, the theory goes, then the possession of them would be multiplied.

Even though these cargo cults appear as eccentric oddities which exist to amuse western readers of expensive magazines such as National Geographic, they share a peculiar similarity with our own culture in their reverence of consumer items, and provide a mirror image to the West, which might be a cause for continuing western fascination with them.

Enlightened Collectivism

I would argue that the form of culture described under the preceding segment is inherently destructive, and hasn’t really done much to advance humanity. The values of the western world which have undoubtedly had a positive impact on the advancement of humanity – the Rule of Law, Parliamentary Democracy, the Scientific Method, Egalitarianism and Negative and Positive Rights – have all either been developed before or independent of Rabid Consumerism.

While superfluous, I would argue that these are the toxic components of Consumeristic Individualism:

  • The tendency to manufacture needs and urges within human beings.
  • The tendency to attempt to ensnare and make human beings dependent on these manufactured needs.
  • The dishonest manner in which commercial propaganda invades our subconscious without our explicit consent.
  • Reduced attention spans due to “information overload”.
  • The tendency to seek out comfort and avoid emotionally sensitive topics.
  • The accelerating aim to separate ourselves further and further away from nature.
  • The reduction of the individual human being to an atomised creature of categories and fads.
  • Self-objectification by the individual.
  • A clear and evident role in the destruction of the planet’s biosphere.

For these reasons, we need to make a conscious agenda to move away from it, preferably now.

The problem, of course, is that not only most westerners, but most educated urban elites in the planet are either trapped in this Matrix or aspiring to be trapped by it. It is, unlike cultures built on honourable violence, quite desirable at first glance, especially as it grants unprecedented personal liberty. We also need to understand that we cannot move back towards patriarchal traditionalism, nor look at the failed alternative value systems of Fascism and Marxism-Leninism for guidance on how human cultures should work.

Moreover, a culture can – unlike for example a monetary mechanism, a sewage system or a software programme – not be designed. The reason why is that culture is not a matter only of clothes, cuisine, music, festivals and traditions, but much, much more. Foremost however, culture is about human interrelationships, how the family is structured, whether relations are hierarchical or egalitarian, and what we expect from our fellow human beings. Culture is in short the expectations we have of ourselves and of other individuals in a community. It also tend to emerge organically, and it can also collapse through a social meltdown which can freeze in a permanent state of anarchy – see Lebanon and Papua New Guinea as two examples of collapsed societies, one frozen in a perpetual stand-off, the other descended into the abyss of rage.

Nevertheless, we cannot hope to triumph and save the biosphere if the dominant culture on our planet is implicitly hostile to such an aim. Therefore, it is imperative that we form a new culture, or at least form the seeds of that new culture. Then the question is how that culture should be structured. If we are taking the broadest possible stroke with the brush, we must seek to emulate the following scheme:

  • The Culture must not work against human nature, but with it.
  • It should not disregard the progressive and enlightened features of western culture.
  • It must underpin socially and ecologically sustainable attainments.
  • It must be adapted to the challenges of the third millennium.

What are these challenges then?

The main challenge is the challenge of Transition. We need to transit from an emerging form of unsustainable global economy characterised by monocultures, linear relationships between resources, factories and consumers, dependency on non-renewable resources and über-urbanisation. Goods should be produced to be durable and replaceable in a modular manner. Every region should have as much capability to sustain itself as ecologically and effectively as possible. Monocultures need to be scaled back and the amount of trees on the planet should be increased with 75-100%. Meanwhile, we need to ensure that the peoples of Earth can feed themselves. While 9 billion people hardly are a sustainable number for a world population, their needs must be accommodated, and no human being deserves to starve or to live homeless.

In order to conduct a transition, humanity – or at least a significant portion of it – must be hyper-aware of the graveness of the current ecological situation. An aspect of the current consumeristic civilization which is destructive is the implied striving to separate the human being from nature. We acquire or food in supermarkets, and we release our waste into sewage systems. The entire process is structured so that most consumers would be totally separated from nature – which provides the goods.

A new culture must emphasise the deep material connection that we have with nature, and instigate a healthy respect for it and the food it provides. Our bodies are not isolated atolls, but are an integral part of nature since we are dependent on sunlight, water and food. This profound and self-evident truth should be a cornerstone of the new society. In practical terms, it can be expressed through a positive form of survivalism, where practical survival skills in nature would be ritualised as a part both of upbringing and of life itself.

There must also be an understanding that when we eat, it means that we either eat someone else, or that someone else is deprived of food because of our needs. This should not be interpreted as a call for breatharianism, but rather as a respectful and mature relationship with nature and with other species. As a society, we must learn to appreciate other species as individual beings, and understand that they too should be treated with dignity and respect. One practical example is that if a community allows hunting, animals should primarily be hunted for food – not for sport – and that a moment of silence should be held for killed wildlife following a successful hunt, to affirm that a life was taken.

In terms of survivalism, we should not strive towards a competitive culture where people are valued after their survival skills, but rather towards a cooperative culture, where those who are skilled at certain activities – be it survival skills in nature or within technical and theoretical fields – pride themselves on how well they manage to disseminate their knowledge through the community. Instead of tearing other people down, people should build each-other up and pride themselves on these skills.

In terms of social organisation, it is absolutely essential that the trend towards social atomism is broken. Managerial and therapeutic states, centralised utilities and supermarket systems as well as the culture of Consumeristic Individualism are creating individuals who feel more and more disempowered. Communities need to have the final say over their food production, their utilities, their heating, their power supply, their production capabilities and their natural resources, and decisions should be made on the lowest possible effective level regarding these things. For this to work, however, requires that communities exist.

A neighbourhood is not necessarily per definition a community, especially as the recent decades have seen humans transform from pack-living animals to colony-dwelling animals. In a society where utilities, power and food are managed far away from the local neighbourhood, the need for cooperation is reduced and even close neighbours turn into strangers.

If we are to regain our autonomy from centralised, linear systems, we must sacrifice the luxury of not knowing one another. What I am writing about here is the need to rediscover and strengthen the basic social collectivism of the human species – which means that if someone needs her apartment refurbished, if someone needs to build a house or to make a garden, it will become a communitarian undertaking, that people spontaneously gravitate towards aiding one another. Instead of linking up linearly with huge central structures through artificial umbilical cords, we need to realise that the age of super-consumerism is moving towards an end – must move towards an end – and we need to learn to build and cooperate locally.

We should not strive for this type of collectivism to deteriorate into xenophobic neo-tribalism, which we humans seem so apt to adopt. Instead, what we should move forwards to is a balanced, civic collectivism which sees the community as an extension of the individual. The individual human body and personality should however be considered beyond touch, and a person may only be forcefully constrained to the point of physical pain if the person has violated basic rights and then physically resisted attempts to stop that, or if the individual is assaulting another individual. Communities may not either inflict arbitrary rules or prevent people from seeking to move, seeking to attain knowledge or to enter a consensual relationship with another human being who has reached the age of majority.

In short, most individual rights which we today enjoy would still be enjoyed. It is not a matter of constricting us that we urge a move towards civic collectivism, but a desire to form a better and saner form of culture.

A third very important aspect of the future culture, above survivalism and collectivism, is enlightenment. The civilisation which we build around us must celebrate the scientific method and rational forms of argumentation. On the other hand, it must not fetishize science as some form of magic, or stimulate a kind of divergence between scientists and ordinary citizens (the ultimate stereotype being Dr Membrane from The Invader Zim series). Instead, we must realise that all of us have at least one time employed the scientific method, and be made aware that it is the least bad method which we got in order to reach solutions to problems.

From an early age, citizens should be made aware of the fundaments of logical reasoning, of detecting argumentative errors and identifying logical fallacies. The main emphasis of our self-understanding should be not to repress our urges, or satisfy them, but to understand them and what is happening inside of ourselves. In short, we must learn ourselves who we are, and why we experience emotions and needs inside ourselves. Most human beings are today semi-blind in relation to their inner workings, and therefore repeat the same mistakes over and over again, like repeat offenders being unable to break the cycle of criminality, like alcoholics struggling against their addiction, or like abuse victims who move into new relationships equally destructive like the older ones. In our culture, we must aspire to and celebrate mastery over ourselves, rather than to deny who we are, or give in to the currents of our whims.

This does not mean that we should strive towards ascetism or a monk-like lifestyle. It does not mean a call to frugality or self-denial, but on the contrary that we must move towards self-understanding.

The last aspect of the new culture is that it must be emergent – i.e., voluntarily and organically transmitted. It cannot be imposed through force or through the destruction of previous cultures. We do not either believe it is necessary to do anything like that, since what we should be doing is not to try to insert new, alien values onto the human species, but work to build traits which already are ingrained into basic human biology, to work with our basic sense of altruism, with our curiosity, with our need for companionship and camaraderie. It is not a matter about propaganda campaigns, it is not a matter about advertising, preaching or creating NewSpeak. It is a matter of a horizontal memetic impact, and of helping to build one another as EOS members.

A brief summarisation of what we should strive towards

  • Survivalism – We need to focus on attaining basic survival skills, technical skills and the abilities to manage small-scale and medium-scale communities. Instead of possession, we should value knowledge.
  • Civic Collectivism – We need to organise our society on a communitarian basis, built around reciprocal altruism. Everyone will help everyone with what they need if they need it within the community. The community will be an expanded family.
  • Enlightenment values – we need to strengthen the foundation of these within the people as a whole. Rational dissemination, empiricism and self-awareness should be the fundament of the culture.

 Conclusion – and a few practical tips

The reason why volunteer organisations aiming at complex tasks often fail is due to a lack of devotion, discipline, clear outlined visions and an inability of the participants to understand their own level of engagement and their own ability to engage. If you desire the success of your project, you should first and foremost ensure that you have a core of dedicated and serious activists around you.

 Sadly, we live in an age when many people are engaged in such civic activities not because of the visions, but because of what they believe these activities will say about them as individuals, both for career reasons and – often more tragically – lifestylist issues. Careerists try to reach the goals, for the wrong reasons but nevertheless, while lifestylists couldn’t care less if the project succeeded or failed.

The first step for a successful project should be to ensure that those occupying key positions in the project are motivated to fulfil their aims, and able to do so as well.

What we should aim for, however, is not only to form good and durable teams, but also to cultivate the participants and create routines on how to build strong teams. And perhaps we have thought about local projects the wrong way around?

Instead of beginning with projects and forming groups around them, the best way would maybe be to form the groups first and then let them gradually evolve until they reach the state when they are more than capable of navigating projects to their conclusion?

In any way, launching projects is not only about fulfilling project goals, but to improve our skills and form new relationships. We are not static, and we are not isolated, we are creating ourselves, creating one another and being created by nature during every moment of breath – and we are an integral part of the living biosphere of our planet.

It is about time we realised that as a civilization. 

Symbol_Referendum[1]

The Logotype Crowdsourcing Project

Introduction

Logotypes are supposed to serve multiple purposes. They are markers, representing associations, parties, companies and other formal social assemblies. They are also brands, which overtly or covertly aims to signal the values and goals of the associations they represent. Lastly, they are the visual representation of the associations in question in the physical world.

Read more: The Logotype Crowdsourcing Project

Since March 2016, the EOS is temporarily using the Green Logo, featuring a green background with white stripes, over which a golden Earth is placed with two golden arrows around. The left half of the logo forms the letter “E”, the right half forms the letter “S” and the Earth and the arrows around it forms the letter “O”. This is an evolution of the previous “Blue Logo”, where the O is symbolizing the Sun and the blue is symbolizing the Sky.

The first Logotype we had, during our predecessor organisation the NET, featured a wreath which surrounded a fulcrum.

It was not good at all.

Now we are going to develop our logotype further, and in order to make a good choice, we have decided to crowd-source the design of the Logotype to the wider user-base on our Facebook Group.

This experiment is done to widen the pool of inspiration, as well as seeing what kind of ideas are popular today.

Schedule

From the 7th of May to 6th of June, we will accept commissions of logotypes to [email protected].

By the 7th of June, we are going to present the alternatives publically on our website and in the Facebook Group.

By the 11th of June, which is the Annual General Meeting, the Board will vote on our new logotype, per a board decision on the 6th of May 2016.

What you need to do to present a commission

Be a human being. ☺

The winning alternative

The winner will be known to have designed the EOS logotype, which would mean that when we start to grow exponentially the designer would forever be associated with that new logo. If they are a professional artist, or an aspiring artist, it could be positive for future commissions and for building a personal brand.

Also, it’s a fun thing. ☺

What the Earth Organisation for Sustainability is

As a movement, we combine idealism and realism. We aspire towards a sustainable future where all human beings can achieve their highest potential within the Earth’s carrying capacity, and where the eco-systems and the planetary bio-diversity can recover. To this end, we are advocating sustainable technologies, but also a transition from an unsustainable socio-economic system. We are working for a future where human beings have the time to be human.

technate[1]

The Technate and Holonic forms of Governance

Introduction

Ultimately, when we look beyond historical figures and wars, and the establishment and collapse of civilizations, the true trend of human history can start to emerge. The truth of the matter is that human history is characterised by amplifying human impact on the environment by the utilization of amplifiers – namely technological innovations which harness energy and perform work in less time and with more energy input than human labour could achieve on its own. 

For roughly the last 200 years, following the first industrial revolution, the amplification level has moved from livestock, horses, ploughs and windmills towards artificial fertilisers, cars, trains and aeroplanes, tractors and power plants, allowing human beings to pursue other economic activities and more free time. 

This has also meant the complete transformation of our planet. For example, a third of Earth’s ice-free land surface is today consisting of either pastures for livestock or monocultures directed towards the feeding of livestock. The reason for this profound alteration of our planet’s ecosystems – from circular flows to linear – is to be found in our view of the economy as separated from the wider environment in itself, and our reliance on an economic system built on self-perpetuating debt and credit. 

What is required for us to achieve sustainability is to recognise the fundamental impact on the planet’s surface that we have imposed through technology, and to be able to visualize this in a comprehensive model which would allow us to better understand the nature and scope of said impact. 

TL;DR

  • We understand the reality as consisting of Holons, entities which can be divided up into smaller units or joined up into larger, and understood at each level as integrated systems.
  • We believe that hierarchies ultimately are formed to transmit vital information. Centralisation is about achieving results under conditions where there are difficulties attaining information or systematising it.
  • Since the early 19th century, an entirely new world system has arisen, the Technosphere, consisting of transport, production and communication networks consisting of technological infrastructure.
  • This system offers challenges to traditional governance since it rapidly can transform both itself and the surrounding social and ecological realities.
  • We need to transcend traditional types of governance and wrap future institutions around the functionalities of our civilization as it physically is formed.
  • The Technate as envisioned by the EOS is a distributed system of autonomous Holons united within the same information network, a holarchic and de-centralised system allowing for creativity and data to run freely.
  • De-centralisation is a key to achieving resilience. This is also true for information technology, even within the emerging field of Artificial Intelligence. 

The Holonic way of understanding reality

When it comes to understanding a complex reality, human beings need to compartmentalise it into blocks to be able to understand it better in a professional manner. From this however, difficulties arise. We are encouraged to specialise our interests and be able to master specific subjects at the expense of general knowledge. The latter however is generally composed of so many different aspects that trying to understand it as a singularity is near impossible for a human mind. When we look at a view, we generally do not recognise every detail, instead constructing a generalised image of what we are seeing. 

The Holonic model is a simple way of imagining reality, and stresses that reality can be understood in terms of different layers. For example, we can study a cell as an entity in its own right, but we can also study it as a part of an organ. We can also study different aspects of the cell, like the nucleus, as entities in their own right, and move down to the molecular or atomic levels. 

Human society can also be understood as consisting of holons. Individuals, families or groups of peers, local societies, cultural regions, nations and all of humanity in itself can be said to consist of numerous forms of interacting holons. On the most local level, we are finding each and every individual, and on the most over-arching level, we’re looking upon all of humanity. 

Thus, if we are extrapolating from Holonic Systems Theory, we are not establishing a Holonic system – we are living under one. No matter what we believe, we are acting and interacting within a Universe of interdependencies, which exist within us, around us, below us and above us, making possible our existence. 

Hierarchies, information verticals and communication

For tens of thousands of years, human beings were living in tightly knit hunter-gatherer groups which seldom were more than a hundred people, and who often lived and died on the same land generation after generation, gaining a deep relationship to their surroundings (it is a myth that Palaeolithic peoples were nomads, it took several thousands of years for modern humans to colonize Eurasia, and it  was over thirty thousand years between the first human incursion into Eurasia through the Nile Valley or the Aden Straits, and the crossing over the Bering Isthmus during the Ice Age). 

We do of course not know much of social organisation during the prehistoric era, but what we can ascertain from archaeologic evidence and from observing remaining tribes living in the Palaeolithic life-style, is that pre-agricultural societies generally were more egalitarian and also – unsurprisingly – less complex in their forms of social organisation. 

When agriculture began in what today are the borderlands between Turkey and Syria, it formed the impetus for population growth and for the first cities to emerge. Previous social systems had been reliant on personal relationships between all the members of a community, often associated with family relationships. In this context, expanding agricultural communities or popular trading towns developed beyond the capabilities of Palaeolithic social organisation. The main internal challenge was how society should process justice, especially when conflicts arose between different clans regarding property, honour issues or crimes committed between different clans. 

Another factor which strained and occasionally teared down the social fabric of society was the ascent of social inequality. Variations in work, talent and drive, the beneficial effects of early acquisition of favourable geographic positions, the utilization of in-group solidarity, luck and the use of force successively led to – over the course of generations – to the establishment of stratified class systems. Such systems created vertical social conflicts between the dispossessed and the economic elites. Externally, some tribes specialised in attacking and extorting emerging wealthy agricultural civilizations. 

It is not possible to state unequivocally how governance originally appeared, especially since nearly three quarters of the time of human civilization (from Catalhüyuk to Ur) happened before writing had been invented.  In some cases, it probably arose from hostile conquest or the subjugation of a society by one of the dominant clans, in other cases, it is likely that it appeared out of the need to protect property or to establish systems of arbitration to avoid internal strife. The important question is what a government is. 

Like everything else within the sphere of human societies and institutions, a government is fundamentally a structure which exist because people 1) agree (passively or actively) to reinforce it by repeating certain behavioural patterns in relation to laws, customs and expectations, 2) is consistently (practically or ideally) formed in accordance with consistent rules that offer predictability, 3) the general public provides their consent to its formation. The government as a form of system is dependent on its own reinforcement by thousands of bureaucrats and public officials arising from their beds every morning and acting within the perimeters outlined by their tasks. 

Ultimately, complex administration systems like governments are formed primarily to uphold the predictability which helps societies to protect the status quo, both in terms of positive aspects (upholding order, creating a sort of formally neutral arbiter to mediate in conflicts and also to prevent conflicts from arising), and negative aspects (such as protecting exploitative elites or becoming tools for said elites in intra-elite struggles and general oppression). 

The actual functioning structure of a state, no matter whether it is unitary or federal, democratic or authoritarian, has always, since the days of King Narmer, been consisting of bureaucracies. These are the combined nerve fibres and brain stem of the primitive collective organism that a state is designed to mimic. The purpose of such bureaucracies is to facilitate information

In a society with a certain amount of actors, there is always a tendency for chaos. In order to be able to offer predictability, the state must obtain information that provides it with a clear monitoring capability of what is happening. Thus, vertical information nodes are formed through the bureaucracies, to form a chain of command where each node (operated and continuously reproduced by individual bureaucrats) can transmit relevant information to the various apparatuses that the state has as its disposal. 

Of course, a social organism created to gather and transmit relevant information in a vertical, pyramidal way, have its associated problems. The first problem is that the information-gathering techniques may be compromised, both because they may be ineffective, and because actors operating within the system may deliberately compromising or omit to share vital information, in order to benefit themselves personally or causes which they feel warmly for. This practice is usually known as corruption. The second problem, which is more serious, is that this superior access of information can – and quite often have been – abused. The exclusionary nature of hierarchical systems and the privileged access to information for particular groups and individuals has meant that the state not only tend to protect those with economic power, but also tend to create a new form of upper class, managerial elites with superior access to insider information, which would be used to advance themselves at the expense of the general population. The third problem is, quite ironically given that the purpose of bureaucracies is to transmit information, a tendency for information insulation, which means that the bureaucrats naturally tend to form an institutional culture – a de-facto tribe – which roughly shares the same interests, the same ideology, the same prejudices and the same outlook on reality. Thus, practices which run counter to the explicit guidelines of the state can be enshrined if a culture of neglect, favouritism or elitism takes hold inside the system. 

With stating this, I am not meaning that all states per definition are collapsing into corruption and nepotism per definition. The risk for increased corruption and for abuse exist all the time, and will increase the more complex and Byzantine a bureaucracy is growing. There are of course counter-forces, just like society in itself can be defined as a constant struggle between the institutions and the tendencies for collapse – a struggle which is fought literally every day within all significant public spheres. 

The rise of the Technosphere

The Technosphere first arose with the railways of the 19th century, which formed a number of communication arteries through nations and continents, transforming economies and making the world simultaneously bigger and smaller than ever before. 

What is a technosphere? I defined this term as the interlocked network of technological systems/technological infrastructure implemented on the Earth’s surface and actively interacting with one another in order to support the resource extraction and refinement process that is colloquially referred to as “Human Civilization”. 

I would argue that the Technosphere as a functional concept is meaningless to discuss before the ascent of railways and the telegraph in the early 19th century. It is evident that the earlier usages of husbandry and “passive” inventions like wind- and watermills or ploughs have served to amplify the power of human labour. However, it was not until the Age of Industrialization that techno-systems started to be able to amplify information, which since that age has created entirely new challenges. 

Nowadays, the world and its great cities are interconnected by airports, freighter ships, trains, highways, pipelines, electric grids, radio and telecom communication systems, fibre-optic cables and satellites. An entirely new technological system is expanding throughout the globe. 

Challenges and effects on power

Technology and its rapid ascent for the last two centuries have allowed the expansion of both the number of human beings on Earth, as well as the immensely impressive economic growth that has allowed one seventh of the Earth’s population to attain a standard of living previously only available to the aristocracies of old. 

This has, as you probably know, led to tremendous improvements in human life, but in an unstable way which is threatening to unravel the natural support systems of our world – the support systems which serve to uphold complex life itself. We are literally embroiled in a more and more visible war against time in order to save this planet, while the need to reform the system we have created grows more and more urgent for every year. 

The challenge is of course that the ascent of the Technosphere has changed the nature of human civilization, while political concepts are still largely reliant on thoughts and concepts which were formulated either before industrialization or during its first phases. These ideas on power and its nature are still mainly preoccupied with the role of the citizenry and constitutionalism. While important, they fail to address or properly understand how much our reality has been transformed by the formation of the Technosphere. 

That not said that there haven’t been attempts to reinterpret our societies organized in relation to new technological situations emerging. One example is the command economies of the old Soviet Bloc, which interpreted the state not only as a source of legal authority and a monopoly of force (or, decreasingly, as a tool for international worker’s revolution), but also as an integrated industrial system aimed at realising five-year plans. The Soviet system can be seen as an attempt to organize all industry under the state, and simultaneously to organize the state in the mirror-image of how a large firm usually operated under the latter half of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the emergence of the command economy and its mass mobilization of the Soviet population probably owed less to the theories of Marx and Engels than to the Russian historical experience of making up for technology gaps in relation to Western Europe by utilizing the full state power to make up for Russia’s peculiar geographical and climatological difficulties. 

The Technocratic Movement 

One theory which actually directly shaped itself around the perceived realities of the emergent Technosphere, was the school first developed by Thorstein Veblen and finalized by Howard Scott within Technocracy Incorporated (early 1930’s). This theory postulated the idea that technology had become so dominant as a production factor that 1) virtual abundance was attainable and 2) society had transformed into a de-facto machine. The only remaining issue was to cut away the politicians, lobbyists, judiciary and capitalists, leaving the administration of such a system in the enlightened hands of scientists and engineers, people who were seen as disinterested in personal gain and able to objectively understand reality. 

This is attributable to the era. During the 1930’s, the western world was still largely enamoured with the concept of everlasting progress and of science as the great solution to all the woes of society. The prevalent epistemology of science of the day was Positivism, which stated that science 1) was able to reach an objective understanding of reality, and 2) that science should be used as a tool to achieve a better and more enlightened society. This approach was not unique to the Technocratic Movement, but rather a part of the rationalistic culture of the day, which encompassed contemporary Liberalism, Social Democracy and Marxism-Leninism. These ideologies did however draw on the heritage of the 18th and 19th centuries, whereas Technocracy tried to do away with the entire prior intellectual heritage within social sciences and political philosophies. 

The Technocrats did not only understand society as a machine, but also understood this machine’s economy in term of the energy it was able to generate and consume. The concept of Energy Accounting, even as understood within the context of the 1930’s, was liberating in the sense that it tried to apply the Physical knowledge of how the Universe works on the Technosphere, and see the Technosphere as primarily a flow of energy and resources rather than a market of goods and services. 

Obviously, the claim that Technocracy was not (or is not) an ideology is as ludicrous as the idea that science will soon be able to supplant moral philosophy. The idea to see not only resource flows as a part of a machine, but also to do away with laws and the judiciary, and replace trials with “technical decisions” to correct transgressions by individuals would be dangerous and do away with a western tradition of jurisprudence developed since the ancient era. Scientists and engineers are also – like any other people – not disinterested, but often passionately interested in and devoted to specific solutions. The abolishment of money will most likely not eliminate competition, which in such a society as devised by Technocracy Incorporated would move towards fighting for promotions within a hierarchical-tayloristic system. 

Lastly, the Technate as imagined by Technocracy Incorporated would be a centrally planned and completely “katascopic” system, where the upper levels in the hierarchy would mobilize the lower levels to achieve specific aims. Production was not imagined as built on voluntary nodes, but rather on large centralised units which organise labour into eight four-hour shifts every cycle, to keep production load factors constant. A never-sleeping machine. 

We must not forget that the Technocrats of North America were a product of the distinct zeitgeist of their era, which emphasised centralisation, collectivism, de-individualization and mass mobilization of resources, briefly realised in the US War Economy of 1942-1946. 

In summary, the Technocratic Movement of the 1930’s is an interesting example of contemporary thinking, of an attempt to transcend established ways in how to view resource management and the relationship between human society and physics, and lastly one in many ways logical conclusion in relation to the direction in which technological development was moving. 

The dynamic chaos of the Technosphere

Any and all programmes toying with the notion of a centralised command structure imposed over the Technosphere are dangerous to entertain. The Technosphere is a force amplifier in more than one regard, evidenced by all the dictatorships of the 20th century. While there existed no democratic republics proper prior to industrialization, neither there existed any dictatorships with aspirations to control the public before the railways and the telegraph. 

It was simply not possible – or even desirable – for Louis XIV, Augustus or Xerxes to monitor the public opinion of all their subjects or to try to include everyone in political mass mobilization. Industrialization did not only amplify political output, but allowed for the politization of the masses, but also for the implementation of mass surveillance technologies. 

Given that, it is not only dangerous but also quixotic to try to impose a form of fixed, centralised control mechanism over the Technosphere, since the Technosphere is a wildly dynamic system. To some extent, it is reminiscent of the biosphere in that there is a constant near-evolutionary development of technology (just compare trains in the late 1790’s with modern trains, or look at the first telephones in comparison with modern cell-phones). This development is of course driven by human innovation rather than imperfect replication, but from an emergent perspective the growth of the Technosphere appears very much like how complex systems emerge within the biosphere. 

A part of this seeming chaos is due to the fact that when new technologies are introduced, we are seldom thinking of the long-term effects on the entire Technosphere, as well as on the system on which the Technosphere is nourishing itself or affecting environmentally. When the automobiles were first introduced in the late 19th century, nobody would think how much land would be paved over to make highways and parking lots, or would be able to envision the completely destructive and unsustainable concept of “Suburbia”. 

The main point is not the destructiveness of many industrial practices, but to point out that the aggregated effects of the introduction of new technologies are volatile and unpredictable, and threaten to unravel not only established economic forms of organisation, but also political and social traditions themselves. Generally however, we are only able to comprehend the future by looking at the past. 

Nevertheless, we must not step back and put on a blindfold in our relationship with the Technosphere, especially not as that approach has led us into a completely unnecessary and perilous destruction of the life-supporting systems of the Earth, which is threatening to cause a sixth great mass extinction. 

There is a desperate, urgent need to find a way to be able to monitor and administrate the Technosphere, without resorting to the oppression of humanity or individual human beings, impeding our progress in using technology to better human civilization, or be crushed by the unpredictable forces unleashed by the application of new technologies inside the system. It stands clear that we need a form of system that not only recognises the existence of the Technosphere and its peculiar nature, but also is adapted to said peculiar nature, especially now when the integration of technology is reaching an exponentially increasing pace and scope. 

The Technate as envisioned by the EOS

A technate is a form of governance system. Unlike previous systems, a technate is not focused on administering humans or employing force to hold them in line. It is instead focusing on overviewing administering the technological infrastructure – or Technosphere. 

That is a short definition, but it is partially obfuscating the truth of the matter, since it postulates a division between the Technate and the Technosphere – much like how the brain is partially separated from the other organs of the human body. Rather, the Technate is envisioned by the Earth Organisation for Sustainability as an integral aspect of every facet of the Technosphere. This means that if the Technate is ever consolidated, it would not consist of a pyramidal, hierarchical structure that is centrally coordinating the entire Technosphere. Rather, it would be infused into the very infrastructure itself, and become a natural continuation of the transformation of the techno-systems into a super-organism. 

This difference is of essential importance when understanding how the EOS views the Technate as a concept. We do not merely view it as a government over technology, but as an “intelligent integrated system”, which encompasses the entire global network of technologically based systems. 

The reasoning behind this is the following: 

  • We need to be able to keep an overview over the resource flows from the moment that they leave nature and loops within the human civilization.
  • The amount of information available within such a complex system is too over-arching to keep it within the confined control of centralised nodes.
  • Centralised systems are more vulnerable, and attempts by hostile interests to inflict damage – especially during the beginning phase of what will be a transformation characterised by contention from many groups that stand to lose in the short term – can become very destructive if there are central key points which control significant aspects of the system.
  • Centralised systems tend to centralise power and deprive human beings of their right to their own agency.
  • Technology is moving towards the point where central governments will be superfluous and possibly hamper the development towards sustainability due to the insufficiency of the tools which they have available.

How – practically speaking – could such a system operate? 

We imagine that it is administered through a huge number of interacting holons, consisting of project teams that operate different aspects of the Technate. The functioning of the holons, their number in relation to a specific operative task, and the depth and scope of their cooperation depends on the nature of the challenge that they face. 

Thus, instead of trying to shape technical structures around bureaucratic-administrative forms, we should create a dynamic system capable of anticipating changes in the Technosphere and adapt its local and regional working procedures after these changes faster than the current system is capable of. When necessary, smaller holons would cluster together to form larger holons, but not necessarily dissolve themselves. 

Of course, each holon which the system is composed of needs to be capable of communicating with every other holon in the system, through sequence networks that tie together various systems. The goal however is not that the communication systems will run the show, but rather provide a nerve network throughout the structure which can help to process information faster and more transparently. 

Most holons will of course not deal with the core functions of the Technate, those being managing infrastructure. Rather, they will focus on voluntarily defined tasks and projects which are close to the interests of the holon participants. 

This does also mean that if the necessity would arise, the Technate as a whole can be able to rapidly transform its internal structure into new shapes that can better handle arising challenges, for example massive solar eruptions that destroy the electronic systems of the Technosphere, or super-volcano eruptions. 

The role of AI

The holons which the Technate is envisioned to be consisting of are composed of teams consisting of humans with talents and skills comprising the core functions of their holon, and when we discuss these issues we often focus on the human role within the Technate. The reason why we haven’t discussed the role of Artificial Intelligence is because it is not yet possible to ascertain what Artificial Intelligence will be capable of achieving within even the nearest decades. 

Nevertheless, we can be able to form criteria which will establish the direction and limitations of AI. As Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, even though we cannot predict the turns of Fate, we are more than capable of foreseeing eventual problems. While problems and challenges always will arise, we can predict eventualities which will arise (according to Murphy’s Law).

When cities and infrastructural systems become smarter and more integrated with one another through the grid, and the complexity of any given system is increasing exponentially, the systems will grow increasingly vulnerable to disturbances. Recent hacking attacks against refrigerators in Moscow and Campus Printers on various American universities display this weakness. Cyber-security will increasingly turn into one of the most essential immune system barriers of the integrated Technosphere.

There are many visions of where we could go with Artificial Intelligence and how it can be utilized to create a new and better civilization. The Venus Project for example is advocating a future characterised by smart cities connected by central computers which regulate every aspect of urban infrastructure. The Singularity – Ray Kurzweil’s vision – is looking towards the fusion of all matter into one grid – one super-awareness. Science Fiction has also put its imagination into the future development of AI, from Star Wars’ humanoid-looking drone slaves to Iain Banks’ intelligent Minds that are steering massive ships through the Milky Way, to the Archailect Gods of the Orion’s Arm collective, the visions have tended to develop with the zeitgeist of the era.

What the Holonic model can teach us about the infusion of AI into our society, is that the introduction of centralised systems can both render us less free and more vulnerable. While it may increase efficiency in the short run, it would also create unforeseen problems due to the emergent nature of the Technosphere. Thence, the following foundations must be laid: 

  • If intelligent computer systems are introduced into infrastructural processes, it is advisable that they are limited in their scope – every system should be responsible for just one or two sequence processes.
  • They should still inter-communicate transparently and be able to transmit information to one another.
  • Within every sequence process, there should be two or three computer systems simultaneously working, with several copies lying dormant or “sleeping” within the same sequence process. If one system is hacked, it should be disconnected from the sequence process and replaced with a copy.
  • Instead of focusing research on achieving artificial sapience, we should focus our energy on creating imperfect self-replicating systems, mimicking evolution, with the direction of purging such systems that are more badly adapted to the changing realities of the Technosphere.
  • There should always be an off-switch.
  • There should never be an off-switch which simultaneously crashes important sequence processes like power-plants. 

Of course, there are more ideas which are worth exploring, like for example the Three Laws of Robotics. However, it is essential that we use technology for and within the context of a society composed of autonomous localities, and are striving towards greater de-centralisation and liberty, rather than towards centralisation and powers in the hand of an elite, whether human or digital. 

In summary 

The Technate as a concept is about shaping forms after function, rather than the other way around. Instead of moulding processes to fit into bureaucratic systems which ultimately were formed before there was a Technosphere, we should have a structure which is adapted to rapidly changing conditions and can transform itself rapidly. 

The EOS has reached the conclusion that the most desirable type of governance shall focus on managing technology and allowing human beings the freedom and time to discover themselves and create. It shall also be de-centralised and seek to empower people locally, while maintaining a transparent and relevant communication network. It should not meddle in normative or legalistic aspects (thus a separation between Technate and Confederation), and it should be consisting of autonomous groups that can shape themselves into larger groups and form the tools necessary to perform specialised tasks. 

While we never can be sure how the Technosphere will form in the future, we must try to influence it, which must mean a transition away from carbon-heavy industries and transport systems, non-renewable sources of energy, linear transportation networks, over-distributed manufacturing, mono-cultures and wasteful practices. We believe that a system like that which we advocates would help us transcend towards that, even if it would take generations before we can replace centralised governance. 

terra[1]

Time to terraform the Earth

Introduction

The public discourse on Climate Change has been one characterized by a near singular focus on emission levels. While undoubtedly playing a central role in the disturbance of the planet’s natural climate cycle, the direction of the solutions presented have been so pointed towards emissions-reductions that we for many years collectively have failed to address other means of trying to regulate the climate and avert or soften the consequences of altered average temperatures. 

For decades, however, there have been proposals circulating regarding other means to control carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Just recently, we have seen proposals ranging from releasing particles in the atmosphere to moving sea-water to Antarctica. 

Many of the recent ideas have touched upon utilizing drones in operations intended to reduce the amounts of  greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. One potential innovation is to design and implement drones that will consume urban CO2 and use it to fertilize plants. This can increase the productivity of our planet’s ecology, and possibly propagate plants which could also assist in CO2 regulation.

Drones are capable of assisting in terraforming processes: this video documents a current method already deployed; in this case, they disseminate seeds in plantations producing food:

Reseeding the earth of trees (especially close to the equator) could perform a vital process in the capture of carbon which is in the atmosphere, in the form of CO2.

But this simple solution for seed dissemination can only ease one problem, and it doesn’t address the root problem – namely, that the Earth’s surface is overburdened by land use which does not help to store carbon, but release it.

Wood is not only extracted for its use and industrial process value, but also because forests take up space which can be used to raise up suburbs, parking lots, cattle pastures and agricultural fields. In fact, about a third of the world’s total ice-free surface is used to support animals which are bred for their meat. These usage models store less carbon, and emit more CO2.

Why forests and not grass? 

Some may argue that grass – like all plant-life – nourishes itself on carbon dioxide. Grass however has the tendency to combust during dry seasons, and has a far shorter and faster life cycle, meaning that the storage of carbon isn’t having the same impact as that consisting of trees living for centuries. 

The forests – and especially the great rainforests of the tropical regions – have not been referred to as ”the lungs of the Earth” for nothing. The temperate forests on the northern and southern hemispheres are ”inhaling” carbon dioxide during the summers and ”exhausting” it during the winters. 

The amount of forests on Earth have historically affected the global average temperatures. 

  • When large forests have covered the northern hemisphere in a green sheet, the greenhouse effect has been weakened and the result becomes a colder average temperature.
  • That has led to ice ages and lower sea levels.
  • This further leads to altered and weaker rainfall patterns, a drier climate and subsequent desertification and forest fires.
  • This releases carbon and heats up the Earth.
  • Further heat leads to melting of continental ice sheets, higher sea levels, a wetter climate and more room for forests to grow.

Usually, we think about the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Federal Reserve, the ECB or the Bank of England when we think about large banking institutions. But they are dwarfed in magnitude in comparison to the magnificent forests of the Earth.

There we can truly speak of ”too big to fail”. 

During the beginning of our agricultural age, we had double the amount of trees on Earth than what we have today. If we could increase the amount of trees on the Earth in a manner which considerably increases carbon capture and biological productivity on our planet, it would pit a damper on antropogenic climate change and give us time to develop new solutions. 

To plant trees is also a relatively cheap solution, and would probably be far more manageable and easy to overview than dimming the atmosphere using particles. It could not offset the monsoon rains either, but it could actually help to alleviate droughts slightly in the long term. 

To plant trees can sound like an easy solution, but it isn’t. The issue is not only how to restore logging areas, but how to reforest areas presently used to other endeavours, chief among them industrial agriculture. It is not that the seeds are hard to come by, but rather the land.

The challenge of redistributing our usage of space 

To expand the Earth’s forests is an attractive idea, since it would not only create a smoother and gentler trajectory for reversing the damage of man-made climate change, it would also gradually build up acquifiers, give red-listed species a fighting chance and give nature room to thrive.

All of these conditions are not just good for the health of wildlife and plants, but they produce a supremely healthy environment for people.

Reforestation has its prices. 

If we – as a species – move towards that path, we must reduce our usage of the planet’s surface and gradually shift away from industrialised agriculture focused on producing feed for cattle, pigs and chickens. We must achieve it without inadvertently causing an even larger famine or disaster. In fact, since 800 million people are outright starving in this day and age, we must ensure that they can get the access they need to be able to nourish themselves. And we need to do something akin to that during our lifetimes (and probably coupled with more interventions).

These steps for a healthy mankind don’t just protect our environment, but they create a social environment which has much better outcomes, stability and safety for all.

We need to form strategies on the regional and local levels on how to achieve this reforestation. We must shift our entire farming culture, and we must learn to grow sufficient food to provide for the human population of the planet while utilizing less surface. To do that, we need detailed scientific projections, measurements and models which indicate the kind of farming we need to use in order to maximise the reforestation of the Earth while also ensuring that all human beings will have access to food. 

Such a process cannot be just be a matter for organisations, scientific panels and public organs to implement, but a large a part of the people of Earth must actively participate and be represented in this process. The solutions must be adapted to the local and regional conditions, and for them to be successful demands the active participation of farmers and the rural and urban populations of the affected regions. We all must participate and buy-in to the solutions we need for survival.

TL;DR Summary 

While reforestation is not a perfect strategy and won’t solve all problems with global warming, it would certainly help bind up carbon dioxide for a while and, possibly in the medium to long term, help slow the destructive effects of climate change. 

Reforestation is only possible with changes in our local and regional food production systems. Food distribution must meet the needs of all of humanity while shifting away from industrial mono-cultures, linear supply systems, and the growth-driven paradigm which runs on a debt-based financial system, and we cannot do that without empowering the people of Earth.

That challenge is as great, if not greater than reducing emissions. 

The time has come to terraform the Earth. It is my hope that Earth Organisation for Sustainability can assist in that goal. The people of Earth deserve the dignity of a healthy environment whose conditions are sustainable, and the beauty of that possible Earth is worth every ounce of effort.

 
Dean Sayers also contributed to this article.

Jq

Jacque Fresco, a legacy of optimism

Introduction

The first time I learnt about Jacque Fresco and The Venus Project was back in 2005, when the embryo of what would later become the EOS was originally born. The Venus Project back then did not have the notability it later would attain, and already back in 2006, the precursor to the EOS – the NET – arranged showings of William Gazecki’s documentary about Fresco, Future by Design, with the explicit permission from The Venus Project.

In 2008, The Venus Project gained a lot of publicity within a segment of the youth population through the popularization of The Zeitgeist Movement. The crowning achievement of the collaboration between TVP and TZM was the Jacque Fresco world tour of 2010, where one of his most successful lectures was in the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm that summer. It was a lecture which I myself was a part of organizing, as a part of the EOS. We were tasked with organizing the ticket sales.

Apart from giving me valuable experiences, this extended stay in Stockholm gave me the opportunity to talk with and interact with Fresco, which in itself was an interesting and thought-challenging experience. 

Now, Jacque Fresco is soon to celebrate his hundredth birthday. This centennial celebration is an important event for TVP and their followers, since he plays an important role, not only as a leader and inspirer, but also fundamentally a symbol. To his young followers, he can be said to be a “Cool Old Guy”, much like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders are to their respective admirers. Since time immemorial, there has been a certain captivating quality of sage-like old men who have inspired a following. 

I was contacted by my predecessor and former mentor, Dr Andrew Wallace, regarding writing an article about Jacque Fresco’s heritage in relationship to his hundredth birthday, and regarding the collaboration we once had. That is actually a far more difficult task than what you would naturally expect, given that the EOS and TVP have several major differences. 

When writing an article like this, it is difficult to not write a eulogy on one hand, or a critique on the other. While mean criticism of Jacque Fresco and The Venus Project is rare (and often more reserved for TZM, justifiably so), it is far more usual to witness the variant where Fresco is described as a universal genius, who single-handedly had designed and created a thematic model for a future civilization – in short, a super-being who can lead humanity away from the current dark age.

Pondering in what context I would frame this article, I came up with the idea of seeing Jacque Fresco as a part of a wider contextual setting rather than as an isolated phenomenon. This can improve our appreciation of his true heritage as well as connect him to the actual cultural and structural development we’ve seen taking place within American and world culture. 

The transition from Modernism to Post-modernism

Modernism can be described as the dominant approach to reality during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is ultimately a linear understanding of human history, which is seen as “progress”, visually exemplified by the classical Darwinian image “From Ape to Man”. In the context of Modernism, human existence is seen through an optimistic lens as a journey from darkness to light. This journey should be understood in a purely material and scientific manner, as humanity learning to master its surrounding environment, developing society towards and beyond an industrial state and during this process also get rid of old superstitious habits and prejudices. The meaning of life is seen as advancing towards a post-scarcity society ruled by science and reason.

From the second half of the 20th century and onward, post-modernistic tendencies have been dominating the western cultural and social narrative. Post-modernism stresses that reality is heterogeneous and fail to live up to grand narratives in themselves. Post-modernism also questions the narrative of progress, instead stressing how technology in itself can be dehumanising, reduce the human being conceptually and de-facto into a biological machine, as well as destructive to culture and myths seen as enriching to the human experience. Post-modernism is also stressing a critique of norms and puts an emphasis on relativism in order to include other experiences previously excluded by the dominant choruses during the modernistic era.

The reason of the ascent of post-modernism (which started to emerge during the middle of the second decade of the 20th century) has been the experience of the world wars, the world-wide depression, the industrial genocides and the birth of nuclear weapons. All of this led to an emerging pessimistic view on technological progress which has been more and more prevalent amongst – ironically enough – the most progressive elements of western societies. If anything, this undercurrent had its political breakthrough during the Flower Power movement of the 1960’s. Films such as Wizards (1978) and Star Wars (1977) also more or less stressed the perceived inherent conflict between technology and spirituality. 

The Venus alternative

Paradoxically, the birth of Jacque Fresco as a public figure coincided with the transition from late modernism into post-modernism. Originally, The Venus Project was known as Sociocyberneering and consisted of a small group of students, engineers and others where Jacque Fresco was a dominant force. It remains unclear and exist many conflicting recounts of how Sociocyberneering came to transform into The Venus Project, an exhibition village on the future which for many years only had two team members, Jacque Fresco himself and Roxanne Meadows. 

Ultimately, The Venus Project is a movement that wants to usher in a radically different future, a post-scarcity economy characterised by high technology and a transition from hierarchic and force-based systems of conduct towards egalitarian and libertarian forms of social organisation. The Venus Project is claiming that the basis of their legitimacy lies in science. Their claims can be summoned up into three parts.

  • There is truly an abundance of resources on the Earth, or if resources are managed intelligently, there is a functional abundance of them and human beings should be able to utilize them without artificial constraints, i.e the “demand curves” created by financial limits.
  • Our technology is sufficiently advanced to manage these resources intelligently, with a minimum of human intervention, meaning that humans can be freed from labour and instead devote more of their time to the pursuit for happiness and excellence. The model in question is a cybernated planned economy run by A.I computers (with one central computer per city), much like Iain M Banks’ envisioned Cultureverse.
  • Human behaviour, as well as the behaviour of most other animals, is mostly or wholly regulated by environmental stimuli and experiences of previous environmental stimuli. This means for example that given the right conditioning, “any child can become a scientist or a composer” (Fresco, Future by Design).

I should also not omit to state that Fresco believes all of that is feasible now, with a transition period of less than ten years (Stockholm lecture, 2010). 

In summary, what The Venus Project is offering is a very optimistic and positive vision of the futureof humanity. In Future by design, Fresco is often remarking about what we will see in the future, though in later appearances (post-TZM-upsurge) it is made clear that TVP intends to not only describe the wonderful future of tomorrow, but also actively work to make it a reality, by gathering the resources necessary to build an actual model city.

What the Venus project is offering is a radically modernistic vision, in an era where we thought we had grown disillusioned with the idea of progress. 

A just critique

The steadfast optimism of The Venus Project is encouraging, but when it starts to entail practical measurable issues, the positive statements of Fresco and other proponents can have the effect that it either encourages the followers to the point of lethargy (“we don’t need to do anything because technology will solve all problems”), or creates the idea that we already have a working, established alternative to the current system, that the transition is a relatively simple affair (for a world with seven billion people, five world religions, several thousand cultures existing on all levels from hunter-gatherer, through feudal and tribal towards super-urban). 

On the other hand, in terms of actual numbers, The Venus Project has offered sweeping statements, through actual data of the feasibility of a Venus-style RBE or how they define the global abundance they claim we have is fuzzy at best and more or less non-existent at worst. A lot of what The Venus Project states is contradicted by the data from respected groups such as The Club of Rome, Global Footprint Network and other environmental organisations. 

Which brings us to the next point of critique, namely the lack of a discussion on environmental challenges during the next century. For The Venus Project, there seems to be a focus on the idea that we should transition towards a new system because the current system is inadequate and that it primarily is an issue of human well-being. The focus is – as already mentioned – directed towards the visualisation of the positive future. Maybe it is a good strategy since it encourages people in a positive and inclusive manner, instead of offering doomsday scenarios which often can tend to disempower people and make them feel scared and powerless.

However, a lot of people are invested, emotionally and materially, in the furtherance of this incumbent system which we are living under. They have real, tangible things to lose if a transition instead inadvertently leads to a situation which they perceive as worse. Maybe that is one of the reasons why youths tend to be more susceptible to the message of hope offered by The Venus Project?

The heritage of Jacque Fresco

It could be argued that Jacque Fresco is a continuation of late modernists such as H.G Wells, Buckminster Fuller and Gene Roddenberry. The same belief in human potential, linear progress and the supremacy of science is evident in Fresco’s vision, as in the works of these inspired individuals. 

To a large extent, the rise of The Venus Project as a concept within radical progressive circles in North America also has coincided with the ascent of the Neo-modernistic and radically optimistic transhumanist and singularitarian movements, which in most regards are far more radical in their visions than The Venus Project. 

Even if The Venus Project fails to materialise a tangible Venus City which can serve as an inspiration for a transition, they have managed to make a significant cultural impact on the emerging intelligentsia, to inspire youths to think outside the established boundaries and to energise a positive vision for the future. And that is not a small achievement given what we are witnessing daily around the world.

Happy birthday, Jacque!

The Rubik’s Cube is not just a forgotten toy from the 80’s. The fact is that it’s even more popular than ever before.

democracy[1]

On Democracy, Rights, Community and the role of the EOS

Social sustainability, the basics

The Earth Organization for Sustainability is formed around the aspiration for ecological, economic and social sustainability. These are not buzzwords deprived of meaning and context, but are aimed to delineate objectives which achieve concrete, tangible results in the sphere of reality. Our three criteria are defining, in the broadest possible manner of wording, how we intend to achieve global sustainability which covers these three areas.

The third criterion establishes that all human beings have the right to life. This means not only guaranteeing housing, healthcare, education and access to resources, but goes deeper. In order so that human beings can thrive, it is not enough that they are being fed, clothed, educated, or that they possess material wealth. What we must discuss is freedom.

Granted, there are several different types of freedom, and at least since the days of John Locke, there has been a concerted effort to define what freedom is. For the sake of simplicity and historicity, let us say that within the modern sphere of western philosophy, there have been two dominant schools of definitions of freedom (or liberty) as it is alternately known.

  • Liberalism: There are negative and positive rights. Negative rights mean the right from unprovoked interference, that no citizen might be subjected to abuse, theft, deprivation of mobility or other actions imposed on said citizen against their will. Positive rights of course mean that the citizen also has rights to things, such as voting rights and access to a public welfare system encompassing education and – depending on what country you live in – education, retirement and minimum labour hours. Conservatives, neoliberals and economic libertarians tend to de-emphasise or outright deny the existence of positive rights.
  • Socialism: There are social rights, which are defined as the right to housing, education, clothing and partaking in the political process. In terms of negative rights, socialists tend to emphasise discrimination based on class, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, rather than individual rights. Social democrats (of the classical variety) tend to combine this with the liberal negative freedoms, whereas marxists tend to dismiss the heritage of liberalism wholly or partially.

We can immediately see that both Liberalism and Socialism engages the subject of freedom through the concept of human rights, though they have divergent definitions of what constitute human rights.

Oh, Rights?

What constitute rights in the most basic aspect, is that they are not given to human beings, rather human beings are seen as being endowed with them (now we are talking about the currently hegemonic liberalist interpretation). Thus, they should not be held subject to political bargain, or granted arbitrarily to specific individuals or groups, or be tied to the kindness or political calculations of a particular political regime. 

The problem is that just because we agree that we all are endowed with human rights (no matter what these human rights constitute), that does not make impossible the violation of human rights. Conversely, if human rights violations were impossible (if we say that we for example had extremely strong biological inhibitors against violating human life), there wouldn’t even be the need of such a concept.

Some of the first states which enshrined what they called “rights” in their constitutions were the “enlightened despotisms” of 18th century Russia, Prussia and Austria – all three absolute monarchies relying on centralised bureaucracies and professional standing armies on a permanent war footing. The idea of human rights was very popular during the latter half of the enlightenment age, and was basically utilised as a fad amongst despots. The “rights” they guaranteed can most aptly be described as “privileges”, reliant on the interests of the state in the best case and in the worst case on the whims of a single individual.

Another example is how Stalinist states have continuously abused the language, defining themselves as “multi-party democracies” which enshrine “social rights” – rights which are entirely conditioned by whether the state has defined you as an ideological loyalist or not. 

Even in western democracies, human rights are continuously being violated, either because of the relative weakness of certain individuals or groups, cases of corruption or the existence of “deep states” – authoritarian institutions operating partially outside of the constitutional and cultural framework (one example is the IB affair in Sweden).

In summary, in order to guarantee freedom for human beings, we must establish and uphold human rights. The problem of course is that the monopoly of force can choose to ignore these established rights, rendering them into privileges. Some Marxists are on the basis of that arguing that human rights are merely a façade and that ultimately everything boils down to class oppression and the monopoly of force. The solution in that context is to replace the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie” with the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (which de-facto most often has led to authoritarian or totalitarian one-party regimes). Not so few militiamen, survivalists and conservatives in the United States argue similarly, but instead see the solution in arming the entire citizenry to the teeth. Experience however shows that there are both relatively well-functioning democracies and authoritarian dictatorships where automatic rifles are readily available for the general population. 

The case for Democracy: Human autonomy and agency

When I was taught civics in the fifth grade, the teacher told us that in democracies, people vote for their leaders, that democracies do not have death penalty or torture and that democracies are making “nice laws”, unlike dictatorships, which are making “mean laws”. I am still unsure whether this very simplified definition of democratic governance served us well.

My argument for Democracy is related to the concept of establishing and defending human rights – a concept which, like democracy, solidarity and equality, very much has become a “buzzword”. In order for rights to be substantial and thus credible, there must be institutions established to safeguard these rights. However, institutions which are limited in scope and are only actively involving a minority of the people, will gradually alienate themselves from the majority and become tools for power.

Even if rights could theoretically be guaranteed by a “perfect despot” (a Venus Project A.I or a Culture Mind for example), there would still be the issue of participation and autonomy, and the rights in questions would de-facto be mere privileges, and the population would have no say in the future of their own fate. In fact, “the perfect utopian dictatorship” would be even more depriving of human autonomy than the glorified role-playing game that is “government by man”. To not mention the real and practical implications of computer viruses attacking the AI ruler (a good foundation for a dystopian sci-fi novel would be Salafi hackers hijacking the central grid of a Venus city).

Human autonomy is meaning not only that human beings are endowed with human rights, but that they have a substantial part of the power over the context in which these human rights are operating. Democracy, in the form of voting rights, is to a large extent guaranteeing influence over the issues pertaining human rights and human dignity to all adult human beings.

The right to the democratic vote is one of the absolutely essential rights for people, no matter how imperfect society otherwise is (corruption, political machines, cheating). The observation that the voting process in the real world often is abused, that legislators often ignore the promises to their constituents, and that the process is often influenced by lobbyists, banks, corporations and corrupt unions, is not a repudiation of electoral practices in themselves. Neither is the fact that voters are often undereducated, misinformed and voting based on preferences for certain policies or (worse!) certain individuals an argument against democracy, because even the most misinformed, undereducated and disinterested voter have the right to be an agent for their own interests. It should be noted that voters who are having these characteristics are most often those who are found in the lower income percentile of any given society, and often suffer from decaying housing, worse health and more uncertainty, abuse and crime. They are precisely the people who need agency, even if they rarely use it and often even vote against their own interests.

If a village suffers from contaminated water, the thing that should be done is to find a way to decontaminate the wells, not ending the need of drinking water.

A critique of contemporary Democracies

Firstly, I would want to object to the idea that a state can be defined as simply a “democracy”. A typical western state is governed through the mixture of an assembly of elected officials, a bureaucracy and the input of powerful interests. Only the first aspect is partially democratic, and regards what parties and persons should be representing the electorate. This arrangement is however troublesome, since the elected officials can renege on their promises, parties are often holding strong opinions over a multitude of issues where almost no voter upon closer study can agree with all of these positions and new contested issues can arise between election cycles which the parties have not addressed prior to the previous election.

In short, democratic voting in the context of parliamentary or semi-parliamentary systems is basically a delegation of democratic power to a small number of individuals who during a fixed term – usually three to six years – have total liberty in how they manage the interests of their constituents.

If there is a culture of strong civic service throughout society, as well as a high level of political participation amongst the general public, then the imperfect parliamentarian system can approach the democratic ideals of the enlightenment. I would argue that the Nordic countries had largely achieved such a society during the 1960’s, with a high degree of political participation and mobilisation within the populace. Political participation, as well as the institutional culture within the elected bodies, later on deteriorated for reasons that I perhaps will explore in a future article.

Ultimately, it would be more democratic if the constituents – rather than electing representatives – were continuously granted more rights to vote on policies, in short a gradual transformation from representative to direct and participatory democracy.There is also a quantitative problem with contemporary democracies, namely that the larger the population is, the less a single vote is worth and conversely the power exerted by the individual citizen shrinks. A third problem is the relationship – within the context of liberalism – between democratic rights and property rights. Originally, the 17th century embryo which later turned into liberalism, was formed in order to protect wealthy land-owners against politically-based property confiscations on behalf of the state. The problem which herein lies is the fact that the rights of corporations – which often reside in either the capitol region of their respective countries or even on the other side of the planet – often infringe upon the autonomy of local communities, by virtue of control of their natural resources and their infrastructure, meaning that they hold control over the factors that affect human livelihood without being affected by their own decisions equally much.

The EOS position on Democracy

The EOS position is that Democracy is an integral aspect of social sustainability, and that all human beings have the right to agency and representation. We must work to continuously strengthen and defend democratic rights, as a core aspect of human rights and as an extension of the Ideology of the Third Millennium.

This is what we should strive for:

  • Strengthening the participation of communities in existing democratic processes with a special focus on communities that are weak, through establishing contact networks, arranging courses and strengthen the self-confidence of citizens.
  • Supporting the human rights and the legal rights of citizens to agency, representation and human rights.
  • Strengthening communities by making them more self-reliant in terms of food, energy, infrastructure, water, recycling and production, thus increasing the participation of the local citizenry.
  • Advocating the integration of new social and cybernetic technologies into the democratic process in order to transcend parliamentarianism and move towards direct and participatory democracy.
  • Advocating de-centralisation and subsidiarity, that decisions should be made as close to those affected by them as possible, and if possible by those affected 
  • Strengthening the local communities by educating the electorate in understanding the scientific method, logic, deductive reasoning, human rights, intersectional theories and to be able to identify and combat logical fallacies. 
  • From these foundations, we will be able to object against actions aimed at depriving people from their democratic agency, as well as supporting initiatives aimed at strengthening democracy.

TL;DR

The EOS views Democracy as a positive concept because it helps provide people with agency to protect their rights, but we are noting that there are problems in which how it is implemented, regarding that people are seldom empowered to vote for issues directly, instead relying on elected representatives, that decisions are often made far from the people affected by them, that voters are misinformed or uninformed and that big economic actors often are able to reduce the autonomy and agency of communities.

We should as a movement strive to strengthen democracy and help to transcend towards more direct democratic and localised systems while making the intellectual and organisational tools available in order to strengthen the civic culture of the people.

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What is money and why is it problematic?

The history of Money

Usually, we tend to think that money arose with coinage during the late Iron Age. Before that, human beings generally bartered goods directly, we are taught. The facts are far more nuanced and poised towards a gradual evolutionary development of currencies that have followed similar patterns throughout the world.

It is true that when trade was infrequent, goods were primarily exchanged as barter or gifts. When agriculture was developed, the population grew and villages turned into towns, trade became more and more habitual. Thus, with soon to be dozens of different goods exchanging owners in buzzing markets, trade became more and more complicated. Soon, certain goods evolved beyond their usage utility to serve as “key goods” to obtain other goods.

In ancient Egypt for example, beer sometimes played this role, while in early­medieval Sweden, dried fish was functioning as a de-­facto currency. These goods were soon treated as the default means of payment. Metal currencies arose partially to structure up trade and create uniform rules, and also so emerging states should be able to pay their armies and bureaucracies. They also served a role as a disseminator of ­approved information, so everyone would know the identity of the people in charge. The reason for the choice of gold and silver was often that there was a state monopoly on the extraction of these minerals, that they were scarce and that they were thought to have magical­-spiritual properties.

There were a few weaknesses with currencies based on noble metals however. The foremost of them was that their durability meant that they could accumulate into the hands of those controlling the land and providing towns with much needed food. This accumulation withdrew money from circulation which led to deflation – meaning that the value of money increased. This created an incentive to hoard money, and led to stagnation in trade.

During the Renaissance, families in the wealthy city­states of North Italy established banks which originally were providing gold storage in the trade between Italy and the westernmost point of the Silk Route – the Queen City Constantinople. A merchant in Italy could leave his gold at a Medici bank and take out a receipt, which he later delivered to the Medici office in Constantinople where he would receive an equal amount of gold to conclude the import of silk and spices.

Soon, the banks started to offer another service – loans at interest. The clients were most often governments in need of resources to be able to defend themselves, or to expand at the expense of their neighbors. Gradually, the demand for loans in the war-­torn Europe of the 15th century meant that banks started to lend out more money (in the form of receipts) than gold and silver contained in their vaults, creating the foundation for fractional reserve banking, where the reserves of a bank are just a fraction of what the bank possesses in terms of its role as creditor.

Wind forward

This system made possible the establishment of European colonial ventures, of empires and of the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism as we know it would not have been possible without fractional reserve banking.

In 1971, the last aspect of the old metal­based system was scrapped when the US Dollar was disconnected from being backed by gold reserves. From then on until today, money has globally been a unit created by and backed by debt and credit and created through loans issued by banks.

Usually, people associate money with physical cash. The truth is however that less than five percent of all money exists in the form of cash, and physical money is gradually being phased out in most developed nations.

The benefits of fractional reserve banking and fiat currencies is that it is easy to make available credit for investments and growth, which means that interest rates generally are low and that companies and governments can develop infrastructure and technology continuously.

There are a few problems however.

The first problem, which plagued fractional reserve banking as a system for generations, was the (quite so legitimate) issue of trust. Bank panics often began when it became clear that banks were insolvent, leading to financial crashes and recessions every few years. The establishment of Central Banks helped to alleviate the worst excesses of the system, and maintain the mountain of debt constantly being pushed forward.

The Central Banks act as lenders-­of-­last-­resort, supplying the private banks and business banks with credit so their insolvency seldom risks threatening their existence (and the well- being of the general economy). There are of course ethical and societal concerns with this arrangement, as it serves to collectivize the risks undertaken by major private entities. That means that when the pile of debts are threatening banks with bankruptcy, the public is punished for the mismanagement of the economy by the banks by having to bear the brunt of the costs – through stimulus packages aimed for financial institutions, and later through austerity, tax increases and reductions in public expenditure aimed towards bettering the situation for those who are in most need of such remedies.

The system has however been exceptionally resilient, and since 1929, we have only experienced few crises on a global level. This seeming stability is however dependent on another factor – exponential economic growth.

Why we are destroying the Earth

Exponential economic growth is actually about more than improving human livelihood on Earth. It is an imperative and a necessity for the continued existence of the current debt-fueled monetary system.Reduced growth forecasts are not only a threat to the well-­being of the employees and businesses, but also a long-­term threat to the very viability of the financial system.

Economic growth means that the economic activity must rise during this year compared to the last year in terms of the monetary value that is flowing through the system.Much of policy- making in the developed world is about maximizing economic growth. This inevitably leads to an economic system where there is an incentive to try to increase consumer demand, produce things as cheaply as possible and get them out on the market as fast as possible.

That culture is very problematic.

Because the most economically sensible cost­-cutting solutions prioritized by a system that emphasizes economic growth above everything else, are just the kind of policies that are ravaging our planet, homogenizing her environments to suit the needs for agro-­industrial activities, destroying fresh-­water reserves and are responsible for the transformation of her climate.

In short, a monetary system built on debt is dependent on exponential growth and will collapse without it, since the debt will accumulate over time and needs to be continuously repaid. The wealth needed to repay the debt and grow the economy is to a large degree taken from the Earth, to the point that we are now destroying the biosphere. Therefore, we need to move away from this current debt-­based currency system, and move towards a system based on how our planet’s systems are operating.

Energy

Energy Accounting

Background

If you have read our article about the problems with the current monetary system, you know that it is addicted to exponential economic growth – something which is impossible within the near absolute constraints of a finite world. This can only mean one thing, and that is that we need to transition towards a different way of resource management – and one that can fulfill the three criteria outlined in this website.

Read more: Energy Accounting

Energy – the currency of the Cosmos

One of the set of governing laws that defines our Universe is Thermodynamics. There are four laws of Thermodynamics which together determine how matter and energy works.

  • Zeroth law of thermodynamics: If two systems are in thermal equilibrium respectively with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other. This law helps define the notion of temperature.
  • First law of thermodynamics: When energy passes, as work, as heat, or with matter, into or out from a system, its internal energy changes in accord with the law of conservation of energy. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the first kind are impossible.
  • Second law of thermodynamics: In a natural thermodynamic process, the sum of the entropies of the interacting thermodynamic systems increases. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible.
  • Third law of thermodynamics: The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero.[2] With the exception of non­crystalline solids (glasses) the entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically close to zero, and is equal to the log of the multiplicity of the quantum ground states.

The laws of thermodynamics in short means that every action in the Universe comes with a cost in terms of energy. Each system contains an energy reserve, which is called exergy. The term applied for the energy consumed in direct utilization of production is called emergy.

Since every action costs energy, that means that industrial operations, but also actions intended to remedy environmental effects, can be measured in their energy costs. This means that it is possible to calculate an economic system from a physical basis, namely how much energy an entire industrial process is taking into account. 

The Energy Survey

The Energy Survey as envisioned by the EOS is a process where the Earth’s carrying capacity is continuously measured. Such measurements do exist today as well, and studies show that we are using far more than what the planet can renew every year. The plan with the Energy Survey is to provide data about the ecological and economic situation of the Earth.

Out from this survey, we will move out slightly less than 100% of the Earth’s renewal capacity. That amount would be the resources available for human economic utilization. That means, per definition, that under the system of Energy Accounting, it would not be possible to use more resources than the Earth can provide for.

The Energy Units

The available energy in terms of the renewal capacity of the Earth will be distributed to each human being. The distribution means that each human being will be given an “ownership”, or rather “usership” of an exclusive amount of the Planet’s renewal capacity. The distribution can happen in several ways. All human beings can be given a specific amount just because they need to live and survive for example. People can be compensated for how many hours they work as well, or for their participation in innovative projects and the popularity of said innovations. All three ways to give people access to the resources can be employed simultaneously as well, and the system does not need to be homogeneous throughout the world. Energy units are distributed for a specific period, dependent on the Energy Survey. When the Energy Survey has updated, the amount of Energy Units are reset and distributed out again. Some critique within the EOS has pointed out that this can incentive hoarding during the end of the measurement period. 

How to use Energy Units

Energy Units will be allocated by the citizens individually to the companies, cooperatives or sequences (collectively understood as “holons”) which build up the production system. People choose themselves what holons they want to order goods and services from. The cost of the product or service will be equivalent to the energy cost in terms of the energy that it will cost to extract the resources, produce the item, transport it to the consumer and then restore the extraction site and deal with other environmental costs.

This means that the more environmentally hazardous a particular operation is, the more it will cost in terms of Energy Units. This will incentive actors to produce goods and services which are more efficient and durable in terms of environmental effects.

There is a discussion within the EOS on how the time factor should be measured.  

Economic growth under Energy Accounting

We are not opposed to economic growth in itself. Our problem with the current system, the Debt­based Monetary System, is that it is addicted to exponential growth at all costs.

Under Energy Accounting, the situation will be different since we are basing the measurements of the Energy Survey of what the Earth can cope with on long terms. That means that in terms of the volume of resources we use, we will grow slower. However, the de­facto size of the economy will grow due to efficiency gains when items gradually require less resources, are made more modular and more durable, and when the infrastructure is transitioning towards a more sustainable system.

That means that we will experience deflationary growth, as the user will be able to obtain more and more through an individual Energy Unit, while the total amount of Energy Units will remain in a state of equilibrium in relation to what our planet is able to manage. 

Empirical testing

Energy Accounting works on paper, but before any system like that is going to be implemented, it has to be tested – within computer simulations, factories and local and regional socioeconomic environments. The goal of the Earth Organisation for Sustainability is actually to field test Energy Accounting and attempt to break it.

The reason why we want to do that is so that we can find the flaws with our proposed system and then adapt Energy Accounting after the results of our tests, in order to form it organically after the needs of reality. We are a scientific movement and strives to achieve certain objectives, not to dogmatically cling to certain systems. If Energy Accounting is proven to not work, we would still try to learn as much from the experiments and use the parts that work to improve either on the current system or on some other potential system.

If our system is proven to work, we will not try to install it globally tomorrow, but rather opt for a gradual transition, where the immediately pressing goal is to see to it that the world of tomorrow is fulfilling the three criteria.