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.

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

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA



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

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA



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.

. . . . . 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.

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA



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 —

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.

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.

This post was transcribed directly from my website (below).

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA



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.


". . . 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

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.

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA



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.


"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."

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."

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Of Feedback Loops and Tipping Points, and Cabbages and Kings

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry,
You could not see a cloud, because,
No cloud was in the sky,
No birds were flying overhead,
There were no birds to fly . . . . .


One of the most frightening aspects of global climate change is the triggering of natural feedback loops. These loops begin with a natural process which is in a stable condition that can be destabilized by inputs beyond the usual levels found in nature. Once stability is compromised, the resultant outputs feed back as inputs and accelerate the instability until a "Tipping Point" is reached and an unstoppable, runaway condition is created.

A good analogy would be a young child anchoring an open boat in a still pond and then placing a single pebble in the bow section of the hull each day. During the first few months or even years, little if any visible effect would be detected. As time went by and the total mass of the pebbles grew, the change in aspect of the boat would become more apparent.

A boat design feature called reserve buoyancy would provide greater resistance as the instability grew but this would bring only temporary relief to allow time to re-balance the boat. At some particular mass of pebbles, the tipping point would be reached, the bow dip below the water's surface, water pour in at an accelerating rate and the boat would sink.

Depending on the size and design of the boat, and the size and specific gravity of the pebbles, this might take a lifetime or the task might even need to be passed on to another generation but, as long as the input of pebbles continued unabated and no offsetting process was initiated to re-balance the system, the boat would eventually sink.

Below are just three probable climate change feedback loops, these are having an effect already   —   there are more being identified:

Melting of Arctic Sea Ice

Warming of air or water causes a decrease in the average area of annual sea ice cover in the Arctic along with a corresponding decrease in albedo. Albedo is the fraction of solar energy reflected from the Earth back into space. It is a measure of the reflectivity of the earth's surface. Ice, especially with snow on top of it, has a high albedo; most sunlight hitting the surface bounces back towards space. Water is much more absorbent and less reflective.

So, if there is a lot of open water, more solar radiation is absorbed by the ocean than when ice dominates. This extra energy absorbed by the water increases its temperature and further decreases the area covered by ice, thus fueling the feedback loop.

With information from - Earth & Space Research

Thawing of Permafrost

"Permafrost contains carbon, accumulated from the decomposition of plants and animals over tens of thousands of years. Last September, researchers at the University of Florida estimated that more than 1,800 billion tons of carbon are stored in northern permafrost—twice the amount in the atmosphere today. In its frozen state, organic matter decays very slowly. But as the temperature rises and permafrost melts, the material breaks down rapidly, releasing carbon into the atmosphere."

"When organic matter degrades in dry air, carbon dioxide is emitted. And in wet soil or underwater, where there is little or no molecular oxygen, anaerobic bacteria break down the organic materials and give off methane. Both CO2 and methane are greenhouse gases [methane much worse than CO2]. As they are released into the atmosphere from permafrost, scientists predict that a disastrous cycle will emerge: The gases will trap hot air, raising the air temperature and melting the permafrost, releasing more carbon and further heating the planet [in a classic feedback loop]." - Popular Science

Carbon Sinking Capacity of Canada's Boreal Forest

"Scientists have identified the 1.2 billion acre Canadian boreal forest as the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystem remaining on earth. Rivaling the Amazon in size and ecological importance, Canada’s boreal supports the world's most extensive network of pure lakes, rivers and wetlands and captures and stores twice as much carbon as tropical forests. It teems with wildlife — including billions of migratory songbirds, tens of millions of ducks and geese, and millions of caribou. The Canadian boreal is an irreplaceable global treasure."

"Tree mortality due to regional drought in the western Canadian portion of the boreal forest grew at a rate of 4.9% per year from 1963 to 2008. Drought and warmer temperatures brought about by climate change has increased the extent of outbreaks of beetle and insect infestations which can contribute to tree mortality. Drier forests adds to increasing wildfire frequency, intensity and size which releases carbon and affects the forest's capacity to regenerate."

"Such interactions among climatic warming, ecosystem disturbances and forest responses represent potential positive feedbacks that could dramatically alter future carbon sink-source relationships in boreal forests. If this tree mortality continues to increase more rapidly than growth in response to climate change, this will reduce net forest growth, transform Canadian boreal forests from a net carbon sink into a large net carbon source, [triggering a feedback loop]." - Indybay

. . . . . "O oysters", said the carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run,
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none,
And this was scarcely odd, because,
They'd eaten every one.
Lewis Carroll - "The Walrus and the Carpenter"
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

MY WEBSITE   —   ANewHumanity.CA