Integral Energy: Uniting Mulitple Perspectives on our Thermodynamic World

Obviously the title of this discussion is a playful plagiarism of the book on Integral Ecology by Esbjorn-Hargens and Zimmerman. I do believe that the subject of gross physical energy has been woefully under-discussed in the integral community.

A great place to begin is a recent essay by Richard Heinberg that has been received to high acclaim over on the Resilience.org website, which is operated by the Post Carbon Institute, for which Heinberg is a senior analyst. Heinberg has been writing about energy for 12 years, and is the author of books such as Cloning the Buddha: The Moral Impact of Biotechnology; The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies; Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World; Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines; Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis; The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality.

In his latest essay, Our Renewable Future, Heinberg demonstrates that he is what I would call an energy realist. He does not demonize the fossil fuel industry, but he clearly lays out the formidable challenges we face as the climate crisis worsens and as easy access to these fuels continues to recede.  Nor does he communicate as would a lobbyist for the renewable energy industry, hyping the benefits and downplaying the problems in this field.

Instead, Heinberg approaches the problems from multiple perspectives and honestly conveys his own biases, and encourages us to broaden our thinking:

I consider myself a renewable energy advocate: after all, I work for an organization called Post Carbon Institute. I have no interest in discouraging the energy transition—quite the contrary. But I’ve concluded that many of us, like Koningstein and Fork, have been asking the wrong questions of renewables. We’ve been demanding that they continue to power a growth-based consumer economy that is inherently unsustainable for a variety of reasons (the most obvious one being that we live on a small planet with finite resources). The fact that renewables can’t do that shouldn't actually be surprising.

What are the right questions? The first, already noted, is: What kind of society can up-to-date renewable energy sources power? The second, which is just as important: How do we go about becoming that sort of society?

As we’ll see, once we begin to frame the picture this way, it turns out to be anything but bleak.

I believe this to be an extremely important essay, and the embedded links provide even more depth, providing a great resource for essential 21st century energy literacy.

- David

Our Renewable Future

Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy

(7000 words, about 25 minutes reading time)

Folks who pay attention to energy and climate issues are regularly treated to two competing depictions of society’s energy options.* On one hand, the fossil fuel industry claims that its products deliver unique economic benefits, and that giving up coal, oil, and natural gas in favor of renewable energy sources like solar and wind will entail sacrifice and suffering (this gives a flavor of their argument). Saving the climate may not be worth the trouble, they say, unless we can find affordable ways to capture and sequester carbon as we continue burning fossil fuels.

On the other hand, at least some renewable energy proponents tell us there is plenty of wind and sun, the fuel is free, and the only thing standing between us and a climate-protected world of plentiful, sustainable, “green” energy, jobs, and economic growth is the political clout of the coal, oil, and gas industries (here is a taste of that line of thought).

Which message is right? Will our energy future be fueled by fossils (with or without carbon capture technology), or powered by abundant, renewable wind and sunlight? Does the truth lie somewhere between these extremes—that is, does an “all of the above” energy future await us? Or is our energy destiny located in a Terra Incognita that neither fossil fuel promoters nor renewable energy advocates talk much about? As maddening as it may be, the latter conclusion may be the one best supported by the facts.

If that uncharted land had a motto, it might be, “How we use energy is as important as how we get it.”...

Read the full essay here.

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Regarding Greece and the Limits to Growth: Are they experiencing Financial or Systemic Collapse? 

My ITC 2015 paper, "Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent" is about the current concerns about resource depletion (“energy descent”) and the unsustainability of current economic structures, which may indicate we are entering a new era signaled by the end of growth. 

I'll share an excerpt from my paper, and then a recent article by Ugo Bardi addressing the current situation in Greece. I mention the Limits to Growth reports in my paper. Bardi delves a little more deeply.

From my paper:

Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute believes we have reached The End of Growth (2011), as does energy economist Jeff Rubin (2012), who understands that “the real engine of economic growth has always been cheap, abundant fuel and resources.” However, this wasn’t the training he received as an economist:

Nearly every economics exam I wrote dealt with the idea of maximizing economic growth. It wasn’t until I had years of real-world experience under my belt as chief economist of an investment bank that I began to understand what the textbooks were missing…After watching GDP growth shrink in the face of steadily rising oil prices, I couldn’t escape the notion that growth might someday become finite. During my formal training, steeped in conventional economic theory, the idea of static growth was never even considered. It doesn’t matter which school of economic thought you subscribe to or where you belong on the ideological spectrum, the notion of growth is an unquestioned tenet of the discipline (ibid, pp. 26-27).

Thomas Piketty (2014) caused a sensation when his rigorous academic economics book was translated into English, and became a bestseller. Piketty provides good evidence that we will not likely see again the levels of growth experienced in the 20th century. One reference he cites is even less optimistic. Robert J. Gordon, economics professor at Northwestern University forecasts a 0.2 percent growth of real disposable income for the majority of the U.S. population over the next 25 to 40 years. He names four “headwinds” contributing to this self-described “gloomy forecast”: demographic shifts, educational attainment, increasing inequality, and the ratio of debt to GDP at all levels (Gordon, 2012; 2014). This projection does not include resource constraints.

“Rogue” or “heterodox” economists who recognize the validity of biophysical constraints (limits to growth) include E.F. Schumacher (1973), Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (Gowdy and Mesner, 1998), Herman Daly (Daly & Cobb, 1994), and Peter Pogany (2006). Taking a thermodynamics perspective on economic growth, Pogany argues that entropy applies to matter, not just to energy. Therefore eternal substitution and recycling among materials is an illusion in a closed system (with regards to matter) such as our terrestrial sphere of earth and atmosphere. Technology cannot, in the end, overcome entropy, which means that the Pulse of Growth ultimately hits a peak, based on the availability of quality resources not yet dissipated.

In principle, they could replace copper wires with carbon polymers and make gold from scraps of copper, but in practice they could not do it if they had to pick through the ofals of low-entropy substance in search of other material inputs…between “can be done economically” and “cannot be done physically” there is a tipping point: “Can be done physically but not economically” (Pogany, 2006, p. 123).

Of course there are many economists who strongly dispute the voices above; but more and more are questioning the status quo, with some arguing that we need to embrace a “degrowth” alternative (Caradonna, et al., 2015). Certainly there is reason to pause and to question the idea of infinite economic growth on a finite planet. This is one more “myth of the given” that should not be taken for granted. Edgar Morin referred to “development” as:

The master word…upon which all the popular ideologies of the second half of this century converged…development is a reductionistic conception which holds that economic growth is the necessary and sufficient condition for all social, psychological, and moral developments. This techno-economic conception ignores the human problems of identity, community, solidarity, and culture… In any case, we must reject the underdeveloped concept of development that made techno-industrial growth the panacea of all anthroposocial development and renounce the mythological idea of an irresistible progress extending to infinity (Morin, 1999, pp. 59-63).

Addressing this “myth of the given,” Pogany pokes fun at his own profession:

Historically, geocapital [matter ready to be used to feed cultural evolution] has registered a net increase; additions and expansions more than offset exhaustions and reductions. This long-lasting successful experience led to the culturally ingrained confidence in the possibility of its eternal continuation. Economic growth theory keeps “deriving” the same conclusion over and over again: Optimally maintained economic expansion can continue forever. Translated from evolutionary scales to our own, this is analogous to “Since I wake up every morning I must be immortal” (2006, p. 118).

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From Ugo Bardi: The Limits to Growth and Greece: Systemic or Financial Collapse?

The results of the "standard run" (or "base case") scenario of "The Limits to Growth" 1972 study. Could it be that the ongoing Greek collapse is a symptom of the more general collapse that the model generates for the first two decades of the 21st century?

So, we have arrived to an interesting point, to be intended in the Chinese sense of a curse. It is the point where the people of Greece are being asked to choose between starvation and slavery and this is supposed to be a triumph of democracy

As the tragedy unfolds, people take sides, aiming their impotent rage at this or that target; the Euro, the bureaucrats of Brussels, the Greek government, Mr. Tsipras, some international conspiracy, and even Mr. Putin, the usual bugaboo of everything.

But, could it be that all the financial circus that we are seeing dancing in and around Greece is just the effect of much deeper causes? The effect of something that gnaws at the very foundations not only of Greece, but of the whole Western World?

Let's take a step back, and take a look at the 1972 study titled "The Limits to Growth" (LTG). Look at the "base case" scenario, the one which used as input the data that seemed to be the most reliable at the time. Here it is, in the 2004 version of the study, with updated data in input.

Despite all the criticism that the LTG study received over the years, its basic soundness was repeatedly demonstrated, for instance in "The Limits to Growth Revisited." The LTG calculations were based on a number of assumptions, the main one was that the increasing costs resulting from the gradual depletion of the world's natural resources would bring an increasing burden on the industrial system, forcing it to slow down its growth and, eventually, to start an irreversible decline.

In general, models are most reliable when they are very general (or "aggregated"). So, for instance, it is an accepted challenge that of predicting the Earth's climate in a hundred years from now, but only because the models make no attempt to predict the weather patterns of specific days and specific places. When you are hit by a hurricane, you can say that it is the result of the changing climate, but you also know that it is impossible to predict when and where the next hurricane will strike.

The same is true for the collapse generated by the LTG models. It is very aggregated: it can predict a general collapse, but it cannot predict where and when exactly local collapses will occur. But it is likely that local collapses would start in the weakest economies of the world; regions with low industrial production capabilities and little or no mineral resources of their own. Greece, indeed.

That doesn't mean that financial factors may not have accelerated the Greek collapse or made it worse. But, if the reason of the Greek disaster is systemic, then no financial trick will cure a disease which is not financial at its core.

If the LTG study is right and the crisis is generated by the gradually increasing costs of production of natural resources, (and there is plenty of evidence that these costs are increasing worldwide, see also here) then, collapse cannot be avoided, at best it can be mitigated by acting at the system level. By means of such measures as renewable energy, efficiency, and recycling, the system can be helped to cope with a reduced resource availability. But the economic contraction of the system is unavoidable. It is a contraction that we call financial collapse, but that is simply the result of the system adapting to lower quality (i.e. more expensive) resources.

And, if the reasons for the collapse are systemic and not financial, then it must be a progressing phenomenon that is going to affect all the vulnerable countries, starting with the Mediterranean European countries: Spain, Italy, and Portugal, which might well be the next in line.

Is the collapse going to stop, ever? Yes, it will stop when the size of the world's economy will have become compatible with the quality of the energy supporting it (that we can measure in terms of the energy return on energy invested, EROEI). So, we may face a very long and deep descent, indeed, unless we manage to resupply the economy with new sources of renewable energy of comparable energy quality.

It is not impossible, but not cheap either, and most people say that it is too expensive. So, our future will be what our greed will cause it to be. At least, we'll have what we deserve.

This article reflects my experience that the world seems to have a large resistance to giving attention to energetic constraints, which I believe is at the root of so many of our problems.

Energy, the Repressed: Paging Dr. Freud

by Kurt Cobb, of Resource Insights

"Jeremy Rifkin announced the end of work in a bookby that title in 1995. Today, we are once again being told that the end of work is nigh. The Atlantic Monthlytells us so in a piece entitled, "A World Without Work." Automation and computer technology will bring unimaginable change and prosperity--and result in the loss of millions of jobs that will not be replaced...

Today, a new psychological repression hides in plain sight. It is the servant of a modern ideology, a religion really, that says the material world is soulless and merely fodder for economic growth. This repression prevents most from seeing our ecological predicament and therefore from understanding it or acting in response to it. This repression is of the very physical world about us and the vast and complex interconnections which govern our lives and the life of the planet.

Our psyche is now programmed to register the physical world as a substrate for our fantasies of dominion and mastery, but rarely as a master to us. The fantasy is that humans are in one category and nature in another, a nature that is very much subservient to our wishes.

A subset of this repression is the difficulty in talking about the vulnerability of an energy system that relies for more than 80 percent of its energy on finite fossil fuels. A friend of mine related a conversation with an engineer who disputed that oil is a finite resource. My friend being clever and patient got the engineer to agree that the Earth is a sphere and that it has a calculable volume. He then got the engineer to agree that that volume is finite, and that oil, being a subset of the Earth's volume, must also be finite. The engineer had never thought about the issue that way. And, neither have most people on the planet as astonishing as that may seem. But, it's really no wonder since they've been propagandized by a constant advertising and public relations juggernaut from the fossil fuel industry saying (or more likely deceptively implying) things which cannot on their face be true...

But how might we lift a repression that is embedded in the entire culture? Yes, culture. Another friend of mine once tried to explain to me that the consumption of oil is a culturally determined act. I am only now beginning to see what he means, and I have little to suggest to overcome the repression that I see. The history of societies with highly consequential repressions--ones related to things central to their existence and which, if not lifted, threaten their survival--these societies often destroy themselves. Nazi Germany comes to mind. Also, Jared Diamond's Collapseand Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies which catalogue societies that repressed the obvious signs of collapse until it was too late..."

Read the entire article here

Here's a slide from my presentation at ITC:

Previously I've written here about the EcoModernist Manifesto (prepared by the Breakthrough Institute), and Jeff Salzman's embrace of it as a great example of integral environmentalism ("Why the cure for development is more development").

An excellent essay critiquing the manifesto has been recently posted by Chris Smaje, from the Dark Mountain project (which Salzman has previously provided a very shallow assessment of, based on a poor NY Times article).

Here's a couple of quotes from the new essay, called Dark Thoughts on Eco Modernism:

"...the EM reads like a religious tract. Despite all the trappings of science and policy analysis, it’s really an attempt to keep the barbarians from the gate and to insist that, while few now believe in the perfectibility of humanity in heaven as a sacred process, we can still believe in the perfectibility of humanity on earth as a historical process. We can, in the words of the EM, have a ‘great Anthropocene’. Well, maybe – but I don’t believe in perfectibility, sacred or profane. So I’m standing uncertainly at the gate, ready at least to give the barbarians a hearing.

The EM also reads like a literary tract. Curiously, despite adopting the moniker of modernism for themselves, the ecomodernists don’t identify with modernism as an aesthetic movement – and yet their programme meshes perfectly with that of the literary modernists. Like Baudelaire wandering through the less salubrious streets of 19th-century Paris, the ecomodernists want to invent a new language that scorns romanticism and the naturalistic, and embraces the city in general and the slum in particular as the engine of a new world order involving a self-conscious rupture with everything that has gone before. I won’t dwell on all the connections, or on the career and aftermath of modernism: from Baudelaire to Eliot to Iain Sinclair, from Marx to Stalin to Lyotard’s ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’, from Le Corbusier to Ronan Point to the mock Tudor semi, from the Factory Acts to Henry Ford to Mark Zuckerberg. But as self-avowed ‘modernists’ the eco-modernists might do well to ponder the long career and drawn out death of modernism in the arts and policy sciences. Certainly, modernism was an important moment in its time. But now it’s over. The moment for eco-modernism is over too."

And here's the 2nd excerpt:

"

The other kind of decoupling the EM advocates is a physical decoupling of people from nature through urbanisation, agricultural intensification and the restoration of wildlands, for in its words ‘Nature unused is nature spared’ (p.19). As noted earlier, the Eden myth, the notion of a pristine and uncorrupted nature, has such a deep currency in our ‘modernising’ culture that this sentence probably seems uncontroversial to many. But I find it strange and troubling. For uncivilised thought, its sentiments are unintelligible. ‘Nature’ is not something that goes ‘used’ or ‘unused’. And though humans can probably never escape entirely from a godlike differentiation of self from nature-other, our power lies not in ‘sparing’ nature but rather in moving purposefully within the realm of its power. Here the EM is caught in a morbid dialectic of capitalism, which first reduces everything in the world to a set of instrumental use values and then, abhorring what it’s done, tries to extricate a sacred wholeness from the consequences of its own ugliness. In contrast to the more anti-modern strands of radical environmentalism, ecomodernism is often characterised as an optimistic doctrine. But listen to the melancholy:

We write this document out of deep love and emotional connection to the natural world. By appreciating, exploring, seeking to understand, and cultivating nature, many people get outside themselves. They connect with their deep evolutionary history. Even when people never experience these wild natures directly, they affirm their existence as important for their psychological and spiritual well-being. Humans will always materially depend on nature to some degree (p.25).

As a philosophical statement, there seems a grand absurdity in advocating rupture from something that you need to be a part of. I empathise with the sadness, but it’s a pity the ecomodernists try to overcome it with chest-thumping affirmations of human independence. They sound like the jilted lover, at once defiant: ‘I don’t need her anyway, I’m better than her'; then alone, and afraid: ‘she was everything to me, what will I do without her?’ Eventually, the lover moves on. It’s less clear where a denatured humanity would move to. Here, again, the modernism of the ecomodernists already meets its end.

So, the ecomodernists seem to be saying, despite our human need for nature, we can’t be trusted to get along with it. We need a divorce, a division of the spoils: to us the city, and the minimum amount of farmland necessary to support it, to the rest of creation the wilderness where humans can go to look but not to live. I think this will prove self-defeating. Absent people from the production of their subsistence and install an economy of modernisation which offers no philosophical challenge to the proliferation of material demands and you unleash the bedlam we see already: the ecological reach of wealthy cities is global. Beyond global – the demands of ‘developed’ urbanised countries exceed the planetary capacity to furnish them long-term. Maybe city wealth buys the ecological conscience to shop in farmer’s markets and subscribe to Greenpeace, but it buys a lot of other things as well – too many for the world to provide. And the notion that, properly managed, capitalist modernisation will deliver fair wages, efficient production and ecological restoration for all is a utopian fantasy, just as it has always been. The ecomodernists’ programme will more likely terminate with an entrenched urban poverty that allows them, the elite, but not the newly enclosed urban masses, the luxury of ‘connecting emotionally’ with a cowed nature, or else perhaps just with metrogeddon."

http://entitleblog.org/2015/06/27/fifty-shades-of-green-bruno-latou...

There is one opinion :) I think the Internet is like the printing press on Walt's meth!

At least I now know why the mayor of Vancouver wants to bring another 750 million people to the city . Woohoo I get to see black skies 24/7 .at that point from either the carbon or the funeral fires .....

Thanks for the link to Bruno Latour's essay, "Fifty Shades of Green" on ecomodernism, which I also much enjoyed:

"The ecomodernist manifesto is written entirely as if humans were still alone on stage, the only being who out of its own free will is in charge of apportioning space, land, money and value to the old Mother Nature. (The notion of “decoupling” would be loved by psycho-analysts, I am sure). But this is, as Clive Hamilton said yesterday, cruelly but accurately I think, a complete anachronism. Not content with the utopianism of modernity — rewilding, decoupling, growing, smoking healthily without smoke — the ecomodernists are also uchronists, as if they were living a time where they alone were in command.

I have heard many times the critique of catastrophism, I even heard on the first night a charming lady exclaim ”Let’s move away from that doomsday mood”, as if catastrophism was a sort of human ideology imposed on a situation that would remain, in itself, fairly quiet and stable, let’s say, fairly Holocene… But catastrophism is not a fancy of human imagination, it has shifted from poets, dramaturgists, tragedy, to the quick path of geostory itself (to use Dipesh Chakrabarty’s term). We are no longer in history, but in geostory. And you know what is so tragicomic about it (I wrote a whole play on that)? While tragedy moved from human to geology, suddenly, it is human culture which pretends to teach everybody to be quiet and calm, and forget the “doomsday mood”!

Never in history was there such a complete disconnect between the requirements of time and space, and the utopian uchronist vision coming from intellectuals. Wake up you ecomoderns, we are in the Anthropocene, not in the Holocene, nor are we to ever reside in the enchanted dream of futurism. Down to earth is the message I hear, but unfortunately not in the ecomodernist manifesto. I would be very worried if an assembly such as this ignored which epoch it is in and on which soil it resides — just as much as the police border officer who stamped my passport, and who believed he was in the Bible."

And Latour's conclusion, referencing the Pope's encyclical, which I personally found to be much more "integral" than the EM (Breakthrough Institute supporter Michael Zimmerman may disagree):

"...you have to answer this simple question: how do you invent the political constitution that is able to absorb the Anthropocene, namely the reaction of the earth system to our action, in a way that renders politics again comprehensible to those who are simultaneously actor, victim, accomplices and responsible for such a situation?

You may decide that this is not your project, but then why on earth write a manifesto? There is an immense danger in hiding from view that we are at war, in a state of war, just as in the 17th century when Hobbes invented the Leviathan to get out of what he called the state of nature. Except now the situation is reversed. We used to be in the State of Nature, capital S capital N, and we tried to avoid the war of all against all. But now the game is immensely more complicated because there are many other agencies that make a claim for power sharing. Agencies are everywhere entangled, and we don’t have a political institution at the scale of the phenomena.

If I decide in the end to be an ally of your political movement, I will easily forgive the label you choose and the flag you selected. But I will be convinced only when I have obtained a detailed list of your friends and your enemies. And please don’t tell me that you have no enemies, and that it is all about tracing the obvious and inevitable path of reason and progress — because I know who has drawn that path. It is a providential God, which is not my God.

As usual, those who fight against apocalyptic talk and catastrophism are the ones who are so far beyond doomsday that they seriously believe that nothing will happen to them and that they may continue forever, just as before. This is what makes Pope Francis’s Laudatio Si! so refreshing by comparison: it does take seriously what it means to live “at the end of time”, and in its redistribution of agency, it does add ‘our Sister, Mother Earth’."

BTW, I didn't get the "printing press on Walt's meth" reference, but after a quick search I take it as having something to do with the TV show "Breaking Bad."

I was alluding to the information explosion with the advent of the printing press; the internet being a similar phenomenon , yet a million times more wacky ( I guess if one is dumb enough to slog through as much of the stuff that is out there ) and I do .
This is the first in depth look I've had on this newish Eco movement . Am certainly not surprised by it , and almost expected it in some ways .
http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/06/the-ecomodernist-myth/
More critique there that has its merits . As the inevitability of our foolish arrogance takes its course this century I imagine many such denialistic movements . I'm sticking to my assertion that the rise of fiat currency and central banking cartels was and remains a cancer . Putting a bandaid around it will do nothing to stop the malignancy . IMO this "cancer" is no spiritual random accident of evolutionary processes . I will admit that they have been remarkable efficient at convincing everyone that things couldn't be any other way .
Oh yes, wrong thread, but I'll mention it here : I do get that certain schools of Buddhist ontology jive with scientific epistemology and can see how many would draw metaphysical conclusions about the nature of reality based on those compatabilities ; but the compatibility is by no means conclusive as to be called definitive , imo .
BTW David, I suspect, on reflection, that the folks positing eco modernism are JMG's intermediaries . It does seem to me that they have the most to loose as this centuries inevitable karma comes to pass. The poor are already marginalized and used to struggle (jihad) and suffering ; while the string pullers will be buffeted for a time . This may be why this group is being so adamant in their assertions - they're friggin scared and I guess , in a way, they should be ( intense suffering is never something to look forward to ) .
Also, the Bonitta Roy link was quite good . She seems to me to be one of the few in the Integral community that groks the spiritual heart at the core of reality . A pure heart at that but I'll spare Ed the aggravation . The best we could hope for in our current ' corrupted' state is a system of trading goods and services that at the very least isn't flagrantly antagonistic to what I call the right hand protocols . The present system as is is extremely anti - right hand protocols at the moment . Recently , even Constantine's Christendom is starting to question capitalisms compatibility with their doctrines ( which are still grossly in error as to the nature of reality , imo) but nevertheless , the issue is being raised .

Blinded By Technology: Has Our Belief in Silicon Valley Led the World Astray?

"...In 2010, Toyama left Microsoft to take up a research fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, and began to work on a thesis that finally became Geek Heresy. His beliefs, indeed, are fairly heretical, given modern assumptions about the social benefits of technology – what Toyama now believes has a tendency to be “empty sloganeering that collapse[s] under critical thinking”. Tucked up beyond our laptops, smartphones, and tablets, Toyama writes, “we are unable to entertain alternatives to tech-driven, capitalist, liberal democracy, so we pronounce [technology] the ultimate salvation”.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/aug/30/kentaro-toyama-ge...

Not ultimate salvation, but a necessary part of it at this point. It can also drive a Commons-oriented liberal and global democracy. And it is.

This video though is more in line with your last post DM:

As one "DM" to another, I really liked this segment from your original post: 

----

But I’ve concluded that many of us, like Koningstein and Fork, have been asking the wrong questions of renewables. We’ve been demanding that they continue to power a growth-based consumer economy that is inherently unsustainable for a variety of reasons (the most obvious one being that we live on a small planet with finite resources). The fact that renewables can’t do that shouldn't actually be surprising.

What are the right questions? The first, already noted, is: What kind of society can up-to-date renewable energy sources power? The second, which is just as important: How do we go about becoming that sort of society?

-----

Lately, I've approached this same insight from a very odd angle. Perhaps it is but a metaphor (as a poet-philosopher I am prone to heavy use of metaphors), but I see the inherent flaw of capitalism (and consumerism) as being what I call "wave collapse." 

When you "own" something you take it partially out of circulation, and even out of "currency" -- that is, if we think of currency as the flow of resources, rather than as the thing called money.  

Capitalism means "owning the means of production." As a resource allocation system, or "economy," capitalism has at its base this thing called "ownership." But what does that do to the overall movement of resources? Apparently up to a point it helps move resources about, but then it begins to limit the movement of the resources. When I say movement or allocation, I include vertical movement in the form of developing new products and services from raw and rawer resources. The capatilist own a steel mill and moved iron ore along until still was manufactured and used. The primary resource of iron ore was successfully transmuted into steel. Then other capitalists shaped and assembled the first wave of transmutted iron ore into various products that consumers could then "own."  

"Owning" created a fairly fluid resource allocation system -- up to a point. 

At some point the owning started to get in the way of fluid allocation of resources. The capitalist took more and more of the energy from the production, in the form of "profit." The profit profited the capitalist who leaned too much toward owning. The overall wave-like movment of resources, whether vertical (resource development) or horizontal (the distribution goods and services), was "collapsed" into  a static, matter-like, form. The potential flow was disrupted. If there is a ratio between owning and distributing, then at some point the captalist system resulted in a shift toward owning, at the expense of distribution. The wave-like "spirit" of the "one body" was collapsed into "owning" and "greed." 

Even old time religion tried to teach us that we don't really own anything -- God does. But we failed to interpret that in an dynamic LR quadrant sort of way. We only interpreted in terms of LL quad "morality." It is not good to be greedy. "Why?" No truly dynamic or integral answer to that question, other than "God says so." Religion answered its two-year-old's question of "Why?" with the classic "Because!"   

But now I introduce a quantum concept of wave collapse, as part of the true answer to "Why?" Why should we not really own anything, at least in some rigid or absolute sense of the word? Why should sharing be our collective "default program? Instead of owning?"

My answer is "So we can restore the quantum wave function to our resource allocation systems, or economies."

Odd but strangely provocative way to look at the reason we need systemic changes rather than only a bandaid approach of adding renewable tech to the current overarching systems.

darrell 

"myopia" is one form of the "wave collapse" that I was talking about in my comment. 

A consumer parks his newly-owned car in his or her driveway. He or she no longer thinks about the exploitation or polution that might have gone into producing that particular consumer product. The larger process or "wave" is lost, collapsed to a particle-like perception of "my new car." And how good that particle makes me feel. We have "arrived." Actually we just sit on a lead. No longer thinking about the overall resource allocation system that brought us this particular resource. No longer investing in the improvement of the overall system. "Improvement" would mean sustainability as well as a host of other things. But if we are too happy with our new car, we stop thinking about the subtle dynamic characteristics of the very system that made it possible to have and to own. We stop looking at the consequences of the current model of that resource allocation system. We adopt a static view of "things." We can't see the forest for the cars. 

darrell

Darrell R. Moneyhon said:

As one "DM" to another, I really liked this segment from your original post: 

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But I’ve concluded that many of us, like Koningstein and Fork, have been asking the wrong questions of renewables. We’ve been demanding that they continue to power a growth-based consumer economy that is inherently unsustainable for a variety of reasons (the most obvious one being that we live on a small planet with finite resources). The fact that renewables can’t do that shouldn't actually be surprising.

What are the right questions? The first, already noted, is: What kind of society can up-to-date renewable energy sources power? The second, which is just as important: How do we go about becoming that sort of society?

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Lately, I've approached this same insight from a very odd angle. Perhaps it is but a metaphor (as a poet-philosopher I am prone to heavy use of metaphors), but I see the inherent flaw of capitalism (and consumerism) as being what I call "wave collapse." 

When you "own" something you take it partially out of circulation, and even out of "currency" -- that is, if we think of currency as the flow of resources, rather than as the thing called money.  

Capitalism means "owning the means of production." As a resource allocation system, or "economy," capitalism has at its base this thing called "ownership." But what does that do to the overall movement of resources? Apparently up to a point it helps move resources about, but then it begins to limit the movement of the resources. When I say movement or allocation, I include vertical movement in the form of developing new products and services from raw and rawer resources. The capatilist own a steel mill and moved iron ore along until still was manufactured and used. The primary resource of iron ore was successfully transmuted into steel. Then other capitalists shaped and assembled the first wave of transmutted iron ore into various products that consumers could then "own."  

"Owning" created a fairly fluid resource allocation system -- up to a point. 

At some point the owning started to get in the way of fluid allocation of resources. The capitalist took more and more of the energy from the production, in the form of "profit." The profit profited the capitalist who leaned too much toward owning. The overall wave-like movment of resources, whether vertical (resource development) or horizontal (the distribution goods and services), was "collapsed" into  a static, matter-like, form. The potential flow was disrupted. If there is a ratio between owning and distributing, then at some point the captalist system resulted in a shift toward owning, at the expense of distribution. The wave-like "spirit" of the "one body" was collapsed into "owning" and "greed." 

Even old time religion tried to teach us that we don't really own anything -- God does. But we failed to interpret that in an dynamic LR quadrant sort of way. We only interpreted in terms of LL quad "morality." It is not good to be greedy. "Why?" No truly dynamic or integral answer to that question, other than "God says so." Religion answered its two-year-old's question of "Why?" with the classic "Because!"   

But now I introduce a quantum concept of wave collapse, as part of the true answer to "Why?" Why should we not really own anything, at least in some rigid or absolute sense of the word? Why should sharing be our collective "default program? Instead of owning?"

My answer is "So we can restore the quantum wave function to our resource allocation systems, or economies."

Odd but strangely provocative way to look at the reason we need systemic changes rather than only a bandaid approach of adding renewable tech to the current overarching systems.

darrell 

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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