Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I fast - Attention must be paid

I am a bit scared now for my own health and safety, being somewhat weakened by 66 fast days this year, with about 30 in the past 100 days or so.

Because...

I started a fast about 12 hours ago, one that may end badly for me personally. I am asking for some attention to be paid. I am seeking answers.

I believe that this proposal that calls for payments by polluting industries to the people, and payments by those who take natural resources, could solve two of our greatest problems threatening the stability and sustainability of civilization. Many small problems would disappear.

This proposal would mean the economy would become focused on increasing efficiency in use of energy and other resources (to the extent necessary to bring the reality, in terms of resource depletion and other environmental impacts, into line with what the people want). And it would bring an end to extreme poverty.

The proposal is being allowed to languish. I find this fact very disturbing; so much so that I have not been able to give a normal answer to 'How you doing?' for about six years now, seeing as I do that people are willing to neglect a profoundly important proposal. (Perhaps I, too, would be thoroughly uninterested in carrying this idea forward if I were not the author of the proposal. Well, by whatever quirk of nature or accident, I am the author of a proposal, and I am VERY interest in that to which silence and inaction are common responses. The inclination of most people is to let these ideas languish.)

I am asking that the two professors at Assumption College, (Hickey or Kantarelis, one or another of them) say what they meant when they declined to share this proposal to a larger audience because it was said to be contrary to human nature. What changes in human nature would be needed (from what to what)? What did I write that caused them to hold this view? I would be happy to celebrate hearing from either of them on these questions by breaking fast.

(These professors took a substantial sum of money and invited me to their academic conference on the understanding that they would give an honest evaluation of a paper that elaborated on my ideas and then decide whether to publish. Truth be told, they did not specifically tell me that they would give a review. But I think the assumption is always that there will be honest dealings, and it is generally understood that there will be feedback (which there was) in the case of rejection of a paper. The problem is, though, that their critique, "change in human nature" is so vague as to be (shall I say?) inscrutable. Not analyzable. What change? And there was no reference to text, even after repeated emails to the two men (there was no reply at all) even to this date [12-24, late PM, latest update] to show what in the paper brought them to that conclusion. Common human decency requires honesty and courtesy. Where is it? I may be about to die for something I believe to be profoundly important. Nothing that anyone has said has caused me to waiver from that conviction. So be it, if need be. But if there is a fatal flaw, if there is a requirement for a not merely improbable but also highly implausible change to happen, if the proposal is not realistic or feasible, then surly I don't want to die for a flawed proposal. That would be a sad waste of a good life.)

Also, if ANY other person sees a fatal flaw in this proposal, PLEASE alert me! That would be a relief. I will not sacrifice my life for a flawed proposal. I only feel so strongly about this because I believe it to be important. If it is flawed, it can be let go.

OR

If anyone, ANYONE, is aware of a better proposal for achieving these goals, PLEASE let me know. I will not sacrifice my life for a second-rate proposal.

OR

Someone show me some sign, some evidence, that these ideas are to be part of the public discourse. Where is that conversation happening? When is that conversation happening? The hour is late.

OR

If MANY people were to tell me that these goals are not important and that it is not worth pursuing changes that would be difficult to bring about, then I might celebrate our self-indulgent toboggan ride toward collapse with a bit of fruit... Not the outcome I would prefer. I prefer to think that I live in a society made up of people who really are concerned about these problems and goals. I mention this maybe as a way of inviting people to 'look at it squarely. These are important goals!'

(I feel certain that a small group of people could, if they chose to do so, make a topic part of the public discourse, at least in a local area...)


What news media and universities are not telling us: Systemic flaws are not reported

If a reporter or editor were to respond to this critique by resolving to remedy this blind spot in the reporting and publicly committing to doing so (or if they would tell me where the critique linked above is flawed) I would also be ready to end this fast. I would not feel a need to sacrifice my life to bring some topics and ideas to the public consciousness if those topics are being addressed in normal reporting, as they should be.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How are we doing?

How are you doing?


How are WE doing?

Someone asked me how I am doing.

I am not OK.

I haven't been able to say I am OK for about six years now.

I don't want to live in a world where the best ideas for how to create a sustainable and just society are left to languish.

But I do not have the power to define what society is; whether it is adaptive or moribund. WE decide that. Our collective actions decide that.

Societies do not adapt in a timely fashion to changed realities when the best ideas are neglected.

Here's our best idea available for ending extreme poverty in the world AND limiting humans' impacts on the environment (to hold them within what most people would endorse as acceptable, as not excessive): Recognize an equal claim to and demand an equal sharing of natural wealth. We can charge a fee to polluters high enough to adequately discourage harmful impacts and give the proceeds to all the people.

(If you are aware... if anyone is aware... of a better way to achieve these goals, please let me know.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Early essay on the gaia brain paradigm

This essay was offered as an outline, an abstract of a proposal, in response to a call for papers that bring ideas from different disciplines to bear on solving environmental problems. It resulted in an invitation to the conference, along with an offer to consider publishing a longer paper with the conference proceedings.

Pollution fees and natural resource fees: A necessary part of our global brain.

Democratic ownership and free market management of natural resources: a capitalism-communism synthesis.

We have a problem with pollution. Our economy treats the earth as a free dumping ground for wastes. The ecosystems of earth provide a valuable service by taking our waste products and transforming them into clean air and water and soil. Like anything that is free, this natural service of accepting and cleaning up wastes that the earth provides for us is subject to over use. This problem is known as the Tragedy of the Commons.

We treat these valuable services as a free good because, until recently, there were not such great demands placed on these natural recycling services--we could use them as though they were free without destroying them from overuse; and, we lacked the tools to measure and allocate these resources. Now, the demands placed on the earth's ecosystems by our habit of putting industrial and agricultural wastes in them are exceeding their capacity to absorb and clean. So the problem is: 'How to allocate the limited resource of waste removal and cleaning in an efficient and fair way'.

If the earth's waste removal service were treated as the valuable resource that it is, and if our industries were required to pay a fee according to how much they use the service, then the problem of overuse due to zero cost would be eliminated. A pollution fee would require the measurment of emissions and would cause a reduction in the emissions. This is how a sensory nervous system works: information about injury to the organism is transmitted by sense nerves into the neural network (brain) and the neural network changes in a way that causes a reduction in the injury. In this analogy, pollution, or stress to ecosystems represents injury to the organism, the earth. Information about the environmental impact of industry and agriculture enters society (the neural net) through the price of goods and services in the marketplace. Cleaner products cost less, while those with higher ecological costs would have corresponingly higher prices attached.

Another way to think of this process is as an autonomic nervous system for earth: the pollution fee is information about stresses or demands on ecosystems that would tend to move the earth organism out of homeostasis, and it is an economic incentive or pressure to maintain a homeostasis, or a healthy ecologic balance.

We must decide what the earth's ecosystems can sustainably absorb from us in the form of wastes. But we do not know the answer to this question. No one does. So we begin by recognizing that we cannot be certain of the numbers. Let us resolve to err on the side of caution, that is, to be conservative and err on the side of preserving and restoring ecosystems for the benefit of our grandchildren and future generations.

We could issue permits for various pollutants according to how much of each pollutant we will allow, and auction these permits in the free market. Thus, those industries which can adapt processes to reduce or eliminate waste emmissions will have an advantage in the market, while those industries which continue to emit large amounts of waste will have to include the costs to ecosystems in the price of their products.

Because just about everyone will have a different opinion regarding the levels of pollutants that would be safe and harmless, the actual amount that we decide on will be a summary of the opinions of all the world's people. And, because many of us are not able to make an informed decision about appropriate levels of some or all pollutants, we may choose to delegate our vote to someone whose opinion we respect. For example, if I believed that it is safe to release 100 million tons of fossil fuel carbon dioxide into the environment, and that no level of chlorinated hydrocarbon emmissions (e.g.: CFC's, Heptachlor, DDT) can be called safe or sustainable, but I had no opinion or knowledge about safe levels of other pollutants, then I might refer to lists of people who share my views on CO2 and chlorinated hydrocarbons to see what their opinions are regarding other pollutants, either to inform my own opinion, or to find a knowledgable and responsible person to whom I could delegate my 'emmissions allowance' vote.

This concept of assigning fees to the use of earth's waste removal services can be applied to other areas. Pollution fees are actually a subset of green fees. Green fees are a way to manage scarce natural resources that are subject to overuse and depletion, such as forests, fisheries and grazing land. This system could also be applied to the management of the use of non-human animals by human beings. Someday, perhaps soon, we may completely eliminate the systematic enslavement and exploitation of non-human animals in industry and agriculture, but until that time, we may wish to create a system whereby industry and agriculture are subject to economic costs in some proportion to how much suffering they inflict on the animals they use. This will give them an incentive to reduce both the numbers of animals they use and the amount of suffering inflicted on each one.

The Gaia brain/pollution fee system will so transform the global economy and society, we probably ought to think in terms of an elimination of government as we know it. With the introduction of significant pollution fees, conventional taxes not only would be difficult to support financially, they may seem rather without philosophical foundation: we may see that a fee according to our use of the earth's natural resources is well founded on philosophical principles of fairness, while taxes on income or sales do not seem on the face to be eminently fair.

The proceeds of the pollution fees and green fees would be a monetary representation of the value of earth's air and water and living systems. As these resources can be thought of as belonging to all, the proceeds of these fees probably ought to be shared equally among all the people of the earth. This could be the basis of a guaranteed minimum income. Perhaps we could contribute half of our share to charities or other community needs--those functions currently served by government, and spend the other half toward our more personal needs. If everyone had access to such an account, no one would live in abject poverty, and low income people would have charity social services available.

The pollution fee/gaia brain concept applies ancient principles to today's challenges: We must live in accord with nature; We must give something back in proportion to what we take; We are the stewards of this planet. The greatest challenges that life presents are those which must be met to ensure the very survival of the organism. The difficult but life sustaining task before us is to transform ourselves from cancer cells of earth to brain cells of earth--to make a healthy, properly functioning world brain; to create/re-make our global society.



The longer paper: Biological Model for Politics and Economics

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hungry from fasting - Hungry for answers

Today is the 50th fast day of the year for me.

I do not want to live in a world where the best ideas we have for solving our biggest problems are neglected. I fast to symbolically represent this fact in as strong a way as possible, and to protest the fact that a call for equal sharing of natural wealth languish, so that we miss maybe our best chance at a sustainable society and an end to extreme deprivation and poverty.

That is seriously wrong.

I also don't want to think this is a big important proposal if it has flaws that would keep it from working. Let me know if you see any. Anyone.

If anyone wants to join me in asking where the supposed conflict with human nature is (It's easy: "Where is the conflict with human nature?") in a plan to charge fees to polluters and give the proceeds to all the people (which is the reason given for why professors Hickey and Kantarelis decided this proposal should not go to a wider audience), I think now would be a good time.

Seems to me to be a fair, even a necessary question.

Kevin Hickey khickey@assumption.edu
Demitri Kantarelis dkantar@assumption.edu

Friday, March 23, 2012

My unusual complaint

My friend asked me how am I doing.

I am not doing well. I have a very unusual complaint.

She didn't know what it is.

The overwhelming majority of people who have learned of a profoundly important proposal (to end extreme poverty and manage environmental impacts so they only go so far as the people want and are not excessive) are willing to let this proposal languish. I am living on a world where people CHOOSE to not make the changes to sustainability and justice that are possible through clear application of moral principle.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fast for answers

From: John Champagne

Subject: Starting two day fast

The goal generally is to help draw attention to what I believe to be a profoundly important proposal. More specifically it is an occasion to emphasize some questions I have that I feel have been neglected.

I thought that a proposal to end extreme poverty and limit humans' impact on the environment would be seen as a valuable contribution that people would want to share with others and adopt as policy. But I have noticed that people who have received the proposal generally have little or no interest in sharing it with others.

I feel that I have been an utter failure in my efforts to communicate the proposal, the ideas.

The failure to communicate apparently starts with the sentence, the assertion, that "I have a cure for what ails the planet: a way to end abject poverty AND limit humans' impacts on the environment (the physical Earth and its inhabitants) so that they do not exceed what most people feel is acceptable". I believe that people generally are not aware of another one or two or three (or any) other proposals that make such a claim. This sentence, this assertion may simply be too incredible to be taken seriously. I have to believe that, because in all seriousness, these are important goals. I don't want to assume that people are unwilling to apply some effort to make sure that the best way of achieving the very important goals of a sustainable and just society is being followed or pursued.

Am I wrong about the uniqueness of this proposal? Are you aware of more than one? What is your favorite proposal for achieving these two goals? (And what do you like about that particular proposal that makes it your favorite?)

If you believe this proposal does not merit a response, if it is not worth sharing with others, can you say what is lacking?

Are the goals, restated above, not sufficiently important?

Are there flaws in the proposal that make it unworkable? What are they?

Is there a better way to achieve these goals? What is it?

Is there something I am missing? Some other way to understand why people are willing to allow this proposal to languish?

wondering,

john


An eight-page paper, written at the invitation of the hosts of the International Environmental Association Conference: Gaia Brain theory: A Biological Model for Politics and Economics

This paper was not published with the conference proceedings. The reviewer called it 'eminently clear and intelligible' and said that it brought new ideas to bear in solving environmental problems. But the proposal was also said to require changes in human nature. The hosts never explained what changes in human nature would be needed. I see it as a call for a change in the rules we live by. It is a call for changes in human culture, not in human nature.