Diary of the Future — February 23, 2014
Unless people of good will join in common cause to build a truly democratic world that works for all, we will find ourselves living in a world that works for no one. —David Korten (2000)
There is a sense in which we already find ourselves living in “a world that works for no one”: not the rich, and certainly not the poor; not the believer or the agnostic, not the Ph.D. or the high school drop-out, not the pop celebrity or the homeless veteran still suffering from PTSD. It’s not just that the rich are as depressed, confused, and cynical as the rest of us, which is certainly true in many cases; or that the world we live in seems to be unravelling in a dozen different ways, which has certainly been the case during all of our lifetimes. It’s that the world cannot work for anyone unless it at least begins to work for everyone.
February 22, 2014: Climate disruption is becoming increasingly evident in our times. As we begin to thaw out from what has been a surprisingly cold and snowy winter, it seems almost comical to have to ask whether this is somehow connected with global warming. It is. The southward migration of the polar vortex, which we’ve all started hearing about, is partly caused by an upwelling of warm air in the Arctic, causing the center of the vortex to rise and the edges to spill outward. This doesn’t mean that global warming causes it, but only that it likely exacerbates it, continuing a changing pattern of weather events that taken together are what we mean by “climate change.”
|–||Of course this is not the first 'Arctic winter' to be experienced in the U.S., though it dropped record amounts of snow and broke all of the low temperature records set since the National Weather Service started keeping them in the 1870s. And the disturbance may well be linked to climate change. According to Phil Plait writing in Slate (Feb 2014): "warming water in the Arctic leads to ice loss which leads to more warm water. Some climate scientists think this may be disrupting the air flow in the polar vortex, which in turn leads to the meanders in the jet stream. This idea is pretty new and not yet verified. But the irony is clear: If these scientists turn out to be right, not only does the cold weather not disprove global warming, it may actually be caused by it."|
Our personal story is that we have enjoyed company-supplied health care insurance up to the point where my wife got laid off in 2012, and since then have paid for COBRA at $1500 a month to maintain these benefits. This ends in November, and we fully intend to apply for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
This name says a lot — it’s private insurance that is expected to be affordable and held to important consumer-protection standards. We haven’t signed up yet, and we’ll be the first to complain if the system does not work properly when it’s launched in October. But there are currently a lot of good software engineers and designers working for the federal government, and we’re expecting to see any kinks ironed out as soon as they’re discovered.
June 25, 2013: A great deal of what Obama just said on climate change at Georgetown University will seem like common sense to many of us, so it’s important to recognize just how dramatic a shift in the public conversation it is likely to cause.
Several distinct concepts were introduced and reinforced in the speech, most notably that of “carbon pollution,” which is clearly more emotionally and politically powerful than “greenhouse gas emissions.” By calling it (some might say “calling it out as”) carbon pollution more than a dozen times during the speech, he laid the groundwork for a comprehensive approach to the challenge of climate change as a priority for the U.S. and for the rest of the world — including placing the U.S., now second in the world as a carbon emitter to China, at the head of the line in addressing the problems.
(Full text of blog pitch submitted to Huffington Post)
Although I’m in favor of gun control — for what I think are pretty obvious reasons, like not wanting to get shot by some crazy person at the movie theater — I’ve never spent much time thinking about it. But listening to the current discussions and debates in Congress and in the media has left me thinking that there’s something missing in this conversation.
The argument for people freely owning guns rests, supposedly, on “protecting our Second Amendment rights.” But what if it infringes on my rights to have guns readily available to a small minority of the society, that is seemingly angry, or fearful, or likes to kill animals? Don’t I have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that takes precedence over any other person’s right to carry a gun? And given that the Second Amendment was explicitly intended to refer to “a militia” to ensure that America remains a free state, how does it make sense to let people have guns for any other purpose?
The story of professional pickpocket Apollo Robbins, in the January 7, 2013 issue of The New Yorker, demonstrates the critical significance of attention in every aspect of life. What we pay attention to iswhat exists for us — including when we discover that we’ve been distracted and missed what was really going on. The story, by Adam Green, reveals a man in many ways puzzled by his own gifts, which is the ability to distract people so thoroughly that they simply don’t see what’s occurring right in front of them.
Being distracted, when so much is actually occurring in the world, is one of the most serious problems of our time. The recent media frenzy over the “fiscal cliff” was a perfect example of this: while Syrians were killing each other in record numbers, while machine guns are being sold in record numbers to crazy people, and while climate change is bearing down on the planet at a record speed, our attention is being held captive by the posturing and obstructiveness of a small faction of fiscal fanatics, who are daily trying to convince us that “the deficit is the biggest problem we have and the only thing that matters.”
This item first appeared in Dead River Journal, 11/29/2012:
We know that the new economic and ecological realities we face require us to do something different in business, which in some cases also means doing business differently.
Certainly it’s possible to use a conventional business model to manufacture and install solar panels, build windfarms, etc., and we certainly need these kinds of things “at scale,” as they say, sufficient to offset the energy we get from coal, oil, and nuclear. But other kinds of businesses — local, community-based businesses focusing on food, energy conservation, community banking, and other elements of local “economic, social, environmental, and cultural development” — these it seems need a different approach to doing business altogether.
For one thing, getting people to invest in local projects is surprisingly difficult under the conventional business model. It’s just much easier, and assumed to be much safer and more profitable, to “diversify your investments” by putting them in mutual funds, bonds, and publicly-traded companies. What we need are local investments that are either super-secure, or where the risk can be spread over many different enterprises and investors.
Focusing attention on the local economy is one of the central tenets of “financial permaculture,” a movement that is growing out of the tradition of permaculture derived from the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Tasmania in the 1970s.
On several other sites I’ve posted articles calling for the development of a “Common Framework” for global change, the kind of change that we really can believe in, and can work to bring about ourselves regardless of who’s in Washington.
This idea grew out of thinking about the development of a “Common Currency” and a “Common Currency Exchange” (and coincidentally trying to find a way to unite and evolve the energies of the Occupy Movement). What if we had a way to convert local and alternative currencies to each other and to the established national currencies of the mainstream world? What if we had a way to establish and provide abstract value that did not depend on control by the wealthy, but was in fact engineered to produce “the greatest benefit for the greatest number”? Wouldn’t people want to migrate to it?
s Thanksgiving approaches, I recognize in myself a growing desire to get off on my own, to be alone with my thoughts, to reflect on my small fragment of the human condition. To begin with, what am I grateful for?
Or, I could possibly more easily ask, what am I not grateful for? Because life itself is such an extraordinary gift — in all its chaotic, disturbing, and often cruel outcomes, as well as its moments of sheer joy, awe, and exuberance — that it seems difficult not to be grateful for any of it.