Monday, May 21, 2012

Sinking Deeply into Chronic Disaster

This blog is mostly about ecosystem collapse and more specifically, trees dying from ozone.  Other sorts of collapse (and they are myriad) are well-covered elsewhere.  But a couple of purely economic items seemed worthy of noting here, because the innately rapacious system of profit-driven capitalism is in many ways driving our relentless pollution, destruction, and extraction of resources.

In Island, Aldous Huxley wrote:  “Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence - those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse. And while you people are overconsuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.”

So, I invite you to read a chilling undercover accounting that imparts a visceral impression of what it's like to be a wage-slave in modern America, at Mother Jones.  It's a wonderful companion to pair with this brief but pointed TED talk, which has been censored.  The transcript is here.  There's been a lot of discussion about why TED refused to post this talk on their site.  Their curator, Anderson, who has scrambled for plausible explanations offered this one in an email:

"...But even if the talk was rated a home run, we couldn't release it, because it would be unquestionably regarded as out and out political. We're in the middle of an election year in the US. Your argument comes down firmly on the side of one party. And you even reference that at the start of the talk. TED is nonpartisan and is fighting a constant battle with TEDx organizers to respect that principle...."

That seems like a thin excuse, because the speaker, Hanauer, takes a broad swipe at both parties.  Personally, I think it's simply his painfully cynical and apt observation that it's no coincidence that "job creator" is only one word away from "The Creator", with all the irreverence for BOTH types that implies.  For an American audience that's a giant No-No.


  1. My little one was distracting me so I may have missed some important points, but I thought he was all about politics and struck me as making a very status quo type argument. Everything would be just fine if we distribute the money a little bit better.

    The rich getting richer is a natural outgrowth of networking effects. It is very similar to the large cities getting larger. Obviously tax codes reinforce the prevailing trend. To my mind, the better way to redistribute wealth, is to knock out the networks and go back to being redundant and less efficient.

    Depending on which numbers you look at you can either say that our economic system tapped out in the mid-1970s or early-1980s. IMO it is a combination of factors, declining pace of innovation (as some would say, we have plucked the low hanging fruit), and resource limits.

    Arguing about who should get what portion of a static, or diminishing pie, is not an irrelevant argument, but it is not going to get you back to the cheery post WW2 economy.
    I read the Alderston piece you noted.

    He doesn’t mention various ocean current models. The Atlantic Conveyor belt argument could lead us to freeze to death, or the striations of the oceans could have us asphyxiating ourselves. On the plus side, the last time this happened (early Cretaceous) it opened the door to that dino favorite T-Rex to usurp the Allosaurids and coming to rule the Northern Hemisphere. It also lead to the rise of the Mosasaurs, but people just don’t seem to get as excited about them. Based on their performance at the critter proof bird feeders, my vote is for the squirrels to be our T-Rex-like replacements - but maybe just in the Northern Hemisphere.

  2. Russell, I agree he's only talking about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I posted it because I think it's so funny that TED won't.

    You will be wanting to check out this site:

    It kept me laughing for hours one day.


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