At some point in the not-distant future—quite likely, during the next four years—the mushrooming impacts of climate change will rudely demolish the complacent edifice of denial that characterizes current political discourse. At that point, Americans will be asking questions like, “Why haven’t you done anything about this?” or, “Why is God punishing us?”
Send in the scapegoat.
Under the circumstances, picking a favorite in this race is a sucker’s game—even if one of the political parties is in some ways more delusional and opportunistic than the other, and even if one of the candidates seems more intelligent and public-spirited than his opponent. Choosing the better president won’t prevent further economic decline. Nor will blaming the scapegoat-in-chief offer any tangible relief when prosperity doesn’t return. The only way we can make things go better is to acknowledge reality and adapt to it. Since we’re not likely to get much help along those lines from our political leaders, it’s really up to us.
I’m a fan of David Korten, who has an uncanny ability to model economic worldviews very clearly. He has updated Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, which includes the following sign-posts of difference making behaviors.
To bring down the institutions of Empire, we must begin to build the rules, relationships, and institutions of a New Economy. These must be lived into being from the bottom up.
So how do you know whether your work is contributing to a big-picture outcome? If you can answer yes to any one of the following five questions, then be assured that it is.
1. Does it help discredit a false cultural story fabricated to legitimize relationships of domination and exploitation and to replace it with a true story describing unrealized possibilities for growing the real wealth of healthy communities?
2. Is it connecting others of the movement’s millions of leaders who didn’t previously know one another, helping them find common cause and build relationships of mutual trust that allow them to speak honestly from their hearts and to know that they can call on one another for support when needed?
3. Is it creating and expanding liberated social spaces in which people experience the freedom and support to experiment with living the creative, cooperative, self-organizing relationships of the new story they seek to bring into the larger culture?
4. Is it providing a public demonstration of the possibilities of a real-wealth economy?
5. Is it mobilizing support for a rule change that will shift the balance of power from the people and institutions of the Wall Street phantom-wealth economy to the people and institutions of living-wealth Main Street economies?
The following excerpt is from an excellent essay arguing for the economic virtue of copying. This is worth considering in light of the current anti-piracy mania dictating public policy around intellectual property. There is an ecological dimension to it, too: closed systems die, open systems evolve and prosper. I was thinking about what nature would be like if it were designed by the RIAA: The tree would sue the soil for growing new trees.
“But invaluable though innovation may be, our relentless focus on it may be obscuring the value of its much-maligned relative, imitation. Imitation has always had a faintly disreputable ring to it — presidents do not normally give speeches extolling the virtues of the copycat. But where innovation brings new things into the world, imitation spreads them; where innovators break the old mold, imitators perfect the new one; and while innovators can win big, imitators often win bigger. Indeed, what looks like innovation is often actually artful imitation — tech-savvy observers see Apple’s real genius not in how it creates new technologies (which it rarely does) but in how it synthesizes and packages existing ones.
The last decade has seen an explosion of copying in its various forms. Technology has made it easier to do everything from rip off a song to replicate the design of an engine, and rising powers like China and India are home to burgeoning industries dedicated to creating low-cost alternatives to cutting-edge, brand-name products, whether they’re cars, computers, or drugs. At the same time, researchers in the fields of biology, business, and economics are looking in detail at how and why and when copying works.
What some are finding is that it is a strategy that works much better than we think — whether for businesses, people, or animals competing in the wild. At its best, copying spreads knowledge and speeds the process by which insights and inventions are honed, eliminating dead-end approaches and saving time, effort, and money.”
The Supreme Court has spoken. Now let corporations have the last word!
Learn more at Murry Hill Inc.
I nice little feature on an inevitable corporate menace: Localwashing.
On Barnes & Noble (see graphic above):
Maybe you’ve heard of this cute little bookstore around the corner. It’s got a DIY-looking video blog with the tagline, “All bookselling is local.” Except when it isn’t.
I’m in the process of developing a malady called “astronautitis” in which I increasingly view the efforts to explore space a failure of imagination to find a way home to Earth. As Loren Eiseley argues in The Invisible Pyramid, the space program is not much different than the pharos trying to achieve immortality with their public works programs of yore. Eiseley goes as far to say that humanity is behaving like a slime mould in which it devours as much as possible before death so that it can shoot spores out into space in order to reproduce.
Anyhow, I like Dmitry Orlov‘s take on economics and observations about collapsing empires (Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects). What follows is a snip from his blog in which he discusses in an interview, among other things, the decline of technology as a result of resource depletion, and the fate of space programs.
DD: Recently on CNN there was a report about the U.S. mission to the moon. The Indians are planning to land there in 2020, the Russians and Americans in 2025, and the Chinese in 2030. I think that the popularity of conspiracy theories about the staging of those events is that we find it hard to imagine that we can not repeat the achievements of three decades ago without a huge effort. Meanwhile, examples similar to the lunar program are starting to occur more and more frequently. Experts say that Russia has lost the ability to produce modern weapons on a large scale for quite trivial reasons, such as lack of sufficiently skilled metalworkers, because the system of training them has collapsed. How justified are we in fearing that we (the world in general, not just Russia) are starting to slip back in time in terms of technology?
DO: In the end, the history of human trips to space will engender new myths: the primitive idols of the future will not be winged, but will sit astride rockets dressed in spacesuits. These trips were only possible thanks to large-scale industrial systems based on the use of fossil hydrocarbons, reserves which have already been exhausted, on average, about half. It will not be possible to exhaust them completely: the technological rollback has already started. It starts long before a particular resource is completely exhausted. To maintain homeostatic equilibrium, an industrial system requires a continuous flow of investment, and in order for this to happen capital must continually be created. If, say, the profitability of a coal mine is inversely proportional to shaft depth, it is enough to get to a depth at which the income is not sufficient to continue to update equipment, and the mine will close, regardless of how much coal there is left in it. But such a rational approach is rarely taken. Rather than make a difficult but timely decision, everyone begins to economize on safety, defer repairs, take on debt and so on. Periodically, the idea comes up that the situation can be improved if only everyone would show more zeal or ingenuity. We certainly all need some level of technology, and we all ought to stop to think hard which technologies can be sustained at a continually decreasing level of extraction of various natural resources. Instantly the thought occurs that aerospace technologies will not make it onto this list.
The first ad is the latest from Barclay’s Bank which seeks to distinguish itself from the financial fakers. Ironically, though, they seem to have aligned themselves with all the other sci-fi genre films dealing with false realities (such as Dark City, also posted above– see also The Matrix and Truman Show). The troubling thing for Barclay’s is that in all these dystopic scenarios, the only ones who have a grip on reality are the aliens, TV producers and machines with artificial intelligence. I guess this puts Barclay’s in like-minded company.