Chapter IV - Sustainability Principles or Guidelines - part 2
As human groups become larger and more complex, we tend toward establishing and expanding formal government, whether by a religious cast, or secular organization. All tend toward becoming kleptocracies, using the force of government to involuntarily take from those who produce and accumulate, whether to enrich the king and royal caste, or provide for an underclass that keeps the "generous" politician in power . Can human civilization exist without surrendering to the power of thieves?
What is the minimum "necessary" level of government, how to achieve it, and maintain it? Perhaps most significantly, can such be maintained against opposition that is organized in a more authoritative manner?
Business and political leaders advocate trying to attract new industries and populations to their areas, then complain and wonder what to do about the consequent increases in taxes, pollution, congestion, crime, costs, etc.
Political and business leaders use the circular arguments of self-fulfilling predictions regarding population growth, which then CAUSES population growth. Consider the process where projections of the "inevitable" future population growth in the area are made. Plans are then generated to ensure the infrastructure can meet the projected future “needs”. They then borrow to finance the needed expansion of basic infrastructure, ignoring real improvements for those already living there. Typically, programs are then put in place to attract the new business and residents needed to pay for the loans. When the new businesses and people move in, those who “predicted” the growth pat themselves on the back, and look to the future...
Dumping toxic waste on the land of the poor TEMPORARILY keeps it out of your personal ecosystem, but only temporarily. It must not be generated.
Growth means in the short term more votes and money for leaders, but only in the short term.
It is easy to talk about sustainability, but too often it‘s just talk, with no personal conviction, (i.e. Al Gore and his four children representing a 100% increase in the population in one generation.)
Many nations and their citizens will continue to believe that the environment can be preserved without the need of addressing population growth.
Re political leadership, consider the career of a politician who announces legislation drafted to remove incentives for a growing population. To attack the root cause of humanities problems, overpopulation, would lead to a short career. But it needs to be done.
"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Sir Winston Churchill
Those who feel they have a right to take from others will resist sustainability. It will be resisted by those who benefit from an expanding population, and by those who want to pander to the above.
Given present technology, it is unclear as to how the majority of the present population can be sustained.
We must however voluntarily attain sustainability, or it will be imposed, probably not in a pleasant manner.
Criminal Sanctions. Laws and police action tend to grow in areas where is easy to show "accomplishments", vs real protection, leading to an enlarged force with an emphasis in the wrong areas. That tossed out there must still be some means of maintaining order in disputes between individuals, to deal with fights, theft, assault, etc. Ignoring crime leads to a free-for-all.
Prisons as in place today are gymnasiums and institutes of higher criminal education, with a significant portion of the prison population consisting of those arrested for created victimless crimes, vs those who commit actual assault to person or property.
Taxation. Fee for service? At what level do you accept that you no longer get to decide who benefits from the fruits of your labor or investments? With a collapsing economy, tax revenues will fall, regardless of tax rates. Higher rates lead to greater avoidance, until either government is swept away, or becomes openly totalitarian.
Regulation. At what level do you accept that someone, not one whom you voluntarily submit to, is authorized to initiate force to make you change behavior, even though you are not harming anyone else?
1. Compassion which gives a drunk the means to increase his drunkenness is counter-productive. 2. Compassion which breeds debilitating dependency and weakness is counter-productive. 3. Compassion which blunts the desire or necessity to work for a living is counter-productive 4. Compassion which smothers the instinct to strive and excel is counter-productive. - Attributable to Benjamin Franklin
Why can’t we all just get along? Because there are those who would kill you for a jacket, the change in your pockets, to make a point, or for the fun they find in it. There are those who would hold a gun to your head to force you to comply with their whims.
Via oil, Americans are voluntarily helping to pay for the rope which will hang them. Via our own government, we are involuntarily taxed to pay for programs and policies that are contrary to our best interests.
A thug, is a thug. A terrorist, is a terrorist. The typical terrorist “cell” member has been told who to trust, and devalues everyone else. How does this differ from our politicians who mandate what you do, say, spend you earnings on, etc? The “enemy” of civilization, is first anyone with a birth rate higher than replacement who then seeks to force others to bear the consequences. It is anyone who insists that THEIR approach to civilization is one worthy to be imposed involuntarily on others at the point of a gun.
Whether you see it or not, we are engaged in a multi-front war. The object of war is not necessarily to destroy the enemy, but to destroy his will. Terrorists seek to do so with preemptive acts of violence. Politicians seek to do so thru a combination of promised government benefits, that must be funded by theft.
Regardless of what YOUR religion is, if it is NOT radical Islam, you are going to be involved in a religious war. Our civilization cannot continue to use resources at the same rate as at the turn of the millennia. Regardless of your personal resource use level and you are going to be involved in a resource war.
On September 11, 2001 the citizens on flight 93 did not sit on their hands. They used their cell phones, and discovered news of the World Trade Center impacts. When big government plans failed, it was the acts of free men that prevented the final flight 93 from reaching its terrorist intended target. What of security measures and gun control? Everyone on all of the flights, and in the two World Trade Towers would have been safer if every citizen had been armed.
You, your family, your community need to be “armed” with the information and abilities essential to resisting thugs, and terrorists.
Recognized terrorists do not want you to be armed, neither do the politicians who see you as their surfs.
Not everything we see today is practical or sustainable. We must salvage what we can and prepare to move on. We must prepare to survive the fall of the present infrastructure, which is a model of NON-sustainability.
What must be saved? What should be saved? What can be saved?
What should not be saved? What must not be saved? What cannot be saved?
Into the weeds...
What must be saved? Knowledge, skills, and technological capabilities. How much has been wasted in humanities history by the same discovery, invention, or even simple fact, being "rediscovered" multiple times?
Knowledge. I can't tell you off-hand which plants grow well with each other, and which can't stand each other. But I know the information is important to efficient gardening, and that the information is out there in books. I don't know which piece of information, invention, or discovery can or will become critical, so we need the maximum possible under whatever conditions we encounter. Post crash, I'd want to have access to an intact university, or at least city library. My own library is merely a few bookshelves of selected text.
Skills. Almost lost skills, such as blacksmithing, may need a revival. But if we lose skills such as precision surgery, bringing them back will quite probably be MUCH more difficult than resuming smithy work.
Teachers. What is the minimum level community expected to be capable of sustainably training specialized teachers of K to 12? (Or do we use the apprentice system?)
Medical. Continued practice of medicine requires either people get hurt and sick a lot, or a lot of people occasionally getting hurt or sick. I'd suppose that "apprenticeships" can/will return (for lots of purposes) if there is no formal university.
Technology. Even if it's a museum piece, like a Pentium computer that won't run anymore… A key point of mine is to avoid the folly of reinvention / rediscovery of the same thing, which has occurred OVER AND OVER in our history.
What should be saved? Examples of as many aspects of our present tools, technology, and even household items as can be practically managed, if for nothing else than eventual inclusion in a museum. In past (localized) collapses, the centers of civilization were abandoned to scavengers and the ravages of nature, with the loss of priceless cultural treasures.
What can be saved? If we have the will, we can save most of our present scientific and technological knowledge and technology. (I.e. a limited number of internal combustion engines can be run on biofuels.)
What should not be saved? Programs that foster or enable population expansion.
What must not be saved? Any attitude, program, operation, function, incentive, etc. which requires, promotes, or encourages an expanding population, or the use of a finite resource in a manner which, given present knowledge and technology, irreversibly precludes it's reuse in any other practical manner.
What cannot be saved? Most of the present human population, any part of the infrastructure dependent on cheap, abundant fossil fuels, in particular oil.
Sustainable civilization, can we achieve it? Edit
Humanity must transition as quickly and thoroughly as possible to a rational sustainable basis for civilization. "Sustainable" clearly implies the ability to continue for an indefinite period. Stepping back from indefinite, to a more readily understandable timeframe, consider just seven generations.
Physical Growth has Limits. A community may have "sustainable growth" in the economy, education, or development of technology or infrastructure, but applied to any material thing, or the population, it is an oxymoron.
Consider "housing starts". Construction of each new home added to the inventory is a drain on resources. In recent years wood construction has been decried as unfriendly to the environment. But wood is a renewable resource, and with reasonable care in construction and maintenance can last far longer then the time it takes to grow replacement trees.
It‘s not that building ONE house of wood adversely effects the environment, it’s that building an expanding number of houses to meet expanding population demands is bad. With that realization, new housing starts that would consist of digging a hole are also unsustainable.
With a variety of materials and designs, homes can be built to provide reasonable temperatures without the need for externally powered HVAC. They can be built to last hundreds of years to house generation after generation. But a stable population is a necessity.
Population growth has limits. Every defined area, whether political or geographic, has an upper limit of population and resource consumption that can be sustained by the local resources or by sustainable trade. We must eliminate any incentive toward population growth.
There are families who make the conscious decision to limit to two (and preferably for the immediate future) one child. This needs to be encouraged as a voluntary act, or it will have to be enforced involuntarily, whether by humans, or nature.
We're only borrowing the physical present from future generations. Sustainable development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We must also sustain human progress.
What compromises a sustainable civilization? Edit
Limited intrusion on natural ecosystems. No more than ten percent (10%) of the ecosystem is appropriated solely for human use. (At the present, estimates are that 40% to 50% of the biosphere is diverted to human use.)
Recycling. We must not be dependent on consumption of a finite resource. (Fossil fuels, mining, ancient groundwater, etc.)
Stable population. We must limit our own numbers.
Human enclaves. Living, working, food production, recreation, etc. are consolidated, with open space around and interspaced. Human communities can be "ecologically sound", with natural processes meeting our needs, such as "living machines" processing human sewage. BUT, an ecosystem optimized for human habitation is NOT COMPATIBLE with a natural ecosystem.
Consider: We can grow food in biointensive gardens, live in earth sheltered homes within walking distance of shops or stores… But do you want wild rabbits or deer in your garden, bears wandering your sidewalks, or fleas in your bed? Human activity must be kept isolated.
Homes, business and public structures are engineered for long term service. Aspects which require periodic maintenance (pipes, wires, etc.) are accessible without damage to long-term aspects. (Stop digging up streets to access utilities!)
Spectacle test. Is the health and general physical condition of the residents such that the local technology can meet their medical needs? If you need eyeglasses, can you or some make them?
Technological progress test. Are there excess resources to be risked in development that may fail? Is there a broad knowledge base, and the availability of communications? Is there enough population for specialization, and a market for developments?
Governmental drain test. Programs, policies, and full time government positions are a drain on the productivity of any society, which requires the society to produce more than would otherwise be required to support the costs. Unfortunately, too many in full time / professional government / political / police military positions see themselves as rulers, rather than public servants, and are engaged in personal empire building. We must be prepared to wage war. If fighting on the level of war is required, total involvement is required, from the extra food to be grown, it's delivery to the troops, resupply efforts, etc. There are no civilians in war, only those incapable of actively fighting or providing support. But unless we’re involved in a war, maintaining a professional full time military is a drain on resources.
It is similar for police. They cannot be everywhere that real crime is, and the incentive is to criminalize actions that can readily show progress in dealing with crime by the police. Technically in most of the U.S., every citizen has the authority to make a citizens arrest, but it's discouraged by the professional police. We need to encourage personal initiative with offenders taken to the "on duty" staff.
We can’t continue to ignore and downplay self defense. Winning peace, not just at the level of "war", but down to local one-on-one crimes takes eternal vigilance at all levels.
It is the same for protecting the environment, it takes eternal vigilance of concerned citizens. There is no terminal point when we can declare we’ve saved the environment. It, as with many aspects, appears to require universal involvement of citizens. Absent such personal responsibility for security, there should be no vote, or other citizenship "rights" accorded.
Stable population test. Consider the energy and resources lost in public infrastructure, businesses, food processing, etc. to meet the needs of the spiraling growth of world population, which could instead be invested in progress.
There is an immediate need to develop strategies aimed at eliminating world population growth. The long term consequences of population growth are going to be demonstrated to all nations as the oil crash progresses.
Can you think of any problem we face where having more people makes it better?
Communities and civilization can slow their population growth by removing the many visible and hidden public subsidies that support and encourage growth. Welfare as it exists in America today must be eliminated. Its programs provide incentives for the unproductive to reproduce excessively. It is the same with dependency deductions, employer provided health insurance for families regardless of size, free public schooling, etc.
Stopping population growth will require educational, technical, and outreach programs in the areas of social responsibility, family planning, contraception, immigration, and resource use. We must make clear the greater the degree to which the carrying capacity has been exceeded, the more probable it is that coercion will become a factor in these programs. It also requires a review of governmental programs and taxes, which “reward” population growth, or penalize those who are successful.
The food chain is nature's equilibrium mechanism. It functions to prevent unlimited expansion of populations of flora and fauna. Primitive human societies were often able, if not forced to maintain approximately constant populations and to live within the carrying capacity of their ecosystems. The methods they used to maintain approximately constant populations were often cruel and inhumane.
Technology has given many people the feeling that, through our own efforts, we are exempt from the cruel constraints of limited carrying capacities. Be prepared for the consequences WHEN our infrastructure fails.
Ancient civilizations have vanished, in part because they grew too large and their size exceeded the carrying capacity of the ecosystems on which they depended for support.
Education notwithstanding, civilizations today show considerable tendency to repeat the mistakes of earlier civilizations, but on a much larger scale.
Cheap international trade allows the developed countries to draw on the carrying capacity of the entire earth, providing an illusion of sufficient local life support.
Living machines. We need human communities to be fully integrated living ecosystems optimized for human habitation. “Science writer Janine Benyus points out that spiders make silk, strong as Kevlar but much tougher, from digested crickets and flies, without needing boiling sulfuric acid and high-temperature extruders. The abalone generates an inner shell twice as tough as our best ceramics, and diatoms make glass, both processes employing seawater with no furnaces. Trees turn sunlight, water, and air into cellulose, a sugar stiffer and stronger than nylon, and bind it into wood, a natural composite with a higher bending strength and stiffness than concrete or steel. We may never grow as skillful as spiders, abalone, diatoms, or trees, but smart designers are apprenticing themselves to nature to learn the benign chemistry of its processes.”
Pharmaceutical companies are becoming microbial ranchers managing herds of enzymes. Biological farming manages soil ecosystems in order to increase the amount of biota and life per acre by keen knowledge of food chains, species interactions, and nutrient flows, minimizing crop losses and maximizing yields by fostering diversity. Meta-industrial engineers are creating "zero-emission" industrial parks whose tenants will constitute an industrial ecosystem in which one company will feed upon the nontoxic and useful wastes of another. Architects and builders are creating structures that process their own wastewater, capture light, create energy, and provide habitat for wildlife and wealth for the community, all the while improving worker productivity, morale, and health. High-temperature, centralized power plants are starting to be replaced by smaller-scale, renewable power generation. In chemistry, we can look forward to the end of the witches' brew of dangerous substances invented this century, from DDT, PCB, CFCs, and Thalidomide to Dieldrin and xeno-estrogens. The eighty thousand different chemicals now manufactured end up everywhere, as Donella Meadows remarks, from our "stratosphere to our sperm." They were created to accomplish functions that can now be carried out far more efficiently with biodegradable and naturally occurring compounds.”
No processes with toxic waste. In fact, no manufacturing or any other process with "waste". Close the loops, use the waste as a resource in another process, or otherwise recycle it, and recycle products which have passed their useful life.
When is it too late? Edit
The complete era of the use of fossil fuels by humans will be a vanishingly short fraction of the span of human existence on the Earth. (Hubbert 1974)
The supplies of all non-renewable resources will effectively expire when the costs ( in cash, in energy, in ecological and societal disruption ) of making available a quantity of the resource exceed the value of the quantity of the resource.
Comprehensive educational, technical, and outreach programs in the areas of efficient use of resources will be needed in order to help achieve sustainability.
Peak world production of petroleum will probably happen before the year 2020. Peak production of coal and oil shale, may occur in the 21st Century. Other fossil fuels probably will not be available in globally significant quantities for more than a few decades into the 21st Century.
The probability is very small that technological breakthroughs will produce new sources of energy not already known at the end of the millennium that will have the potential of supplying a significant fraction of the world's energy needs for any appreciable period of time.
Who is going to do it? Edit
Maslow in his hierarchy of needs theory contends that only after humans meet 'basic needs', do they seek to satisfy successively 'higher needs' that occupy a set hierarchy. If you have a homestead, and neighborhood that can provide your life support needs, YOU may be the one called on to re-build civilization.
So where do we go from here? Edit
The challenge of making the transition to a sustainable society is enormous, in part because of a major global effort to keep people from recognizing the centrality of population growth to the enormous problems of the U.S. and the world. We must have no further net overrun of nature by humans.
Chapter IV - Sustainability Principles or Guidelines - part 2