Friday, October 26, 2012

One Cowichan


Tonight I attended an event at the Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre in Duncan BC to address the flow "management" of the historic Cowichan River. The intent was to bring together all the stake-holders and officials from all levels of government to explore everyone's wishes and try to find common ground.

These stake-holders included:
- a pulp and paper corporation with a 1960's licence to use water from the river for industrial purposes
- First Nations people who have lived on the river for thousands of years and have cultural ties to the salmon that spawn there
- cottagers who's "enjoyment" of their property may be impacted by fluctuating levels of the lake that feeds the river
- recreational anglers
Lots of luck with that!

As those in the crowd whispered revolutionary ideas like, "If we had left the trees, the lake and the river alone it would all have managed itself", the government bureaucrats showed slides of graphs and statistics and when that failed, un-furled a paper scroll with more axes and coloured lines . . . . . then fell silent.

The stake-holders voiced their disparate talking points, sometimes politely, sometime not so. Thankfully, no one mentioned the cultural significance of roasting marshmallows on the beach . . . . . then we all went home.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Canadian Sovereignty For Sale to Fuel Power and Money Addiction

Am I seeing this correctly? Could this possibly be happening to my country, Canada? Are we giving away our right to act as a sovereign nation to satisfy the greed of the filthy rich of our own country and an odd collection of others?

Despite the sham of reviewing the Nexen - China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) deal against our newly neutered laws, we know that the Harper Government will discard any opposition in secret and endorse the deal. This will give a "corporation" owned by the Chinese government the right to extract and process tarsand into diluted bitumen.

At the same time, Harper has secretly signed an agreement in Vladivostock with the Chinese president Hu Jintao to enact a "trade agreement" which will prevent Canada (the country he was supposed to be leading) from doing anything that could cause a loss of anticipated profit for CNOOC on their tarsand operations.

As a result of the above, the Government of China would be able to authorise the building of pipelines and ports to handle their tarsand products wherever in Canada they wished, and authorise the operation of whatever kind of tankers they wanted to use wherever they said on the Canadian coast. The Government of Canada, on the other hand, would not be able to exercise any control over these works and operations as doing so would impede the making of profits by the Chinese "corporations" thereby contravening the provisions of the so-called "trade agreement".

Please tell me I am missing something here. Please tell me that the air, water, food, land and other resources that my grandchildren will need to survive will not be under the control of foreign governments seeking nothing but control over Canadian resources and the money that comes from destroying them.

If I am completely out of whack with my assessment of this situation, please point me to a genuine and believable alternate assessment that leaves control over these resources and their use in the hands of the Canadian people and I will do my best to distribute it as widely as possible. But spare me the bullshit about how our national security and my country and our environment and various species (including my own) will be capably looked after by the "honourable" members of the Harper Government. I can't think of a single reason for them to start looking after anything for the benefit of the ordinary citizens of Canada at this point.




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Friday, September 7, 2012

Enbridge's approved chart of the BC Coast

If there is anybody who has not yet seen this, it is Enbridge's idea of Douglas Channel linking Kitimat with Hecate Strait. In reality, about 1,000 square kilometres of islands dot the channel making it considerably harder to navigate with a super-tanker than this view of a 20 to 30 kilometre wide, unimpeded waterway would indicate. Enbridge explained that the image was meant to be "broadly representational".

In the spirit of "broadly mis-representaltional" imagery, this shows approximately where the supertanker shown in the image above would be, hard aground on Hawkesbury Island at an elevation of about 500m. With the cloud and the viewing angles involved, the location might actually be in Evelyn Lake which would seem much more appropriate except it would be hard to imagine how the Captain and crew could have put her in there without some damage to the hull - mega-tsunami perhaps. No real problem with getting out, just wait until enough fossil fuels have been burned to raise the ocean level to the point where she could be driven out.

This is a true (Google Earth) representation of Douglas channel from about the same vantage point as the Enbridge image above. Imagine how the captain of the first super-tanker in would feel as he looked at the 'special' chart supplied by Enbridge and compared it with the view ahead.

A satellite view of Douglas Channel from Kitimat to Hecate Strait and yes . . . the islands are all there all right.


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

I am (not Steven Harper's) Canadian

In March 2011, a petition to the Government of Canada was initiated in response to  a directive that "reference to 'Government of Canada' should be replaced by 'Harper Government' in federal communications"; the petition was worded as follows:


We, the undersigned, call on the Government of Canada to cease official reference to itself as the "Harper Government".

This is not just Stephen Harper's government. It is the government of the Canadian people. 

Our country is not Stephen Harper's Canada. It is a democratic Canada. 

I am not Stephen Harper's Canadian. I am Canadian.

We demand that all official references to the Canadian government continue to use "Government of Canada". Any official reference to "Harper Government" should be immediately ceased.


As the petition was initiated by Canadian citizens and signed by over 19,000 of them it was, of course, ignored. 


Personally, I have been happy to refer to "the harper government" in my writing as it points out the illegitimacy of the group of arrogant ideologues that has usurped the constitutional authority for the governance of our country.


Also, as there is apparently no "Government of Canada" at the present time, any efforts to wrest power from this group could not be construed to be insurrection against a legitimate Government. In the event of a revolution this vacuum should legally void any counter efforts aimed to quell such revolution.


Perhaps this abdication by the Government of Canada provides an opportunity to reclaim what used to be our country before it is taken over by the United States of America with the collusion of the government of harper.




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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Biochar Solution

I have just finished reading "The Biochar Solution" - Albert Bates (2010)



Although biochar represents only one piece of a solution to one of a large number of future crises, this is still the most hopeful book I have read about the survival of the human species in a couple of years. The problem of course, is that for any small step in the right direction to be taken, a majority of people all over the world would have to accept the scientific evidence of the plethora of looming crises (virtually undisputed within the scientific community) and then convince their 'leaders' that something should be done — we are a very long way from clearing either of these hurdles at the moment.


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Monday, June 25, 2012

Gone forever, Lonesome George dies

Lonesome George, the last remaining tortoise of his kind and a conservation icon, died on Sunday of unknown causes, the Galapagos National Park said.

George was believed to be around 100 years old and the last member of a species of giant tortoise from La Pinta, one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos. Tortoises were hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction, while their habitat has been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland.

Take plenty of pictures of your grandchildren and great grandchildren now, there will nobody to record the last of their species when the time comes.




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Friday, June 8, 2012

Standing in the Circle of the Cedar

Please watch and listen to this beautiful and poignant plea to save the BC coast from the greed of Big Oil and the complicity of "our" government.




The thought, talent and emotion embodied in this work should cause every thinking person to reject the kind of false imperatives that would put the beauty of the world around us at grave risk in order to enrich those who are already mired beyond redemption in materialism.

If you feel even a little like I do, please vote for this song.


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Monday, June 4, 2012

A Repost of an Article by Kevin Grandia


Desmog Video Mordor found in Northern Alberta (via Desmogblog)
Following up on an article I wrote last week for Huffington Post Canada, a commenter suggested that the Alberta tar sands looked like a real-life version of Mordor, the home of the evil Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.  I agree. So does that make Stephen Harper Gollum?  (click to enlarge…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A New World — A New Humanity

With this post I am going to flesh-out an idea that has been nagging at me since I first started reading about world crises and the people and organizations that dedicate themselves to finding and implementing solutions. My contention is that there is enough passion, enough energy, enough ideas and ingenuity, enough tools and resources and even enough time and money to build the world of justice and peace and we seek. Unfortunately the efforts to do so are fractured, priorities are not set on a coordinated basis, in short, there is not enough attention being paid to the “Big Picture” that we want to change.

One effort to amalgamate these various energies is being worked on by Nick Fillmore, he calls his idea the Campaign to Build One Big Campaign. This may well be the place to start but I am going to propose a little different approach.

In order to achieve a workable structure without positing yet another hierarchy (hierarchies are something that I abhor btw) I am going to pick one existing organization and suggest building what I see as the necessary adjuncts onto it. As “I AM CANADIAN”, I will look at a Canadian solution which could then spread without limits. This does not mean being limited to ideas from Canada, it means taking the best that can be found, adapting them first to the Canadian context and then loosing them on the world. Big concepts? Absolutely. But, if we refuse to accept limits imposed by existing society, there is no reason to impose our own.

Without more ado, I am going to propose The Council of Canadians as the base structure on which to build the-most-important-organization-the-world-has-ever-known (there is also no reason to impose humility on ourselves). Why CoC? - they are well established, have a good history, have a high profile but, most importantly - this is their “Vision Statement”.

So, what's missing?

  1. A “Mainline News” presence.

  2. At present, we have no way of talking to the potatoes on their after-dinner couches, watching CBC, MSNBC, CTV, CNN, Faux News etc. and thinking that the corporate sponsored content they see represents reality. We have some excellent alternative news services – rabble.ca, Media Co-op, and the Tyee all do excellent and unbiased reporting. There are a number of others.

    As a model for how to do it, we can look at Aljazeera english. As they are not able to get network status and time from North American Gov'ts, they use their website and YouTube videos to provide real-time coverage on the Internet. As the coming generation of TV monitors will access the Internet with increasing ease as time passes, this provides a ready-made and pretty easy solution for those who don't seem to be able to think beyond the remote control for their TV. One more time - there is still a disconnect between those who use the internet, alternate news sources and social media to spread and access news and other information (young, relatively non-wealthy and non-powerful) and those who still use newspapers and TV network news (older, wealthier and more powerful). If there is ever to be any degree of acceptance by those in the second group that there are crises in the offing or that something needs to be done, the message has to be hand delivered to their living rooms and compelling enough to prevent at least some of them from simply clicking back to their usual and more comfortable channels.
  3. A Government-in-Waiting political presence.

  4. In order to make the changes to institutions, systems and the various governance organizations which presently exist, there has to be the promise of something better and a way for the populace to envision the transitioning process. This requires a government-in-waiting which, in the case of violent revolution is often the Military or perhaps a radical Opposition Party. We are looking at a non-violent revolution (NVR) and we want to be in a position to identify to ourselves and to the public who that is and how it will function.

    My choice for this entity would be The Green Party in all its local, provincial, national and international incarnations. The Green Party is globally established but locally approachable, its principles are consistent yet flexible and it has far more international respect than its electability in North America would indicate. Here's the kicker – The Green Party's greatest asset would be its lack of baggage from having worked extensively within the corrupt political systems that are to be replaced.

  5. Horizontal (democratic) vs Vertical (hierarchical) organization

  6. We are accustomed to all our institutions being organized in a vertical manner. From the corporation with the CEO at the top and the minimum-wage, part-time worker at the bottom, the religious organization from the Pope down to the congregation, the government from the President down to the elector or the NGO from the Chairperson to the member we see only top-down management. We attempt to give the impression of distributing power more justly by talking of bottom-up or grass-roots input but the final result always has some element of being non-democratic and non-equitable.

    True democracy is seen in the organization of the Occupy Movement and in at least parts of the Arab Spring uprising where decision making is accomplished through a General Assembly process and leadership arises spontaneously to meet current need. An excellent picture of horizontal organization is painted by Judy Rebick in her book Transforming Power: From the Personal to thePolitical. Society is transformed, everyone is empowered and justice is served within this model of true democracy like nowhere else.

    If this sounds like Anarchy, it is - but only if Anarchy is properly defined and understood. Here is a definition:

    "The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society - that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants."

    This is from an article by David Graeber for Aljazeera. This is the best description I have read of the current movements to achieve worldwide justice (I guess I could quit here - but I won't). While I am not saying that I think the Council of Canadians should declare themselves as anarchistic, I am suggesting that all of us who are trying to forward social justice should be constantly and consciously aware of thinking like anarchists - as defined by David Graeber.

  7. The amalgamation of literally hundreds of targeted organizations, their members, their directors, their fund-raising efforts and their ideas.

  8. I have heard numbers in the 10,000 - 20,000 range for  'Charitable Organizations' or N.G.O's extant in Canada. I realize these are two, technically different kinds of organizations but the terms are often thought of as reasonably synonymous, especially by those who are being asked for donations. Also, they often do a lot of similar or overlapping work with the main difference being who is asked to do the funding and at what cost to integrity.






Keep tuned, more yet to come —



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Monday, May 21, 2012

Who could believe this?

I would hope that, to most readers of this blog, the material referenced below would read like something produced by a raving lunatic. However the writer, the late Julian Simon was a longtime business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. The material is from Simon's 1981 book "The Ultimate Resource" as presented in Richard Heinberg's "The End of Growth" - 2011.
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In his book, Simon declared that there can never be overpopulation because having more people just means having more problem-solvers. How can resources be infinite on a small planet such as ours? Easy, said Simon. Just as there are infinitely many points on a one-inch line segment, so too there are infinitely many lines of division separating copper from non-copper or oil from non-oil, or coal from non-coal in the Earth. Therefore, we cannot reliably quantify how much copper, oil, coal, or neodymium or gold there really is in the world. If we can't measure how much we have of these materials, that means the amounts are not finite — thus they are infinite.

It's a logical fallacy so blindingly obvious that you'd think not a single vaguely intelligent reader would have let him get away with it. Clearly, an infinite number of dividing lines between copper and non-copper is not the same as an infinite quantity of copper. While a few critics pointed this out (notably Herman Daly), Simon's book was widely praised nevertheless. Why? Simon's book was saying something that many people wanted to believe.

Simon himself is gone, but his way of thinking is alive and well in the works of Bjorn Lomborg, author of the bestselling book "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and star of the recent documentary film "Cool It". Lomborg insists that the free market is making the environment ever healthier, and will solve all our problems if we just stop scaring ourselves needlessly about running out of resources.

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Perhaps there are actually people who believe this sort of drivel, as difficult as I find that to understand. However, there are definitely people with various qualifications that afford them believability who can be paid to say such things and thereby corrupt the knowledge and understanding of humanity. Some of these falsifiers have been publicly identified but perhaps many more have not. Wealthy corporate interests and their bought-and-paid-for puppet governments would see purchasing and spreading such lies as simply part of the cost of doing business.


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The End of Growth

I am presently reading "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg (2011). The book points out the many absurdities of currently accepted Economic Theories and how such unquestioning acceptance has brought us to the brink of catastrophic disaster.

Below is an excerpt which seems to me to be as clear, understandable, and true as anything I can think of but apparently seems to others as ludicrous. Perhaps the difficulty of agreeing on the probability of future events comes down to understanding that our views of the world and our place in it are so widely divergent that for many, there is simply no common experience and no common language with which we can communicate.

"Which brings us to the global [financial] crisis that began in 2007 - 2008. By this time the two remaining mainstream economics camps - the Keynesians and the neoliberals - had come to assume that perpetual growth is the rational and achievable goal of national economies. The discussion was only about how to maintain it: through government intervention [Keynesian] or a laissez-faire approach that assumes the Market always know best [neoliberal] . . . . .


. . . . .  The ideological clash between Keynesians and neoliberals (represented to a certain degree in the escalating all-out warfare between the US Democratic and Republican political parties) will no doubt continue and even intensify. But the ensuing heat of battle will yield little light if both philosophies conceal the same fundamental errors. One such error is the belief that economies can and should perpetually grow. 


But that error rests on another that is deeper and subtler. The subsuming of land within the category of capital by nearly all post-classical economists had amounted to a declaration that Nature is merely a subset of the human economy - an endless pile of resources to be transformed into wealth. It also meant that natural resources could always be substituted with some other form of capital - money or technology. The reality, of course, is that the human economy exists within and entirely depends on Nature, and many natural resources have no realistic substitutes. This fundamental logical and philosophical mistake, embedded at the very core of modern mainstream economic philosophies, set society directly on a course toward the current era of climate change and resource depletion, and its persistence makes conventional economic theories - of both Keynesian and neoliberal varieties - utterly incapable of dealing with the economic and environmental survival threats to civilization in the 21st century."



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Friday, April 20, 2012

My take on the Alberta Tar Sands



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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Something good this way comes . . . for a change


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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The "Heart of the Fraser"

Here is a short video about places and things we take for granted. Many of us drive through this area and never give it a thought, I for one have driven past this place for over 50 years and knew nothing about it.

If I was a 'Developer' I would have made a point of finding out about the potential for generating wealth from this area and I might have found out that potential was excellent. As a result I would now be wealthy, the fish would be gone, the river polluted, the area destroyed, I wouldn't give a damn and most of the rest of BC would be driving by without giving it a thought.




I found this video on The Tyee — it was submitted by Raif Mair.




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Sunday, April 1, 2012

From "Transforming of Power" - Judy Rebick

This is another wonderful book - you should read it. Just in case you don't, I will give you a taste . . . . .

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"Solidarity with indigenous peoples today is not just a moral question of righting the wrongs that our ancestors did and that our governments continue to do. Nor is it just a strategic question of recognizing that indigenous peoples around the world are at the forefront of the battles to protect the earth from further destruction from industrialization. It is also the fact that some indigenous peoples have memory of the knowledge we need to survive in a world in harmony with nature and with one another."

"It is no accident that, in an historic period in which we need some new solutions to the problems which modernization has created, the courageous warriors who survived the genocide of colonialism — whether the outright slaughter, the disease, the small reservations, or the theft of their land, their children, their language, and their culture — are now coming to the fore and providing leadership and wisdom for the struggles ahead."
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The author then quotes an article written by Evon Peter, former chief of the Neetsaii Gwich'in from Arctic Village in northwest Alaska and Executive Director of Native Movement. While the article was written by an American about America, circumstances are precisely the same in Canada.
__________________________________

"There is only one path that I see for America to truly become a land of life, liberty and justice for all. That path is to heal itself through an uncompromisingly honest acknowledgment and thorough addressing of its atrocities and lies. Without this, our country will continue to act out of ignorance, fear, greed and an obsessive need to forcefully control human lives, both domestically and internationally."

"Humanity has experienced time and again how a history rooted in dysfunction and unsustainability feeds the fire of self-destruction. As sure as the Roman Empire collapsed and a drug addict smiles as his last dose ushers him to death, the United States will continue to blindly and, in some cases, consciously inflict suffering at home and abroad if it does not acknowledge and address the truth of its past and current actions."

"There is a path that can free us from this cycle and help to transform the world. It is not an easy path, but it is necessary if we hope to prevent the loss of millions of human lives. We have the resources, knowledge, technology and time to make a transition, but the question is: Do we have the courage and the will to face truth and act from a place of humility, patience, compassion and conscience? How successful do you think Jesus, Muhammad or Buddha would have been in sharing their teachings with a tainted heart and a distraught, fearful mind?"

"We must begin by acknowledging and addressing the foundation upon which America was built – stolen land and the genocide of American Indians. The United States has never apologized to American Indian people for these violations. This country has demonized Hitler and erected Jewish holocaust museums, yet refuses to acknowledge its own acts of genocide."

"An apology or museum alone would not heal the wounded hearts and disempowered governments of indigenous peoples or the tainted heart of America. There is one great, critical lie that the U.S. government has effectively taught to Indigenous and non-indigenous Americans alike – that there is no way for the United States to honor its treaties with American Indians and pursue new treaties with those not yet afforded that opportunity, including Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian indigenous nations."

"This great lie is only as true as we Americans accept it to be. There were similar lies told in our country’s history to women deprived of a voice and to African slaves. In the case of abolishing slavery it took a radical shift in human consciousness, a courage and will to overcome, and a changing national economy, as well as a forced acceptance upon many Americans who were not ready for the positive evolution of our country. As painful and challenging as it may be for many Americans, we must begin our healing by dispelling this great lie and moving through a process of reconciliation with American Indian nations."

"Our inability to adequately address the many critical issues facing American people today are symptoms of a United States that harbors a tainted heart. Reconciling our relationship with American Indian nations is the first step to building a foundation upon which life, liberty and justice can be attained for all."


This article originally appeared on the Web at - Indian Country Today.

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Not Our Budget

This is a very well produced video, especially on short notice.

As with those in the video, this is not my budget, this is not my government and the process that put this government in its perceived position of power is no longer of any relevance to Canadians.

It has now become the responsibility of Canadians to restore democracy to our country and to protect Canada from the devastation being done by the Harper government. We must refrain from violence and we must practice the democracy that our 'government' refuses to acknowledge.




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Saturday, March 17, 2012

A current book about how we are doing (not very well)

Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse,

David W. Orr - January 2012

Singled out as "one of the country''s leading environmental thinkers" by Bill McKibben in the New York Review of Books, David W. Orr offers an exacting analysis of where we are in terms of climate change, how we got here, and what we must now do. Orr shows how political negligence, an economy based on the insatiable consumption of trivial goods, and a disdain for the well-being of future generations have brought us to the tipping point. We now face a long emergency of rising temperatures, rising sea-levels, and a host of other related problems that will increasingly undermine human civilization. Down to the Wire is a major wake-up call.


But this is not a doomsday book. Orr offers a wide range of pragmatic, far-reaching proposals - some of which have already been adopted by the Obama administration - for how we might reconnect public policy with rigorous science, bring our economy into alignment with ecological realities, and begin to regard ourselves as planetary trustees for future generations.



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Friday, March 16, 2012

More Miserable Than Ever Before

It may be that the "Me . . . . . Generation" has become so lost in trivialities that it cannot be conscious of its own peril. If so, the young people of today will be as complicit in the extinction of humanity as are we who have carried out a lifetime of planetary destruction.

If this is true, should we ask ourselves if it is worth our time and effort to try to save future generations from themselves? The answer is still "Yes" because we have a moral responsibility to the future created by our ability and imperative to reproduce our species. This responsibility extends beyond our children to encompass the totality of life on Earth, most if not all of which is being threatened by human activity.

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They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today's young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young.

The findings go against the widespread belief that environmental issues have hit home with today's young adults, known as Millennials, who have grown up amid climate change discussion and the mantra "reduce, reuse, recycle." The environment is often listed among top concerns of young voters.

"I was shocked," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is one of the study's authors. "We have the perception that we're getting through to people. But at least compared to previous eras, we're not."

Twenge, author of the book "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before," has spent much of her career publishing work that challenges or attempts to explain commonly held beliefs about young people.

. . . . . read the full article

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" So too every being has rights to be recognized and revered. Trees have tree rights, insects have insect rights, rivers have river rights, mountains have mountain rights. So too with the entire range of beings throughout the universe. All rights are limited and relative. So too with humans. We have rights to the nourishment and shelter we need. We have rights to habitat. But we have no rights to deprive other species of their proper habitat." — Thomas Berry - The Great Work 1999



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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We're gonna have a Rev-o-lu-tion

I woke up this morning, you were on my mi_i_i_i_i_ind - no - I woke up this morning thinking about Quaility of Life. Gotta get back from the 60's! I have felt, indeed known for at least 30 years that the quality of my life has been on a slippery, downhill slope. As my Standard of Living has risen, my Quality of Life has fallen in a relatively constant and inverse relationship. A first look at my Twitter account had a tweet that pointed to a story about people who are more concerned about Q-O-L than about S-O-L and who are willing to make real sacrifices to back up their values, even when no one is willing to listen.
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"Journalists wouldn't be able to do their jobs without whistleblowers. Theirs is the lone voice emerging from the din, the one that tips us off, gets us started, delivers the key documents, provides an insider's view of an otherwise unknown world."

Consider the case of Leyla Wydler, a broker who, back in 2003, sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about her former employer, the Stanford Financial Group. A year earlier, it had fired her for refusing to sell certificates of deposit that she rightly suspected were being misleadingly advertised to investors. The company, Wydler warned in her letter, “is the subject of a lingering corporate fraud scandal perpetrated as a ‘massive Ponzi scheme’ that will destroy the life savings of many, damage the reputation of all associated parties, ridicule securities and banking authorities, and shame the United States of America.”

It was a letter that should have woken the dead and, as it happened, couldn’t have been more on target. Wydler didn’t stop with the SEC either. She also sent copies to the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the trade group responsible for enforcing regulations throughout the industry, as well as various newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. No one responded. No one at all.

In the fall of 2004, Wydler called the examination branch of the SEC’s Fort Worth District Office to relay her concerns. A staff person did hear her out, but once again nothing happened. More than four years later, as the aftershocks of the global financial meltdown continued to play out, the news finally broke that Stanford had orchestrated a $7 billion Ponzi scheme which cost thousands of defrauded investors their savings.

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Some surveys done in the US have indicated that the feeling of individuals' satisfaction with their lives was increasing until the mid 1960's and then began falling, a trend that continues to this day. The increased complexities and stress we have been building into our societies and lives is outpacing any increase in enjoyment.

The only thing we gain is a pile of junk which has to be disposed of by those we leave behind, thereby causing them extra stress and costing them time and effort. All of which ties in with the stresses we have put on the planet through our manufacturing, transporting, consuming and disposing of our junk — but that's my other story!



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Friday, March 2, 2012

Crisis Hits the General Consciousness - 50 years late.

Could this article in The Guardian be the mainstream media finally using the language that scientists and authors have been using for decades? This is the language that I have been reading in books written over the last 25 years and, I suspect, the language that scared the crap out of my parents when they read Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" in 1962.

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies.

In the face of an "absolutely unprecedented emergency", say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has "no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us".


Real scientists (not the kind that claim "Cigarettes won't hurt you" and "There is no such thing as man-made climate change") have been using this language to talk about the gathering storm of crises for many years. They have also been paying the price with their freedom to speak if they were unlucky enough to be working for the governments of industrialized countries.

Mainsteam news media, depending as they do on corporate advertizing for their revenue, have also never dared to use this language even though we depend on them to be the wordsmiths of our stream of knowledge.

So we are also faced with a crisis of self-induced ignorance which is bolstered by our elected 'leaders' and their corporate patrons and which goes un-countered by those we look to for our window on the world. This leaves us singularly unprepared to take action as we begin to realize that we are facing the most devastating destruction that the human species has witnessed and that it is largely of our own doing.

Deep inside, knowledgeable people are aware of impending catastrophe but seem transfixed in time and space and unable to speak or act. They must understand that continuing to support and live the status quo is simply deferring the inevitable and transferring the consequences of our actions to our descendants; not much of a legacy to give our grandchildren is it?

There are things that we can do as individuals. First and foremost, we can make ourselves aware of the facts, of what needs to be done and how to do it. We can also take every opportunity to insist that our political leaders, educators, journalists, family, friends and neighbours understand (as opportunities present themselves). This last part is important as talking when we should be listening is not only ineffective, but counter-productive. Under extreme circumstances, it can also get you a punch in the nose!

There are many organizations that promote awareness and organize action against the worst of the negative influences in society. By joining these and taking an active part, a person takes risks ranging from getting cold and wet to getting pepper sprayed, tear gassed, rubber bulleted and arrested. Refusing to take ANY risk is simply accepting the status quo but you can certainly pick the level of risk you are comfortable with. If you are more concerned with your social status than the survival of the human species, stay home and be a part of the problem instead of the solution.



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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My country's political system has fallen down and it can't get up.

When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.” Stephen Harper while Leader of the Opposition as quoted in the Globe and Mail Feb 26/12

Contrast the above statement by Stephen Harper with this opinion of the same Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada and its possible connection to irregularities with the 2011 Canadian federal election as written by Andrew Coyne (hardly a "pinko lefty") and reported in the Victoria Times-Colonist Feb 28/12

"In the case of the federal Conservatives, that predisposition to expediency is overlaid with a swaggering, bullying style, yet one that betrays a deep insecurity: the insecurity of a party that, for good reasons and bad, believes the system - the media, the bureaucracy, the judiciary - is stacked against it.

It is a party that believes it has had to fight twice as hard to get where it is, a belief that has only hardened through each of the many compromises it has made on the way. The progression is sadly familiar. Having first compromised its beliefs, a party finds it is easier to compromise its principles; having compromised its principles, it learns to compromise its ethics; and compromises of ethics, as we have seen in other parties, lead sooner or later to compromises with the law.
"

So why should I believe anything that comes out of his mouth? (BTW, I don't). Why should I believe in a political system that allows a bald-faced liar to become the so-called leader of my country? (I don't do that either). And why should I participate in a system that I don't believe in and that is broken beyond redemption? (So far, I do).

The only reason I can think of is that there is no obvious alternative to politics in place to pin our hopes on. Even so, I see no reason at all to have any hope for the electoral/political system now in place in Canada. It has been hijacked, stolen, abused, misused, broken and corrupted to the point that it is now an almost useless remnant of what was put together by committee 145 years ago.

Actually, there is an alternative, one that has been used by disenfranchised citizens around the world for millennia - Revolution. Revolution can be civil, non-violent, inclusive, empowering, unifying and effective. There is an excellent model to follow in the Occupy Wall Street movement which is bringing people together against oppression worldwide. And there is a specific issue to coalesce around in the hugely detrimental development of the Alberta tarsands and its attendant infrastructure of pipelines and tankers.

So, individual citizens CAN make a difference if they are willing to take some risk. If they are not, they will get whatever the elite let them have and will have no justification for complaint.


Postscript:
"Public faith in the 2011 vote is gone" is the headline of an article in today's Vancouver Sun Feb 29/12.



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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change

This is a book I have yet to read. The author has extensive academic credentials and has written about the issue of climate change politics over a period of some 15 years. He has also written several books relating to consumerism and over-consumption. Reviews of this, his latest book, indicate that he has essentially taken to talking about humanity in the past tense.


Description of the book from the publisher


This book does not set out once more to raise the alarm to encourage us to take radical measures to head off climate chaos. There have been any number of books and reports in recent years explaining just how dire the future looks and how little time we have left to act. This book is about why we have ignored those warnings, and why it may now be too late. It is a book about the frailties of the human species as expressed in both the institutions we built and the psychological dispositions that have led us on the path of self-destruction. It is about our strange obsessions, our hubris, and our penchant for avoiding the facts. It is the story of a battle within us between the forces that should have caused us to protect the Earth - our capacity to reason and our connection to Nature - and those that, in the end, have won out - our greed, materialism and alienation from Nature. And it is about the 21st century consequences of these failures. Clive Hamilton is author of the bestselling Affluenza and Growth Fetish, of Scorcher, and most recently Freedom Paradox.

About the author

An extended excerpt from the book



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From the Preface to "The World Set Free" - H.G. Wells (1913)

This book was written in 1913 and published in 1914, just at the beginning of "The Great War". The piece below was written in 1921 and is from the preface to a later edition hence the references to the abortive attempt to end war by the formation of the League of Nations between WWI and WWII.
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. . . . . It is the main thesis which is still of interest now; the thesis that because of the development of scientific knowledge, separate sovereign states and separate sovereign empires are no longer possible in the world, that to attempt to keep on with the old system is to heap disaster upon disaster for mankind and perhaps to destroy our race altogether. The remaining interest of this book now is the sustained validity of this thesis and the discussion of the possible ending of war on the earth.

I have supposed a sort of epidemic of sanity to break out among the rulers of states and the leaders of mankind. I have represented the native common sense of the French mind and of the English mind—for manifestly King Egbert is meant to be 'God’s Englishman'—leading mankind towards a bold and resolute effort of salvage and reconstruction. Instead of which, as the school book footnotes say, compare to–day’s newspaper. Instead of a frank and honourable gathering of leading men, Englishman meeting German and Frenchman Russian, brothers in their offences and in their disaster, upon the hills of Brissago, beheld in Geneva at the other end of Switzerland a poor little League of (Allied) Nations (excluding the United States, Russia, and most of the 'subject peoples' of the world), meeting obscurely amidst a world–wide disregard to make impotent gestures at the leading problems of the debacle.

Either the disaster has not been vast enough yet or it has not been swift enough to inflict the necessary moral shock and achieve the necessary moral revulsion. Just as the world of 1913 was used to an increasing prosperity and thought that increase would go on for ever, so now it would seem the world is growing accustomed to a steady glide towards social disintegration, and thinks that that too can go on continually and never come to a final bump. So soon do use and wont establish themselves, and the most flaming and thunderous of lessons pale into disregard.

. . . . . the question whether it is still possible to bring about an outbreak of creative sanity in mankind, to avert this steady glide to destruction, is now one of the most urgent in the world. It is clear that the writer is temperamentally disposed to hope that there is such a possibility. But he has to confess that he sees few signs of any such breadth of understanding and steadfastness of will as an effectual effort to turn the rush of human affairs demands. The inertia of dead ideas and old institutions carries us on towards the rapids.


Only in one direction is there any plain recognition of the idea of a human commonweal as something overriding any national and patriotic consideration, and that is in the working class movement throughout the world. And labour internationalism is closely bound up with conceptions of a profound social revolution. If world peace is to be attained through labour internationalism, it will have to be attained at the price of the completest social and economic reconstruction and by passing through a phase of revolution that will certainly be violent, that may be very bloody, which may be prolonged through a long period, and may in the end fail to achieve anything but social destruction. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it is in the labour class, and the labour class alone, that any conception of a world rule and a world peace has so far appeared. The dream of The World Set Free, a dream of highly educated and highly favoured leading and ruling men, voluntarily setting themselves to the task of reshaping the world, has thus far remained a dream.
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Five Orders of Human Consciousness

David C. Korten in his book "The Great Turning", lays out five Orders of Human Consciousness which I have greatly condensed and which are presented below —
GET THIS BOOK AND READ IT!!

The first experience of consciousness takes place in the womb where we float effortlessly in the warm amniotic fluids. There is no beginning, no ending. There is no "I" and no "not I". Just to be is sufficient. For the first one to two years we learn to adapt to our physical world and to differentiate the "I" from the "not I". From this point on, we progress through some or all of the following five stages of increasingly mature consciousness.
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First Order: Magical Consciousness


A child of two to six years of age experiences a world influenced by magical beings, both friendly and sinister, such as those that exist in the classical fairy tales. Magical Consciousness is limited in its ability to connect the actions of the self and future consequences and cannot accept responsibility for such actions. Magical Consciousness depends on external figures to make things magically right.


Second Order: Imperial Consciousness


Transition from first order to second usually starts around age six or seven. A child at this age begins to dicover that many relationships are predictable and that actions have consequences, and begins to explore its ability to influence the world through its own actions. The Imperial Consciousness is able to acknowledge another person's point of view for purposes of calculating how to get what one wants but with little concept of loyalty, gratitude, or justice.


Third Order: Socialized Consciousness


Transition beyond the second order normally begins around age eleven or twelve. Coinciding with the onset of teenage rebellion, it brings a growing emotional intelligence and a recognition of the extent to which personal security depends on the mutual loyalty of the members of one's group in a sometimes hostile world. It also brings an ability to see one's self through the eyes of another and is capable of empathy.

Socialized Consciousness internalizes a play-by-the-rules, law-and-order mentality where fairness means a society that rewards those who work hard, leaves slackers to suffer their fate and demands retribution for wrongdoers. It adheres to culturally defined moral codes but lacks the ability to subject those codes to critical examination. It is the conciousness of those who have a "Small World" view defined by their immediate reference group and who expect that playing-by-the-rules will give them, their families and their communities a decent life. They do not yet grasp that complex system relationships may prevent whole classes of people from finding jobs or staying on the right side of the law.


Fourth Order: Cultural Concsiousness


Adulthood brings encounters with people whose cultural perspective is different from that of those in one's own group. The initial reaction to such encounters is often a sense of cultural superiority or even absolutism: "The way of my people is the only right way". A Cultural Consciousness is rarely achieved before age thirty, and the majority of those who live in modern imperial societies never achieve it, partly because most corporations, political parties, churches, labor unions and even educational institutions actively discourage it.

If, however, the Socialized Consciousness is secure in its identity, it may come to recognize that culture itself is a social construct and that cultural norms and expectations are subject to choice. This represents a profound step in the development of a true moral consciousness based on examined principles , and the beginnings of a capacity for cultural innovation. Those who have achieved a Cultural Consciousness are concerned with equal justice for all people not just for one's own kind, and they work to repeal or revise unjust laws.

Those who raise significant challenges in an imperial society are likely to be subjected to a loss of standing or outright rejection. However, because they have the capacity to question the dysfunctional cultural premises of Empire, those who have achieved a Cultural Consciousness are essential to the cultural renewal and maturation that the Socialized Consciousness suppresses as threatening to the established social and moral order. They have an "Inclusive World" view that sees the possibility of creating inclusive, life-affirming societies that work for all.


Fifth Order: Spiritual Consciousness


The Spiritual Consciousness, the highest expression of what it means to be human, manifests the awakening to Creation as a complex, multi-dimensional, interconnected, continuously unfolding whole. It involves coming full circle back to the original sense of oneness of the womb experience, but with a richly nuanced appreciation for the complexity and grandeur of the whole of Creation as manifest in each person, animal, plant, and rock. Persons who have attained a Spiritual Consciousness have an evolving "Integral World" view.

Spiritual Consciousness is the consciousness of the elder statesperson, teacher, tribal leader or religious sage that supports an examined morality grounded in the universal principles of justice, love and compassion common to the teachings of the most revered religious prophets. It approaches conflict, contradiction and paradox not as problems to be overcome, but as opportunities for deeper learning. Each encounter with diverse people and situations opens a window to a piece of reality previously hidden from the conscious mind. Eventually, what appeared to be disconnected fragments of experience link together to awaken a profound sense of the spiritual unity of Creation.

The Socialized Consciousness is prone to characterize persons who have achieved a Spiritual Consciousness as lone contemplators disaffiliated from society because they disavow special loyalty to any group or identity. However, the Spiritual Consciousness simply transcends the exclusiveness of conventional group loyalties to embrace an identity that is inclusive of the whole and all its many elements. The sense of duty and loyalty once reserved for members of one's immediate family, ethnic group, nationality or religion now extends to the whole. To the Spiritual Consciousness, the satisfaction of living in creative service to the whole is its own reward.
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This post was transcribed directly from my website (below).


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Saturday, February 11, 2012

More thoughts from "New World New Mind" - Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich, 1989

This piece starts back when humans were still hunter-gatherers,   >15,000 years ago.

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". . . everybody could keep track of all, or almost all, of the relationships among the people in their tribe. In a society of one hundred people, typical of communities before the Agricultural Revolution, about five thousand relationships are possible between [pairs of] the different individuals* "

"This number is large, but possible to comprehend. One hundred is probably close to the "designed limit" [read "evolved limit" there is no indication the author was referring to the current term "intelligent design"] for human acquaintance — the maximum number of individuals with who a human being can reasonably interact at more than a superficial level."

"Today things are very different . . . it is impossible for one person to keep track of the 12 million possible relationships between 5,000 people — but many high schools in large cities have that many students . . ."

"The overload of information in modern society means that even the most brilliant and well-informed members can store only a small portion of the society's culture . . . This lack of familiarity of people with their culture can be a fatal flaw. Politicians often make critical decisions about issues ranging from the proliferation of nuclear missiles to AIDS in nearly total ignorance of the technical aspects of the problems involved. At the same time the scientists and technologists that politicians need to rely on for technical advice frequently have little grasp of the manifold social and political consequences of their discoveries."

"Unconscious cultural evolution developed in small-group, short time-horizon animals in full possession of their culture. It is inadequate to deal with a world overpopulated with individuals who are only partially in contact with their own cultures yet who must make critical decisions about the medium and long term. Unconscious cultural evolution has not led people to pay explicit attention to their biological or cultural evolutionary heritage."

"Cultural evolution has not compensated for the baggage of an outdated human perceptual system. It has not, for example, invented a cultural "time lapse" system for perceiving the gradual changes that human biological systems are incapable of sensing. It has not led to school curricula to convey the limits of the human perceptual system. It has not led to the establishment of governmental institutions that force politicians to pay attention to the long-term consequences of their actions. It has not generated TV programs designed to produce a widespread awareness of the diverse limitations and built-in biases imposed upon people by their biological and cultural evolutionary history. It has not provided provided us with an inventory of tools specifically designed to overcome biases."

"Cultural evolution has not even allowed most human beings to perceive that their familiar world results from and on-going evolutionary process, even as it has accelerated that process to unprecedented rates of change. It has not, therefore, given us the means of survival."


*Based on the formula   n(n — 1)/2
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This post is the second installment in what has become an on-going exploration of why humans cannot respond to crises that build up over an extended period of time. It should be read together with the previous post (Feb 9 - Homo sapiens, a classic misnomer — Excerpts from "New World New Mind" - Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich, 1989) and with the following two or three.


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homo sapiens, a classic misnomer — Excerpts from "New World New Mind" - Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich, 1989

This book was written 23 years ago and the problems facing humanity have shifted slightly in the interim, mainly because even more critical crises have emerged. Also some of the 1989 crises such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons have slipped from view even though they continue to be worrisome.

In some cases, 1989 crises have been renamed and re-defined to be more inclusive ̬
the problem of Greenhouse Gases is now Global Climate Change as the effects are becoming obvious, A.I.D.S. has become Global Pandemics as other diseases such as haemorrhagic fevers and animal/human influenza strains emerge. In any case the response by humanity to these potentially catastrophic problems remains slow, inadequate and generally faces opposition from those we choose to lead us.

In the book, Ornstein and Ehrlich present a hypothesis to explain how these anthropogenic crises are allowed to form and expand as potential remedies languish without support, and as public understanding seemingly remains non-existant. This hypothesis maintains that the biological evolution of the human brain can no longer keep up with the pace of cultural and technological evolution and, as a result we have lost the ability to control the systems that make up the human-created world of the 21st century.

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"Humanity, until very recently, lived almost entirely on its "income" — on solar energy captured by green plants in fields, on farms and in forests by the process of photosynthesis. Now, thanks to cultural evolution, humanity is living largely on its "capital" — non-renewable resources. Homo sapiens was the recipient of a one-time bonanza — whose use has shaped our societies and attitudes as nothing ever did before. The capital that we inherited included fossil fuels, high-grade mineral ores, rich agricultural soils, groundwater stored up during the ice ages, and above all, the millions of other species that inhabit the Earth along with us. Our total inheritance took billions of years to assemble; it is being squandered in decades . . ."

". . . In most cases that capital cannot be replaced any faster than it was originally produced, and yet we are spending it in one tenth to one millionth of its production time. In one year the United States burns in its automobiles more petroleum than the Alaskan oil field accumulated in 100,000 years, more soil goes down Haitian rivers in a day than soil building processes can replace in a year, and more species are exterminated in tropical forests than speciation could replace in a million years . . ."

". . . For some 4 billion years species originated faster than they disappeared. Our dependence on other species that thus accumulated cannot be overestimated. Without the descendants of three species of wild grasses — plants that we know as wheat, rice and corn — most people would starve to death, and civilization would disappear. Without many crucial medicines and industrial materials that have also been drawn from the library of other living beings that evolved along with us we would be much less healthy and prosperous. The potential of that library has barely been tapped, but Homo sapiens is rapidly destroying it . . ."

". . . Cultural evolution, by giving us the ability to live on capital, has made biological evolution completely inadequate as a way for humans to adapt to their environments. Time is too short: even a "rapid" change through biological evolution ordinarily takes hundreds of generations; a major change, such as the evolution of mammels from reptiles, ordinarily takes millions of generations. We are less than ten generations away from the time that human beings began, through the Industrial Revolution, to create the new world. We are only a few hundred generations away from the Agricultural Revolution, and but two thousand generations from the days of the Neanderthals. The human gene pool cannot change fast enough to make a creature originally suited to dodging spears suddenly suited to dodging thermonuclear warheads."
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This inability to comprehend and control the world we have created is echoed by Thomas Homer-Dixon in his 2000 book, The Ingenuity Gap.

"The challenges facing our societies range from international financial crises and global climate change to pandemics of tuberculosis and AIDS; they cross the spectrum of politics, economics, technology, and ecological affairs. They converge, intertwine, and often seem to be largely beyond our ken — incomprehensible even to our leaders and specialists."


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