THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2017
Per UN report, Our Common Future: “Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." —Brundtland Commission, 1987
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: REAL SOLUTIONS, FROM THE WIRES, SUSTAINABLE PROSPERITY
TUCSON (A-P) — Thirty years pass. "Sustainable development" has been a feel-good belief "chased for evermore by a crowd that seize it not." Two-thirds of the planet's pre-Anthropocene biomass and species diversity is slated for being assimilated by us Borg-like humans and our plant and animal mutualists (plus industrial sprawl) by the end of this century while ecomodernists and other Anthropocene enthusiasts, including sustainability theorists, envision a eudaimonic future (for humans) made possible by their wordsmithery and token endeavors.
That human supremacists are unable to ask why overconsumption/overpopulation issues are still ignored, denied, or obfuscated is ground-zero of the current Empire serving intelligentsia's failure to grasp the nature of things. We prattle on, as we have during two and a half centuries of exponential growth (to serve the Growth's Mandate narrative) as our predecessors prattled endlessly about God's Mandate (the divine right of Kings narrative) to serve their SYSTEM, and meanwhile "THE PACE OF PLANETARY DESTRUCTION HAS NOT SLOWED." [David Suzuki 3/24/2016]
A starting point is to envision policies that might actually work to enable complex societies to prosper long-term. So of interest is the set of all proposed policies that might actually work, which excludes political/politicized "solutions." In democracies you can only propose "solutions" that feel-good or otherwise appeal to majority self-interests. That some voters will become increasingly willing to buy into anti-growth save-the-world rhetoric as issues mount is likely, but don't expect any viable solutions to be forthcoming. During the growth phase of empire, virtually all political "solutions" work, or appear to, secondary to abundant, for a time, resources and energy. During climax, and increasingly during descent, no clever ape machinations or feel-good policies are going to work no matter how loudly the demagogues and their supporters yell or shake their fists.
At some point we will consider real solutions as distinct from political ones. Foundationally changing the social system, the rules of the game, such as was considered by the early twentieth century Technocracy movement, is imaginable as it would not violate any known laws of the universe, unlike the faith-based assertions of neoclassical economists who think humans are exempt from the first three laws of thermodynamics if they want to be, not to mention the forth and fifth laws of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. What we think the rules should be, what we vote for, legislate, write books about, or proclaim on social media is irrelevant. We don't determine what works. The set of real solutions that are sustainable, that might actually work long-term, is determined by the nature of things interacting in complex systems. We would do better if we were to listen to Nature and not the prattle of business-as-usual pundits.
As one who endeavors to listen to Nature, I also consider what those who also endeavor to listen are willing to share. They could be wrong, often are, as only Nature has all the answers. Our best and brightest may be wrong and I'm more likely to be wrong than the scientists and evidence-based scholars, so pray I beseech thee to not believe anything I type. Not only could I be wrong about everything, as in foundationally mistaken, but I'd love to be wrong. I don't like what I type nor dislike any seemingly unthinkable thought because Nature doesn't care what I'm for or against, like or dislike, so why should I? As I'd rather know than believe, correcting me is the highest value service anyone could provide, and I thank you in advance.
But enough prattle. In complex systems there are multiple solutions to the persistence of prosperity issue, but no one, from protists to Americans, gets a vote. The system (Nature) determines what works. Those who listen to primate prattle have no basis for understanding what works or how things work. Those who endeavor to listen to Nature, e.g. scientists and evidence-based scholars, may suffer hearing deficit disorders, but compared to everyone else, some of those who listen may actually know enough to have an opinion.
As alternative to evermore political "solutions," we would do well to consider multiple solutions that might actually work as envisioned by those who listen to Nature. Possible solutions vary from Jack Alpert's hydroelectric based high-power industrial society that preserves high-technology to Ted Trainer's "The Simpler Way" that preserves functional humans living cooperatively in a complex society of enough that would avoid subjecting residents to a Calhoun-like rat endgame experiment with the added stress of declining resources.
To mention a third putative solution, there's the Federation of Watersheds proposal, aka naturocracy alternative. Whatever the optimal size of a manageable unit is, replace political boundaries with watershed-based ones. If optimal size allows those living near the border to travel by human-powered vehicle to the central area in one day, then a 100 km maximum averaged radius is implied, which works out to a watershed (or subwatershed) size of 3.1415 million hectares or less. Convert the nearly 200 nation-states into 3,000 to 5,000 watershed management units. Interwatershed trade would be based on emdollar evaluation and population management (of humans, livestock, pets) would be a local matter. Failure of a watershed unit secondary to mismanagement (a failure to listen to Nature) would be allowed. Having our eggs in 4,000 baskets, instead of one global basket, would be adaptive, i.e. sane.
The Federation disallows a larger watershed (or remnant nation-state or horde) from subsuming (conquering) a weaker watershed management unit. All member watersheds support a citizen militia that normally provides for transport of goods between watersheds (as merchant-marines and merchant-rollers), but if any member watershed is attacked, all other watersheds are prepared to mobilize a defensive military response. This is a necessary precondition for the survival of complex societies above the tribal level but below the "human zoo" empire-builder size, per the last seven thousand years of human history, not to mention prehistory.
The Federation also disallows humans living in a watershed from subsuming all resources within it to convert all possible biomass into humans and their mutualist plants and animals. Humans may claim and manage (or mismanage) twenty percent of their watershed. Humans who agree to being Federation, to receiving Federation protection and benefits, who agree to not be a cancer upon the earth, may be more likely to live long and prosper.
How might humans transition? Assume that currently 0.0014 percent of humans might consider actually not being a cancer upon the earth (as distinct from believing that they are not). That's 100,000 humans. Most live in family units and many (e.g. children) are dependents. Perhaps 50,000 adult humans (0.0007% of current population) decide to try the Federation as alternative to the Borg-like collective currently assimilating planetary resources with plans for a solar system consuming Dyson sphere. Would-be refugees would be widely dispersed (1:1,500,000) and would be willing to secede from industrial society. This would involve liquidating their assets in industrial society and voting with their feet. Combining financial resources, they could, somewhere on the planet, buy most of the real estate within a watershed and self-organize a complex society along Federation guidelines (best guess of those who listen to Nature as to what might work, a guess then test iteration towards learning to live properly on the planet).
Over time the number of voluntary industrial society refugees increases from 0.0014 percent. If 0.014 percent, then ten, and if all were in the same region, they could quickly come to one another's defense. As belief in illimitable growth and human exceptionalism falters, the number of intentional refugees could reach 0.14 percent. A hundred watersheds would support considerable diversity such that multiple guesses as to what might actually work could be tried.
Imagine nine billion humans afoot and for some reason the rich aren't getting richer anymore (Elon Musk, who did not retire on Mars, is getting richer, but on average those who currently have machines washing their clothes are having to consider alternatives). As more consumers come to grasp the foundational unsustainability of the SYSTEM they serve, 1.4 percent could foresee that abandoning their Cruise Ship of Fools is an existential imperative for them, posterity, and all life on earth.
Such insight entails a life-driven purpose as distinct from a purpose-driven life. 'Life-driven' is about persistence of life concerns—one's own, one's family, one's community, and all other organisms who are one's fellow travelers on Spaceship Earth. 'Purpose-driven' references running in a wheel of 'Evermore' pursuing phantoms in a crowd who seize not the point of it all yet still seek to run faster to make the wheels spin to give them more dollars (for a time) like rats in a Skinner Box.
A thousand watersheds could create several islands of enlightened sustainability on Earth, as measured in millennia, while preserving information, the highest value flowers and fruit of empire. It is not enough that there be a remnant population within which no literate human may be able to pass on their memes to the next generation, much less the seventh generation. A ninety to one hundred percent loss of memetic information typically follows the collapse or "fading away" of complex societies (e.g. Akkadians, Cahokians, Canaanites, Classical Greeks, Cretans, Egyptians, Elamites, Harappans, Hittites, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Norte Chicoans, Olmecs, Phoenicians, Rapanuians, Sumerians, Vinčas, to name a few).
Part of the information that needs to be preserved, if only as best guess, is how to live cooperatively in a complex society, which could include what we haven't yet learned from the Kogi. If scarcity engenders conflict, and conflict wastes energy and resources to increase scarcity (as usual), then the downward spiral of complex society (as usual) will have no positive outcome. Of those who fight, they who prevail will inherit only the rubble and also loose. The pattern has never been played out on a global scale in the past seven thousand years of empire-building. No one knows what will happen. Foreseeing what is likely to become of empire builders living the unsustainable life in any detail (based on prior history and understanding of systems principles) is problematic, but answering a metaphorical "call to arms" is an option.
Assume the average watershed management unit could sustainably support a population of 30,000 humans by providing each with enough of what is actually needed to avoid dying a Malthusian death. Assume no fossil fuel inputs into the agricultural production system (or any other subsystem of the eco-nomy) with about a ninety percent reduction in agricultural output and that humans limit themselves to one fifth of their watershed's surface, then rapidly depopulating the planet humanely (sans Malthusian deaths, sooner being better), becomes imperative such that considering real solutions becomes thinkable.
If allowing humans to lord over twenty percent of a watershed seems unfair, it is. The rule is humans can choose any contiguous one-fifth area, and of course they will pick the most productive, so perhaps half of a watershed's environmental productivity will go to support humans and their plants and animals. To follow E.O. Wilson's call for a Half Earth, the human footprint needs to be limited to less than half of the land surface in order to "leave room for Nature" beyond token recreational areas for We the People.
Real solutions? Each watershed plans to take in 100,000 refugees per 10,000 sustainable population as determined by the nature of things—as assessed by best guess of systems ecologists. All refugees would well know what this means, because they will be told often enough to see the implications. Humans who do not or cannot agree with Federation policy will not seek refugee status. No human will be asked to join the Federation, let alone forced to. Each watershed stores enough grain, diverted from current production that is merely used to feed livestock for meat/egg/milk production, to feed the largely non-reporductive refugee population. The anoxicly stored grain would support the surplus population until each dies a natural death following a productive life of enough. Such fresh foods as can be grown locally will supplement the stored food. When the stored food is gone, the population will equal the carrying capacity of the twenty percent the humans claimed. In 30-50 years, each woman may have on average 2.1 children. This would be alternative to a one child per one woman policy that could take 300 years to reduce the human population (assuming minimal Malthusian deaths) to one what is sustainable while living on twenty percent of Earth's surface (a Half Earth or less in terms of environmental productivity).
All refugees work to build a sustainable, complex, cooperative society and pass on their memes if not their genes. All refugees agree to practice birth control with abortion as backup in case of failure. Assuming each lives the prosperous life of enough and dies a natural death, then to support a sustainable population of 30,000, 33 births per month are needed. All refugees are encouraged to "do the math" and no one gets to vote on the answer. Initially few could expect to have one child, but as the population declines by natural attrition the proportion of women who can procreate will rapidly increase. From the point of view of the seventh generation, transitioning as soon as possible by embracing the most prosperous (if counter-intuitive to those transitioning) way down will seem an obvious best solution to minimize human suffering and planetary destruction.
Denialism is not a Federation policy. Among those wishing to parent a new citizen of the Federation, each can take a number. A lottery with 33 winners each month would work. In temperate areas, perhaps one lottery a year with 396 winners in the fall to favor spring births would work better. Or maybe the rule is only elites can procreate. Thirty-three elite babies per month would also limit population, but who would serve them as they aged? Perhaps a complex society composed of elites managing commoner affairs wouldn't work long-term for reasons other than overpopulation/overconsumption. Equitable, plus or minus a barely noticeable bit, is what worked 98 percent of the past 300,000 years of human life with the planetary life-support system. Complex societies allow for elite privilege and without counter measures select for it, but complex societies do not require elite empire-building consumers to tell commoners, who consume less, when to fight.
Thousands of watershed management units will allow for diversity. Those who think that only by living like Americans can life be meaningful, can cluster about Jack Alpert's hydroelectric dams so they and descendants can live the high-power life for maybe another four hundred years (life expectancy of average hydroelectric dam). Those living in watersheds having less energy resources would do better to live Ted Trainer's The Simpler Way. Within all watersheds the Federation embassy would provide access to vetted information (via Fed Library) and in resource poor watersheds they could provide baseline medical and dental care for the low population within them, possibly semi-nomadic, as well. All citizens, insofar as possible by design, could live a prosperous life of enough during and after the transition by embracing a managed descent.
There are no references and only a few links above. Every sentence could be underlined and in blue, or have numbers after, but that would be a distraction. For more words with links, start at the home page.
That motley drama—oh, be sure
—E. A. Poe
"People would rather believe than know." — E.O. Wilson
"Nature has all the answers, so what is your question?“ – H.T. Odum