June 29, 2008 § Leave a comment
Gardens of Paris
Larry Summers has an article
What we can do in this dangerous moment
By Lawrence Summers
Published: June 29 2008 18:10 | Last updated: June 29 2008 18:10
It is quite possible that we are now at the most dangerous moment since the American financial crisis began last August. Staggering increases in the prices of oil and other commodities have brought American consumer confidence to new lows and raised serious concerns about inflation, thereby limiting the capacity of monetary policy to respond to a financial sector which – judging by equity values – is at its weakest point since the crisis began. With housing values still falling and growing evidence that problems are spreading to the construction and consumer credit sectors, there is a possibility that a faltering economy damages the financial system, which weakens the economy further.
The financial system… as I understand it, it is 20% of the US economy,and 40% of the profits. Is this not like a tax on all other transactions? What if the financial system were a public utility?
WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION FOR WHAT KIND OF WORLD? | What kind of education will prepare a student to live on such a planet? What tools do people need to become architects of their own lives? In a highly competitive hierarchical world driven by tests and measurable results, I would like to propose four priorities for education that are hard to measure and easy to ignore, yet they are vitally important and within reach for all of us.
My conclusions are drawn from my work as a musician, and my first priority is based in a common goal that musicians and teachers share: to make the communication of their content memorable. By memorable, I mean the listeners or students become transported by their experience of the music or subject. The content, then, remains active and accessible in their minds and can grow and connect to future experiences. Our stories will be different, but I’m sure that each of us can recall a teacher whose inspiration transformed our lives.
Content that is memorable becomes a key ingredient in the second priority, passion-driven education. Education driven by passion awakens us to a world bigger than ourselves and makes us curious. Learning becomes self-sustaining as it transforms from a requirement to a desire. Students who are passionate are a pleasure to teach, and teachers who are passionate share their knowledge generously. In fact, teaching becomes learning and vice versa. Passion-driven education liberates students and gives them the self-confidence to discover who they are as individuals and how they fit in the world.
The next priority is the development of a disciplined imagination. Imagination draws on all of our intelligences, senses, experiences and intuition to construct possible scenarios. Through imagination, we are able to transcend our present local reality and envision distant futures. It allows us to think not only about the tools people need today, but about the tools our children will need to contribute to the world they will share. Imagination is the great engine that powers the arts and sciences, and it is an available resource for all to use.
Disciplined imagination leads me to the final priority: empathy. To be able to put oneself in another’s shoes without prejudgment is an essential skill. Empathy comes when you understand something deeply and can thus make unexpected connections. These parallels bring you closer to things that would otherwise seem far away. In our world of specialization, compartmentalization and myriad responsibilities, empathy is the ultimate quality that acknowledges our identity as members of the human family.
June 26, 2008 § Leave a comment
The cost of security, such as the video cameras in London, need to be compared to the costs of building a fairer society where the roots of grievance , frustration and need are modified by social policy and philosophy. (see wiki cctv)
and, for GWP,
Add that we want a balance between market, home, garden and academy (see coyne, Cornucopia Limited 33)
The household moves to the center of activity, but is not recognized as the center of a new civilizational impulse. The home as more than market , more than commerce, means the shifts in society are being prepared by Internet/work at home activity.
June 17, 2008 § Leave a comment
We can think of Nietzsche’s notion of the Apollonian as referring to all those aspects of human nature that make us differ from the rest of nature, things like self-restraint, control, language, civilisation, art, technology, morality and law: all those things that we could sum up as human culture; the order and harmony of classical architecture, and the control over nature that such things demonstrate, might stand as a suitable symbol. We can think of the Dionysian as referring to all those aspects of humans that we share with nature: things like instinct, wildness, lack of restraint, intoxication, lust, unbridled competition and cruelty: the image of the wine-soaked, amoral, sexually insatiable satyr – half man, half goat – is often used to represent the Dionysian conception of humans.
We cannot conceive of human life without these cultural achievements: we are, beyond question, creatures of culture. But we are not just that. Partly because of our cultural achievements, we are also the most successful, daring predator animals on the planet, with undeniably strong impulses still toward cruelty, intoxication, lust, fierce competition, and the thrill of the hunt.
June 17, 2008 § Leave a comment
Important discussion. I hope to analyze this.
SUMMARY: ENERGY GAIN AND ORGANIZATION
The above and other cases exemplify several characteristics common to high- and low-gain extraction in human and other living systems. We presented these characteristics in Table 1 as a set of initial hypotheses. High-gain systems, we argue, tap into steep energy gradients, often in new ways. These systems are impressive not only in their capture of energy but also, and more importantly, in their net return on investment. Because resources are abundant and the demands on the system are minimal, resource use tends to be dissipative and inefficient. The steep energy gradient forces new organization on the system, which causes new levels to emerge at the top of a hierarchy. If such a system is disturbed, the steep energy gradient means that the system will self-repair, or that a similar one will take its place. As just noted, beaver will attempt to repair and recolonize high-quality sites after other beaver are removed. Because the high-return resource comes inevitably to be used fully or depleted, however, high-gain phases in human societies and among animals such as beaver tend to be short.
Low-gain phases depend on resources that have a shallower gradient of potential degradation. In a low-gain phase, resources are scarce, and, if the demands on the system are great, it will be vulnerable to instability or will require higher organization. Although net output per capita is low, it is great in the aggregate. Whereas high-gain phases are impressive in their dissipation of energy, low-gain phases are more impressive for their organization. Higher levels of organization and effort are required to maintain a sufficient flow of resources, as seen in the trails of leaf-cutter ants, in beaver canals, or in imperial taxation. In the later Roman Empire, as described above, taxation officials assessed the expected productivity of every parcel of land across all of northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. New levels in a low-gain system, such as bureaucrats or administrators, are inserted into the middle of the hierarchy, which always increases its complexity and costs. Although small energy margins mean that individual producers in such systems are vulnerable to perturbation, the systems themselves may be long-lived due to the ubiquity of low-gain resources.
ENERGY GAIN AND FUTURE HUMAN ORGANIZATION
This framework not only helps us to understand empires, ants, and beavers, but it also suggests clues about our potential future. Since the development of industrialism and economies based on fossil fuels, the world’s wealthier nations have been in a high-gain phase. Because high-gain systems use high-quality, concentrated energy, their energy usage is intensive and local. In contrast, low-gain systems, which rely on low-quality energy, must be dispersed in their resource capture and organized correspondingly. Despite the fact that engineers are impressive in their ability to extend the era of high-gain fossil fuel dependence, we know that someday the energy opportunity cost of fossil fuels will reach the point that our dependence on such fuels will diminish (e.g., Campbell and Laherrère 1998). Before that happens, perhaps nuclear fusion will be controlled to the point that it is safe and efficient, providing us with a further source of high-quality energy. A primary alternative is the so-called “green” energy sources, including renewables such as wind, wave, and solar. We focus on the consequences of possible future dependence on these.
Renewable energy sources are low gain, yielding little net energy per unit of production compared to fossil fuels. Most renewables depend ultimately on the sun, and the conversion of solar energy to mechanical work is still inefficient (Wayne et al. 1992). Low-gain energy production must therefore be dispersed.
The industrial era was characterized by the application of large amounts of energy and raw materials to solve problems by brute force. In today’s so-called information economy, there is much less need to move matter and people. Human settlement can be dispersed. Thus, today we are becoming accustomed to telecommuting, the increased conversion of rural areas into low-density housing, and even the gentrification of rural areas that have traditionally been isolated and impoverished.
The dispersed energy production that would be required by low-gain resources is a good fit with the sort of dispersed settlement pattern that an information economy allows. One scenario for a postcarbon future is dispersed production of low-gain energy by small communities or even individual households. Energy would be captured by small, individual units scattered across the landscape. This is the green energy scenario that many think would be a desirable future, or even preferable today. Unlike many commentators, we take care not to impute morality to preferences regarding energy production systems. Without judgment, therefore, we point out that green energy would encompass its own costs and its own winners and losers. For many people, the transformation would be catastrophic because a decentralized production system would make many infrastructure workers redundant. Urban decay would accompany increased rural settlement. At the same time, new opportunities would emerge in the manufacture and repair of small, dispersed sources of energy production. Hydrogen might be generated as part of local energy-capture systems (Barbir 2001), so that at least some high-quality energy would be available for tasks that require it. Many people might prefer such a decentralized existence, but others would find it wrenching. It would require capital investment by each family or community. These investments would be largely redundant, with high energy-opportunity costs, and would not initially enjoy economies of scale. Living standards, as currently defined, would likely decline.
Renewable energy is a popular concept, but there is a certain irony in this. Although environmentalists are quick to blame industry and fossil fuels, the environmental damage done to the world is only partly from industrial sources. The energy used in the industrial world is principally of high quality. It works in a focused fashion with concentrated side effects. In contrast, low-gain agriculture, a highly dispersed activity, is causing a substantial loss of species as well as environmental degradation. The distributed nature of agriculture means that habitat is removed and landscapes are greatly altered. Increased flooding, soil loss, and nonpoint sources of pollution are to a large extent caused by agriculture, as exemplified by the flooding of the Mississippi River in 1993 and the Ohio River in 1997. Although some observers criticize the environmental effects of agribusiness, Third World peasants at their present population levels have an aggregate effect that is substantial, and perhaps comparable. Similarly, the environmental impact of ants that use droppings is minimal compared to those that strip leaves from plants. The former are not considered agricultural pests, whereas the latter are. Environmental degradation is greater when the resource is of low quality and distributed but heavily used. Thus, a switch to renewable energy sources might bring, ironically, environmental damage comparable in scale to, or greater than, that caused by the use of fossil fuels. It is also ironic that, although industrialists have not rushed to embrace renewable energy sources, great profits would be made from building the infrastructure needed to capture and concentrate renewable resources. Politicians would be influenced less by road builders and more by businesses that recreate coastlines for wave capture and cover huge tracts of land with solar collectors or wind generators.
The concepts of high and low energy gains clarify important organizational differences in human societies and other living systems. The quality of resources and the returns on exploiting them impose organizational constraints that are inescapable. We characterize high- and low-gain systems as polar opposites, but of course there are innumerable systems of resource extraction in between these two extremes. Understanding the organizational requirements of these extraction systems is a rich topic for integrated social and biological research.
It has long been a tantalizing goal to understand commonalities across living systems. The occasional attempts (e.g., Miller 1978, Holling 2001) have so far not generated sustained research programs. In this regard, the potential of studying energy gain is not only that it reveals patterns across living systems, but also that these patterns may clarify potential human energy futures. Thus, the physical science concept of energy gain has the potential to support humanistic interest in the energy transition that the industrial world will inevitably undergo. Energy gain is a uniquely valuable approach to understanding past and future human resource transitions and the ways of life that future energy will both enable and impose.
RESPONSES TO THIS ARTICLE
Responses to this article are invited. If accepted for publication, your response will be hyperlinked to the article. To submit a comment, follow this link. To read comments already accepted, follow this link.
June 16, 2008 § Leave a comment
Money is clothes, moving from the cosmos of the studs on the Greek horse collar to cosmetics and cosmos (the bright spots of silver in the sky). From jewelry to value to gif to exchange. Money shows like clothes our status, our position in a society of rank. We wear our money to show our statues, and we seek it to show our status.
Money is thus part of a larger domain of status symbols.
Now, what is fascinating is that the modern theory of money separates it from status by equating it with acquisitiveness, which is unlimited But as we know, in some societies, status comes from restraint, and there are attitudes on how one can express oneself through clothes. Hence money is potentially subject to restraint.
Status, not greed, is the motive we have to work with.
re-looking at Mckibben’s Enough. Can humans put restraints.. what the techno-hypists fail to see is the actual achievements of the human. Reducing progress to a technical idea or driven by biology and survival, rather than recognizing deeply its origin in religious thinking. they want to increase the human potential, but of leverage of muscles and speed of computation, not the grace of human movement as in ballet or ice skating, but as back hoes. Mind, not as Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Joyce, but as UNIX machines.
June 15, 2008 § Leave a comment
Fathers’ day. Yes?
Last night watch Renoir’s Grand Illusion. Every line, gesture, counts. Powerful craft of film. And several themes> The value of aristocracy, and the lack of value of war, though the two cross when the lead says “For the ordinary soldier war is tragic, but for us it is a way out.” Reflection on life and its value?
But overwhelmingly this sets a standard for how dense and structured a film can be.