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Archive for February, 2010

I have noticed a surprising number of climate sceptics on things like facebook and Yahoo Answers. Now, the surprise is not that some exist, but that so many are vehemently opposed to any suggestion that there is even the slightest possibility that we are altering the climate. Most don’t even admit that there is any climate alteration in the first place – a flurry of snow anywhere on the globe is, to them, enough to show that Global Warming is a fantasy.

Now, from the general tone, language and references of these violent sceptics it is apparent that most come from the US of A and nearly all of those talk about misinformation and manipulation by liberals and left-wingers in an attempt to take over government & business. They seem to think there is a massive, organised conspiracy to falsify scientific data and rob them of all that is rightly theirs; and since most scientists are long-haired commy weirdos, they are in on it too.

I don’t know if it is fair, but the mental image I get from their posts is of big, burly men in plaid shirts, carrying large knobbly guns and spitting torrents of tobacco. I often hear banjo music too. ooof – shivers down the spine!

Perhaps is has something to do with the capitalist, consumer philosophy that current economic wisdom is based on. This has been pioneered by the US over the last 100 years or so and exported to much of the world with an almost religious zeal. It seems to represent, for some people, the essence of being American and the American Dream.

To accept the ‘green’ message is to accept that classical consumer capitalism is wrong: you cannot live a truly sustainable lifestyle in a system that demands constant expansion and therefore an ever-increasing drain on resources. It is like pyramid selling, which is well documented as making a few people very wealthy before collapsing. So for those people that feel the current economic situation is a core part of their American identity, telling them to plant a few veg in their yard is tantamount to treason or heresy

the Guardianhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/mar/09/denial-climate-change-psychologyhas a good article about the psychology of climate denial and why it is still so prevalent, although it doesn’t go into the whole sister-marrying banjo thing.

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The most adulated people throughout human history have been the Alpha Males and Alpha Females. This is a direct continuation from our more hairy past and is generally the situation for most mammals. He (or she) who shouts the loudest, grabs the most and consumes the fastest is the best. Or so it has been until now, but for humans at least this is about to change.

Why? Well, throughout history there has always been a world surplus of resources. Even if there was local scarcity of food, for instance, there was always the ability to get more from elsewhere or grow more after the next rains. There was no boundary condition to prevent getting more stuff. This meant that he who could produce the most resources would accumulate the most wealth, which in turn would trickle down to the community around him. The equation is easy:

More resources in = more produce out = more wealth = happy!

This made him everyone’s favourite and the best mating potential in the tribe. The lack of a boundary condition meant that this equation was always valid (if managed right, at least).

In the impending Age of Change this will no longer be the situation: for the first time in history it will soon be impossible to find enough stuff on the globe as a whole. There will be a barrier to accumulation, a boundary condition. The equation will no longer be absolute and will often look more like:

More resources in = imbalance and scarcity = impoverishment = sad!

This makes the Alpha Male in question a very controversial figure amongst his immediate tribe and could lead to his complete downfall. He will have become a very dangerous choice of mate.

This may sound like a fairly fine flight of fancy, but how does it correspond to the real world? Throughout history and around the world people have starved whilst others prospered – why will things change now?

The answer again is the boundary condition. Even in a situation where some are starving, the successful Alphas have always procured a proportion of their wealth from outside the community and some of that wealth has trickled into it. This has kept the system stable enough for the Alpha to remain comfortably at the top. If the situation arises that the Alpha cannot procure wealth from outside their community, they will have to either hoard their produce or take from their immediate surrounds. This will lead to serious social instability and potential fall of the Alpha.

The real problem with the whole Alpha thing is not that they are successful or charismatic or strong, but that their attitude sucks. Alphas have been bred, both socially and genetically, to want to be Alphas. They want to consume, to accumulate, to be the best and they want to be seen to be doing so.

Zetas, on the other hand, do not have the attitude. They are still leaders, still strong and charismatic, if not more so than Alphas, but they have a much deeper understanding of what is important in life and how to live it. They rate enjoyment over ownership, contentment over wealth and understanding over material success. They are, in the broadest meaning of the word and not necessarily in any religious or New Age way, spiritual. They are wise.

It is this different attitude that we need as the world runs out of resources and we enter the Age of Change. We need to be led by Zetas, not Alphas. This is nothing particularly new, as many of history’s greatest figures have been Zetas rather than Alphas, but the reason and degree to which we need them has changed.

Why Zeta?

The worlds resources will run out, so we all need to start understanding the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’, as in ‘I need clothes to keep me warm’ -v- ‘I want that Prada handbag to go with my Jimmy Choo shoes’. We have far more than we need, which does not make us content. The consumer society is based on buying, tiring and buying more. There is a quick burst of happiness when we buy something new, followed by the disappointing boredom of ownership and the stress of having to buy more to get high again.

Wealthy societies that are based on consumerism, such as the UK, have higher depression rates and lower contentment than poor societies based on spirituality (again in its broadest sense). This we desperately need to change and the only way to do so is to change the way we live, to become less consumerist and more spiritual. We need to wean ourselves of our addiction to quick shopping highs and learn how to enjoy the deep, long lasting buzz from actually doing things for ourselves and those around us; of having little and enjoying a lot.

This is already important, if only to improve our standard of living, but as the Age of Change comes upon us it will become essential to survival. A bit of depression over having only 50 pairs of shoes and a large overdraft will soon turn into an inability to provide the basic essentials for living and a complete failure to cope.

Zetas can show us how to chill out and make the most of life’s adventure. They can show us how to enjoy the world for what we have around us, rather than aspire constantly to what we think certain celebrities have around them. Zetas can lead us to live better lives: better for us and better for the planet as a whole.

So why will the Zetas become top dogs? It will be because they will survive serenely, they will know how to make the most of what is around them and will still manage to find true contentment. The Age of Change will not reduce their lifestyle as it will many others, because the shortage of material wealth will not reduce their wisdom or spirituality. They will continue to have enough, of everything.

They will also help others to survive, they will help whole communities find their way from consumption to understanding, spirituality and ‘enough’. That will make them top dogs.

A deeper discussion of the philosophy of Zeta will have to wait until the next post.

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The world is changing. It has, of course, changed continuously throughout history, what with wars and plagues and so forth, and endless social schisms of which the recent New Age movement is but one link in a long chain, but this time something different is happening. It’s not just the use of convoluted sentences, either.

The history of Man has been marked by a slow, continuous push in the same direction: gaining a better standard of living and increasing consumption. Although there have been regional reversals, the overall direction for mankind has been forward. Now we have almost reached our zenith and for the first time in history we are about to go into a decline.

That statement may sound a little bold and perhaps over-confident, but let’s think things through a little.

In the developed nations we consume far more than the Earth can replace. This is balanced out a bit by the poor nations consuming far less, but as a whole planet we get though about 30% more than can be replaced. This figure is increasing as the poor slowly become richer.

We are working our way through all the known deposits of metals, oil, trace elements etc, so that within 30 years many will be gone, even without the increased consumption of the poor. There are undoubtedly more deposits out there that haven’t been found yet, but they are likely to be found deeper in the earth, be located in more remote corners of the globe or be less pure. Getting them and refining them will therefore take more effort, consume more resources and cost more.

The easy wins will therefore peter out in a couple of decades, possibly leaving a lack of raw materials as they go. Some things will become scarce, such as rare metals essential for electronics, whilst dwindling fuel stocks will make energy frequently unaffordable. Life in general will become more expensive, our ability to travel for work or pleasure will diminish and our standard of living will drop. We will effectively become poor. This will affect the rich nations most violently at first, since it is they that currently benefit from all these riches, but it will not take long for the developing nations to join the downward plunge as well. It is likely that some people will get angry about life getting tougher, which may lead to an increase in nationalism, xenophobia and protectionist policies. This in turn could lead to friction and even war.

Climate change may or may not be real, but if it is the attendant flooding and droughts will only increase the pressure for conflict. Disasters cost money and create huge tensions throughout the afflicted region and beyond. Darfur is one example of just this: a local denigration of natural resources leading to regional conflict and global tensions. In the global community in which we now live, the consequences of such future conflicts will not be confined to the afflicted areas but will affect the entire world economy. Blame, protectionism and desperation can be volatile ingredients; they are set to become far more common.

If you are not convinced by all the conceptual blather above, we can follow another train of thought to the same destination. The capitalist model, which most of the developed nations follow, relies on continued economic growth to work successfully. Hence the horror of recession, which is usually nothing worse than a time when growth stops or declines very, very slightly.

But this need for constant growth is a bit like pyramid selling – it can not go on for ever and will have to collapse one day. Why? Well, wealth has to come from something tangible – something grown, mined or made. The recent Credit Crunch has shown that bankers passing IOUs between themselves does not actually create anything, other than fat bankers and a global overdraft. The pyramid has to keep expanding by the constant input of stuff: stuff mined, manufactured or grown. It is, I hope, self evident that this cannot carry on for ever – we will at some point run out of new stuff to feed into the pyramid. So at some point we will run out of things to drive growth and like a car running out of fuel as it powers up a hill, the world economy will not only stop growing but will go into swift reversal. Consumer capitalism will collapse and we will be left with tougher lives, poverty, protectionism, xenophobia and war.

So how can we avoid all this unpleasantness? Well, the only way I can see (and I admit I am not particularly bright) is for us to change the way we live – not only that, but we must change the way we want to live. It is up to everyday people to drive this change, because our current economic system is a bit like being drunk. Let me explain: the first effect of getting drunk is wanting to get more drunk and never stop being drunk. Capitalism is designed to create massive wealth within a few organisations, with those organisations having the continued expansion of wealth as their core purpose.  The get capitalist and want to never stop being capitalist. The only problem is that to do this they have to make sure that as may people of the world are also capitalists, or else they won’t buy into it (pun intended – sorry). So it is for us comparatively poor people who are not drunk with capitalism to effect the change – put the world economy in rehab – which we can do by changing the way we live, spend & vote. It is tricky to get the hang of, as we have been conditioned for decades to support the current system – feed the pyramid – but with a change of mindset we can be free (sorry, can’t seem to quit the dire puns today!).

It is time we evolved away from our gorilla past and into a more enlightened era. If we can do this, the benefits on both an individual and global scale will be immense.

My next blog will chat about what this means – the end of the Alpha Male and the rise of Zeta!

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