Make Waves

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As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.

Gandhi

This is one of my favorite quotes. The world is full of people trying to change it, but severely lacks people trying to change themselves. I claim at least as much responsibility as the next person for this trend and can understand why it is; it is much easier to go with the flow. Further, it is a lot easier to tell other people what to do than to do it yourself. The problem I see with this is that it has lead to a world where everyone wants to tell everyone else what the problems with the world are, but only want to personally change to fix them as much as is convenient, the rest apparently being the responsibility of the  ‘masses’ changing first. Unless one person can change themselves though, the masses will surely never change. Again, it is hard — very hard — to change oneself, especially to a position of relative disadvantage by some standards while other reap the benefits of not changing, but I believe it is the single most effective and fulfilling way to promote change in the world. Like a wave, your personal change will influence those around you, sending ripples out into the world that can have enormous effects.

Here is a short story about some personal changes I have made. I hope you can find some inspiration to make your own changes, for whatever causes you are passionate about. I am gravely concerned about energy sustainability issues. I worry that, it addition to laying waste to our environment, we are also setting ourselves up for economic disaster as the fuel tanks for our economic growth run dry. I, in so many ways, want to scream out to the world of the changes that must be made to help shield us and and our children from these catastrophes. However, I found it difficult to make even the simple changes I want the rest of the world to make. Simple solutions like buying local and organic food and biking instead of driving when possible were frustrating to me when I knew others either were saving money or finding much greater convenience in travel. I had to push myself to take these step, literally reminding myself that if I cannot do these things, I can never expect others to. Eventually, these and other steps towards sustainable living became easier though, even rewarding. Suddenly, a few extra dollars spent on local produce was a small price to pay for the sense of personal accomplishment and growth. The steps were small, yes, but they felt right and I learned not to think of my changes relative to others but to the greater good of all. I, regardless of what others choose to do, am able to do my part for the cause I believe in. Whether I ever make a wave or not, I am not sure, but with friends and family at least noticing and picking up a few small sustainable habits, I feel there are already at least some ripples going out around me.

So please, be the change you want to see in the world. I hope I can be part of your waves of change to make the world a better place.

Love and be loved!

If Greed is Good, Then I Don’t Know What Good Is.

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Greed is good. The concept was largely brought about back in 1957 by Ayn Rand in her now famous novel, Atlas Shrugged. Although not always formally admitted, it is still a fundamental ideology within the Republican Party and more so within the Tea Party. Those who want more work harder and thus deserve more. Said that way, it is a statement many may and do agree with. This is because it taps into one of the basic concepts of capitalism, that individuals, not the government, control the market and consequently determine its and their fate. This, as Ayn points out, is the embodiment of justice in economics and life.

“The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve ‘the common good.’ It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.” — AYN RAND

Justice though, as defined by the merriam-webster dictionary, describes fairness, impartialness, and conformity to truth, fact, or reason. It is said to be synonymous with equity, fairness in the way people are treated, specifically with freedom from bias or favoritism. So yes, maybe it is fair that people who work harder earn more. I find it difficult to argue with that statement. However, this begs the questions, how much more? How do you describe who is working harder?  Is it not intrinsic to justice that these questions be answered with a lack of bias, from an impartial viewpoint? Doesn’t justice preclude that that freedom and fairness stem from an even playing field, void of favoritism?

Today, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans, approximately 158 million people. The top 1% of Americans own about 35% of the wealth in America. The top 10% own approximately 75% of the wealth. To rephrase, this meansthat 90% of Americans collectively own 25% of our nation’s wealth. These are numbers we have all heard, but what exactly do they mean? For starters let’s think about how we can compare your “average” American to someone in the top 1%. It is tempting to look at the average net worth of American’s, $301,000, but this figure is surprisingly deceiving. If we were to look at a small group of 5 people whose wealth are measured in arbitrary units as 5, 4, 7, 946, and 1, we would say the average wealth of that group is 192. This is nearly 30 times the wealth of the second wealthiest person in that group, so it hardly seems fitting to say your typical person in the group has that amount of wealth. A perhaps more appropriate approach is to look at the median, the middle value of all of the ordered values. In our 5 person group, the median value is 5. This too is an over simplification, but seems a better representation of what your typical person is worth. In the US, the median net worth is $45,000, less than a sixth of the average net worth. Like in our sample group, this is because we have a highly skewed distribution of wealth. So how much more wealthy is the top 1% than your typical American? Approximately 70 times wealthier than the average and about 190 times wealthier than the median.

So, one could ask, do these people work 70 to 190 times harder than your typical American? It is quite doubtful. These numbers describe only greed, not justice. And worse, it is only a fallacy that given hard work, anyone can become part of that 1%. From the very beginning of life in the United States, there is extreme bias and favoritism. There is no such thing as an even playing field. While many young American’s are working hard 10+ hour days just to earn enough to put food on the table, others are attending college, travelling the world gaining valuable resume building experience, and getting internships using their valuable connections. These opportunities hardly ever present themselves to the working poor. An unpaid internship for many would mean their families would go hungry. There is no inherent difference in intelligence or motivation between people born into wealth and people born into poverty and it is no coincidence that people born into wealth stay wealthy and people born into poverty stay poor. The social mobility in the United States, that opportunity people have to change classes, is as low as wealth differential is high. There is a reason for this. It is an illusion that in our democracy the power is held by the people. The much less inspiring story is that Money=Power. In 2014, over $950 million was spent for campaigns for the house and over $550 million in the senate. The magnitude of these numbers is both shocking and horrifying. Two things are true about this money: 1. Only the wealthiest Americans can afford to make notable contributions and 2. There is a reason they are handing over millions of dollars. The average politician in the house or senate must raise approximately $10,000 per week to fund their next campaign. This is to say nothing of the money exchanged between lobbyists and political groups. Politicians with any political power are thus funded and controlled by big money. And, as we discovered earlier, big money is gained by greed.Social_mobility_is_lower_in_more_unequal_countries

So now we have a nation not driven by liberty and justice but through a purposefully complicated and hidden economic system, a nation run by the richest and greediest people. It is therefore not surprising that the wealth distribution in America is becoming ever more skewed (check out this great site: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/growing-apart-a-political-history-of-american-inequality/index). A few millionaires and billionaires are seeking to increase their wealth and are doing so by designing a system that funnels money from the many poor to the few rich. They have the money, they have the power, and they are very very greedy. They hide their system behind ideas of justice and the American Dream and promote a lack of education in the poor who are required to help them amass their fortunes. Greed has become the defining sentiment in our economic system, leaving no room for compassion, kindness, sympathy, tolerance, and general humanity. If there is any question of this, remember that there are both billionaires and people looking for their meals in trash cans. But a small sliver of the top 1%’s wealth could eliminate hunger in America.

This post is largely motivated by the documentary “Park Avenue: Wealth, Power, and the American Dream.” I recommend checking it out. The first step towards change must be education of the masses.

Follow your bliss and have a great week.

More Than Optimistic — Neccesary

article-2359348-1ABF28CF000005DC-196_306x423A glass is a container, and lets face it, American culture says containers should be full. Be it a glass, a gas tank, a wallet, or a room in a house, we try to fill it. And not just fill it to what we think we need, but to fill it past overflowing no matter what.

For instance, have you ever ordered a beer at a bar and only to be insulted by being handed 15.5 ounces of that golden goodness instead of the 16 ounces you thought you ordered? I mean, you wouldn’t have noticed if the glass had been a bit smaller and consequently full, but there it is, that thin slice of worthless air sitting above your beer, but still within the confines of your pint glass. What did you do to piss of the waiter? Is this Karma? Do they really expect to run a business this way? I thought it was understood that every glass of beer should have a complimentary excess of foam to spill onto the table or bar when the waiter set it down. Don’t tell me this isn’t a big deal, because it is!

Okay, it isn’t. Or maybe it is, but probably not in the normal sense of things. Maybe there is a problem, a big problem, but it is not that half an once worth of beer has been stolen from you. The much more real problem is this: We all feel our containers should be full. So why is this a problem? Well, why do we feel this way? Lets get rid of the obvious — it is not because we need them full. It may have been a long stressful day, but no one needs that half once of beer. No one need their wallet stuffed full of hundreds or their refrigerator stuffed full of the most expensive food. No, but there is something appetizing about it anyways. Something that makes so many people see the above glass as not only half empty, but as an abomination to all glasses of any size. Why?

Clearly the glass is representative of something more, but the fundamentals of the problem are real. Why is it that we are disappointed with anything except “the most?” Is it a matter of fairness? Is it disappointing to get 15.5 ounces of beer when your friend got 16 for the same price? Is it a matter of convenience? Is it frustrating to know another beer order will be necessary half an once of beer drinking time earlier? Maybe it is just because we expect the system to work the way the system is supposed to work. $5.00 = 16 ounces of beer in a glass. Period. End of story.

Well ultimately, it is likely some combination of these things combined with a predetermined way of thinking resulting from the setup of our society. When filling a glass, the bottom of the glass is a starting point and the top an end. And when drinking, these points of interest reverse themselves. These goals define us. Having $0 is a starting point and $afreakinglot is an end point. Walking is a starting point and a Lamborghini is an end point. Few people seem to think of the points in between much. But, to continue the tackiness that is this beer example, isn’t it true that in between the top and bottom is what’s important? It is the enjoyment of the beer and the time to talk with friends that matters. That first delicious sip of a new beer is incredible and that doesn’t change if it is ounce 15.5 or 16. Getting to your family’s or friend’s house is what’s important, not that you broke 100 on the way.

And our habits of finding satisfaction only in full glasses are not only unnecessary, but destructive. Economists have plans to fill everyone’s glass. Why then, does it seem that NO ONE has a full glass? Three reasons.

One, infinite growth within our finite world is impossible and insane. Therefore, instead of filling glasses from a never ending faucet like we pretend exists, we are actually filling some glasses by emptying others. More specifically, we are emptying the economic glasses of many developing nations, our own working class, and ironically, our own environment. Our world is interconnected and there are dire consequences to emptying the resources of our environment to increase the balances of our bank accounts. Our world is very finite and when the resources run out, our full wallets won’t mean a thing.

Secondly, we are trying to fill our glasses with something imaginary. Someone with $10 wants $20. Someone with $100,000 wants $200,000. It is never ending because money is imaginary. It pops into existence at the click of a button and then vanishes in a catastrophic burst of an economic bubble. It has nothing to do with the real world. Yes, oil prices are dictated by what we find, but show no resemblance to the inventory of our earth or environmental effects. It is believed that we have already passed the maximum amount of oil that will ever be drawn from the earth. That is, there will be continuously less concentrated energy available in year to come. This might suggest that prices should be increasing, but as long as supply is meeting demand, they don’t. Everyone has been excited about the falling costs of gasoline recently, but this is insane! It is like withdrawing all the money from your bank account and saying, yea, lets use it all since I already have it out. We are saying, look how much oil we have out in barrels, lets sell it for wicked cheap. Well there is going to be hell to pay when we look at our oil bank account. And also when we look at our environmental one.

Finally, the root of the problem lies in the fact that we don’t need full glasses. We need happiness and we are looking for it in all the wrong places. Respect of others, friendship, family, and acceptance of facts are all key ingredients for happiness, yet many are prepared to sacrifice these for a few more dollars in the bank. A world where the environment and all of the people have enough in their glasses to find happiness is a sustainable and better world. And, contrary to popular belief, this world is within reaching distance. All it would take would be for people to accept they already have enough in the glass to be happy and share the excess. If we could stop destroying our world for a few years, take our excess energy to create a sustainable infrastructure, we could also find harmony with our environment. This beautiful world where everyone is happy is not out of reach, only out of our minds. We don’t see it. Well lets start.

Happy Wednesday everyone. Much love to all.

And Yet, We Do Nothing About It

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“The most important single factor that is driving our civilization toward ecological collapse is the promotion of greater per capita consumption as the primary goal of every nation state at a time when we are already over consuming”

Jackson. Ross. 2012. Occupy World Street – A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Poloitcal Reform. pg.73

STOP!

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Stop, for the sake of logic. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as the songs, but seriously, stop. Stop and don’t start again right away. Stop thinking about what you’re always thinking about. Stop doing what you always do. Just stop. It is hard. We are all busy doing “things” and if we are not, we are busy finding “things” to become busy doing. Put this here, then there. Write this and send it there. Migrate a new thing to there to update that thing ASAP before this and that lose half their those. We have so many darn “things” to do.

Well STOP! Find some time, and stop. Don’t do things and don’t think about things. And stop for a while. A few days or week might be optimal, but perhaps it is more likely you can afford an hour or two. So, take 2 hours, and stop. Don’t do it at your office and don’t’ do it in front of a television or computer screen. Preferably, do it a lone. Sit somewhere comfortable with nothing prepared to fill your time. Leave it open, wide open, and

STOP.

Likely it will take you the first half hour or more to really stop. You have to consciously stop. When your mind says, “what are we doing?! There are important things to be done,”  ask it to stop. When you think about the errands you need to do or the credit card bill you need to pay, stop and put it out of mind. You can do it later. Stop and face the fact, it is ok to stop. If it helps, think about yourself. Think about your legs, you arms, your heart, your mind. Try not to think about how sore or tired they might be, just think about them, the blood flowing through them every second of every day. Stop and imagine the air you are inhaling, spreading out into your lungs and feeding you. Stop. It is hard, and it takes practice.

If you can manage to stop, enjoy it. As long as you can or want to. Just enjoy it. And once you feel more comfortable having stopped, you may begin to start. Don’t go. Stay where you are. Don’t move. If you can, try not to start worrying. Try not to start thinking about how to hop back into the jet stream of your normal life. Try to start at something more basic. Try to find basic meaning, something you can build from. It is important to do this by yourself or quietly with someone else you are comfortable with, out of the judging eyes of the world. What is important at a most basic level to you, just you. Hopefully you have food, safety, and the other life essentials, otherwise they are sure to take priority. If you don’t, get off this blog! Get off the computer! Otherwise, look at your life not in terms of the money in your bank account or the job you have. Look at yourself in terms of purpose and meaning. Look for both. Happiness? Where might it reside? I won’t give you answers because I don’t have them; they are very personal to you. But stop and look. Give yourself enough time. If you start to feel uncomfortable having stopped, give yourself some more time to fully accept you complacency in having stopped for a moment. And when you are fully at one with having stopped, allow yourself, when you are ready, to go. Ease back into real life. Run your errands, pay your credit card, etc. But while you are going, try to remember how it was when you stopped. Remember what you thought about, what seemed important. Has it changed, is it different now that you are going or is it just easier not to think about it? Try to take what you learned when you stopped and include in your life. Stop again, as necessary, to remind yourself of what you found when you stopped. If it all sounds silly, just give it a try anyways. 1 hour. Just give it one hour. No distractions. Don’t fall asleep. Just stop, wait, and take in where your brain takes you when you stop.

Please be well, follow your bliss and feel loved because you are.

What’s best: Something bad or something terrible?

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It is the question so frequently facing us. Our political system (U.S.) seems so bad sometimes, but is it not better than many others in the world? Does it not in many senses seem like the best in the world? It seems impossible to find someone who is entirely happy with the U.S political system, but it continues to persist because there ultimately don’t seem like many other options.

I have some ideas of ways to better/remake our system, but they are in ardent opposition to the ideas of so many others and who am I to say they are wrong and I am right? What more basic foundation can we all lean on to come up with a better system together? I think the approach that needs to be taken is to clear our minds of the current system. It is not terrible, but it is blinding. Whatever inherent human nature is, it means next to nothing now. Some people argue that war is inevitable because it is part of human nature, but is it? Does any newborn hate another group of people because of their religion or ethnicity? No, I don’t think so, not until they are engulfed by our current systems. They learn to hate. They learn to think in a new way. We have reached a point where a dominant systems teaches everyone to think a certain way, a way that says we need to fight to get what we deserve. But why? We live in a world where if we put our resources and effort into sustainable living, we could all have enough to live comfortably and happily for a very long time – like billions of years. We can’t get winning out of our head though. Maybe it is a lingering effect from our tale of evolution, a time when it was fight or die. If we see this though, we can choose to stop it. We can stop wanting excess. We can stop wanting every person to conform to a specific religion. We don’t all need to be the same to live together.

These beliefs are far short of the basis for a new political system, but I think they are a start. I think they are an important step in thinking in a new way. It seems that it is impossible to break out of our current path as long as most people think winning in the ultimate goal. So, lets try to stop that. Let’s stop telling everyone that their lives are measured in the amount of wins they have. Let’s stop portraying the head honchos of billion dollar companies as the must successful people on this planet. They, in my mind, are just the most trapped. They have the most to lose by considering any change from the current system, so it is unlikely that they are going to initiate the change we need. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa. These are the people we should think of as successful. Most of them were quite the opposite of millionaires, they lived very meager and humble lives. And what is possibly most amazing is that they seem to have found much more happiness than most million and billionaires we see today. So why can’t we stop thinking of money as the greatest measure of wealth? Why do people work to make tons of money only to find that it doesn’t make them happy? It is the state of mind our system encourages and we have to change that. I don’t know how yet, but I would like to figure it out. If there are any ideas out there, I would greatly appreciate hearing them.

Have a great day. Follow your bliss and feel loved because you are.

The Consequences of The Assembly Line

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The moving assembly line, sometimes called progressive assembly, has revolutionized our world. It has increased production, decreased costs, and ultimately, allowed us luxuries that are unfeasible otherwise. Further, the sequential piece wise assembly of good allows for easier repairs and part replacement. Henry Ford is credited with implementing the first mass assembly line in 1913 to build automobiles, though the actual invention of the assembly line is often given to Ransom Eli Olds. Since then, the assembly line has been a fundamental and obvious practice for nearly all profitable good producing business.

Looking through the eyes of a business man, there are massive benefits for using the assembly line model and relatively few drawbacks. First, assembly lines produce goods faster. Instead of workers bringing parts to the good being produced, the good is brought to them, they apend a part or two, and the good moves on to the next station. A hypothetical group of 10 workers, each attaching 1 of the 10 parts of a hypothetical good, can produce far more of that good than if each were to attempt to build the good one at a time by themselves.

To give credit where credit is due, lets think about the automotive production line of say a Ford car. Can you imagine if each Ford Factory worker was placed in a room and asked to build a car? Thirty Thousand. That is a rough average of the typical number of pieces that go into a modern car. To build a car, the worker would have to walk to 30,000 part storage areas and individually put them together. In addition to taking a very long time, this would of course imply that each employee would need to know how to build a car from start to finish, the next benefit of an assembly line.

Again assuming a strictly business oriented mind frame, assembly lines make sense because you are able to hire less skilled employees. One would have to pay a man or woman who knows how to build a car from start to finish a lot more than a man or woman who can screw one metal piece to another over and over again. The product of an assembly line may be very similar to the product from a single skilled person, but it will have cost much less money and time. These two things make the assembly line a no brainier for the business man, and ultimately, for everyone.

Today, few people are willing or even able to pay the premium for goods hand-made by just one or a few people. The assembly line dominates and creates our lives. In some ways, the assembly line has even transcended the realm of making goods into the intellectual realm. For non-scientists, it may be necessary to first notify you that modern science is very rarely the partially random experimentation it is romantically thought to be. There are few scientists, and fewer good scientists, pouring different chemicals together just to see what happens or writing papers on a single string of data they collected. No, science, like nearly everything in this world, has been forced to adopt a sort of pyramid structure where each new discovery is a top piece on a pyramid of knowledge generally built by the work of other people past and present. For example, take a modern physicist, Dr. Makesbelieve. Dr. Makesbelieve is interested in the shape of the expansion of our known universe. To start her work in this field, she does not go sit under an apple tree hoping for an epiphany to strike her; instead, she goes to a computer and starts downloading all the articles related to this field of study to see where we are so far in understanding it. She does not necessarily take the time to derive ever single theory currently existing and she does run every experiment that has already been run. She does not learn how to make the telescopes that she may have to use in her work and she does not build her own computer to make sure it does math right. No, she instead climbs the pyramid of knowledge to the top and then starts shaping her contribution to add to the peak. Her piece will then be used by others to build on. This is how science is able to keep progressing. No person has time to learn everything by themselves, but by appending to what is already known, we build our pyramid of knowledge larger faster.

So, maybe your are wondering by now, what is my problem with the gosh darn assembly line? Are any of the consequences actually negative? Yes, I believe there are some consequences of the assembly line methodology that have profound impacts on the way we think and live. Continuing on yesterday’s post, the assembly line is largely responsible for the disconnectedness of our modern world. One problem here is that less people know more – that is, few people have actually important skills in the grand scheme of things and fewer people yet really know much about the big picture.The majority of us known next to nothing about the cars we drive which were likely built almost entirely by people or machines who don’t know much more about the cars either. Think of the production of a single car at the end of a chain where each step that leads to its production is a single link. I am not even sure what the first link is, but at some point you reach a link where there is a man who wants to make money. He knows the cost of building cars and the price he can sell them for, and decides he can make a profit by doing both. He maybe gets a loan from a bank which is also trying to make money by charging a percentage of interest on the loan. The business man then hires all sorts of people either directly or indirectly. He hires people who know how to build a building. He hires people who know how to build robots. He hires people who extract metal ores from the earth. He hires shipping companies and legal firms. He hires  automotive engineers and an advertising team. On and on the list goes. Follow each path and there are countless people involved. Eventually though, the factory comes together, the car is advertised on TV, the machines and factory workers make thousands of cars, and they are sold at a profit. Jo Shmo comes shows up at the dealership, likes what he sees, and drives one home. Well the problem here is that no link in the chain has a good grasp on what they just did. The business man knows he can now afford a 3rd home, the factory worker knows that piece “D7” is welded to “K307” at the locations marked in yellow, and Joe Shmo knows he’s sure to impress his lady Shmo with his new whip. Nothing is inherently bad about these things, but it seems no link in this chain is very aware of the others and what the greater impact of their chain is. No link seemed to do anything wrong, but the chain as a whole is responsible for things like global warming, starvation in Africa, etc. Maybe this sounds over the top, but I honestly believe it to be true. Every person is so obsessed with the thought that if we each work hard on our link in the huge chain that is modern society, we will get good things and be happy. We isolate ourselves from a terrible reality. While no one thinks they are doing anything wrong, we are collectively doing terrible things. America and other industrialized nations have formed so many long chains that hardly anyone can see the bigger picture, we are responsible for creating a hostile world where people are starving and being killed for resources and money. Very nearly everything we use on a daily basis has costs that we don’t pay. Moral and environmental costs are never included in the measures of our country’s success.

Maybe we are not making weapons for other people to kill each other (we are), but we are all part of a system that collectively is hurting and killing people and our planet. Ignorance is not bliss. We are all accountable. Our society has become like a simple minded mob: economic growth = progress = good. We have to consider the costs of these things though. When we include those, does it all really equal goodness? Can we keep isolating ourselves within our single links of a larger chain and turn a blind eye to the horrendous consequences of our collective actions? How can we change the system which is bigger than any one of us? We can’t all wait for the world to change around us.

Well I’ll end this post with two relevant quotes which I hope you consider and enjoy:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon

Much love to all. Have a good day.

The Disconnected World

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By: ALBANE SIMON

One of the largest problems facing our society today is the dividers we have put up so we can pretend to be ignorant. We separate ourselves from the unpleasant and pretend it doesn’t exist. The average person is far removed from the unpleasantness associated with industrial farming and energy mining, yet on a daily basis, we all benefit from these activities. Why though, are we not concerned with their sources and effects?

My transition into a greater environmental awareness was caused by a realization of the true cost of modern life. It is much greater than any dollar amount I have ever had and our earth is paying for what I don’t. The earth though, is at a breaking point, as is our economic system which relies on the earth for all of our fundamental resources. Most of us tend not to see this though because of the huge dividers we have put between our modern conveniences and the realities of how they are possible.

Just one example which I have and will continue to harp on is food. Marisa Miller Wolfson, director of a documentary I recently watched, “Vegucated,” is a vegan. She became a vegan when she saw what the true cost of animal products was. To her, being a vegan just made sense, but she wanted to see if the path that lead her to becoming a vegan would apply to other people. Her documentary follows 3 people as she exposes them to the realities of the costs of the foods they typically eat and they try out the vegan lifestyle. While Marisa largely focuses on the unethical treatment of animals, there are also energy issues which she only begins to touch on. These two issues are however directly related. The average american today consumes approximately 57 pounds more meat per year than they did in the 1950’s, over a 40% increase. The only viable way for meat producers to supply the increasing demand, especially at a cost comparable with other foods, was to create massive industrial meat farms. At these farms, livestock not only live in horrifying condition, but they are also forced to eat and grow at unnatural rates. Some mass produced chickens are given so many hormones that they grow until their own legs snap beneath them. In a similar but less horrendous example, most of the other non meat food we eat is also laced with preservatives, hormones, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. And the cost of this type of farming transcends the moral realm into one that we seem to unfortunately care much more about, economics. The energy input to food-energy output ratio for meat ranges from 4:1  all the way to 57:1. Put another way, the land requirement for 1000 calories from beef is approximately 31.2 square meters. The same amount of calories from vegetables requires a maximum of approximately 3.2 square meters, 1/10 as much.  At a time when the cost of land and energy dictate our economic future, we have chosen to waste both in an extraordinary effort preserve and extend the American way of life.

However, the vast majority of people, including myself, are so separated from the production process that the neatly cleaned and packaged food we buy at the grocery store holds no ties to the fundamental problems associated with their creation. We turn away from the realities of true cost of the food we eat because it is convenient.

I used to eat at least as much meat at the next person, a good rack of ribs being one of my favorite foods, but in the wake of my new awareness to the moral and energy cost to that type of food, I have chosen to become a vegetarian. I have also made a new effort to buy organic food and animal free products when possible. Organic food is unfortunately not a perfect solution, but in regards to not meat products, it at least says that they were grown without many of the environmentally harmful products used on non-organic food.

So my message hear is this: I hope that you explore the non-monetary costs of both your food and your lifestyle. I am not saying that anyone should necessarily be a vegetarian or vegan, that is everyone’s individual choice to make. I do think it is important, though, to make an effort to look past the barriers that separate us from the source of our convenient lifestyles. Then, knowing the full cost, everyone can make a more educated decision about the lifestyle they want to live. It can be difficult figuring out where to look for this type of information, so if you are looking for a good start, I recommend checking out “Vegucated” which is on Netflix. Also, the statistics in this post are from the following sources:

(1) http://govconnect.alachuacounty.us/committees/ECSC/Strategies/wei/Shared%20Documents/EdFoodSection.pdf

(2)

http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

Politicians: that is all they are.

I try very hard to understand different viewpoints and be accepting of different histories that lead people to have the sometimes unique perspectives they have. However, my patience is sometimes tested when I read articles such as this: http://rare.us/story/paul-ryan-isnt-convinced-humans-are-causing-global-warming/ .

It is truly shameful that politics and economics have become so dangerously entwined that our decision makers seem to rarely consider any other facet of American lives. In this case, the dangers of human caused global warming. I am not sure what “science” Paul Ryan is reading, but the truth that science has undoubtedly shown is this:

Humans, in more ways than one, are causing climate change.

My problem with Paul Ryan is not that he disagrees with a large majority of scientists who study climate change and its causes and effects, it is that he, in the company of many other politicians, has begun to simply make things up that he knows his following wants to hear.

There are many subjects in which I hold little to no knowledge, and consequently, I look to those who know more in those fields. If I need to understand something about a computer, I will ask a computer scientist. If I need to understand something about human bodies, I will ask a doctor or some specialist in within the particular field of interest. The same should hold true regarding earth sciences. Our pool of knowledge has become so vast that no one person is able to study all areas of science and we must therefore collaborate.

Unfortunately, years of scientific research is being quickly disregarded based on insensible comments like those made my Paul Ryan. Harsh you say? I am one sided you say? Well yes, there only needs to be one side when it comes to this. We do not need to debate facts. When a scientist tells a politician the earth is a sphere, not a flat disk, there is no debate. Yet now, when scientists with nearly as much certainty tell politicians that we are causing global climate change, the politician who has done a grand total of NO research in this field says, let me debate you on that by throwing out randoms blurbs of stuff I heard from someone. The debates described in the article do not even need to take place. Debates should occur between people who have a working knowledge of the subject of debate. Paul Ryan’s, as well as many other politicians, ignorance of what he knows and does not know has lead him to simply make things up in these debates. This is troubling enough, but what is ever more unnerving is that he actually has a large following, so much so that he is a possible presidential nominee.

This, from the perspective of an earth scientist, is FREAKING TERRIFYING! Once you can see what is really going on, you have a, “Wait, why the heck are we not doing anything about this?” kind of moment. Here is a quick example.

There are two substances on a table and a small crowd around it. There is a clear liquid labeled “dihydrogen monoxide” and a piece of metal labeled “Caesium.” Simple enough, right? Well a scientist might say, “Don’t put that metal in the liquid, it will rapidly burn/explode.” He says this because it has been scientifically shown that causium reacts with dihydrogen monoxide, more commonly known as water, in a violent way. This scientists is not trying to make money, he just knows what will happen.

Now, a politician in the room says, “hold on right there. I’ve hear that people drink this dihydrogen monoxide stuff all the time and it don’t do them no harm. There is no way putting that piece of metal in the liquid will do anything. Come on people, lets try it.”

Why would anyone listen to the politician? He no only knows nothing about the chemical nature of these two substances, but his only point regarding the fact that people do in fact drink water was utterly arbitrary. Still, this is what has been and is continuing to happen with human induced climate change. Paul Ryan essentially said, lets ignore everything we have  learned about the effects of burning fossil fuels and human induced climate change because, “we’ve had climate change forever.” That last part was his actual quote regarding why it is not worth investing money into better understanding climate change and how to stop causing it. This point that he makes is so uninformed and arbitrary that it actually gives me a headache. Scientists are quite aware of the climate change we have had in the past and have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that, on top of the climate cycles cause my Milankovitch cycles, we are causing increased climate change that will have profound effects on life as we know it. The point made by Paul Ryan is no better than the imaginary politician who recommends throwing the causium in the water.

The problem is that we measure our countries success on a scale that is measured in dollars and politicians therefore want to show that they can increase our success in such a way that it will be evident on that scale. As I have said before though, money is nothing by itself though and if we continue down this track we are on, we will soon run into the situation where we have a whole freakin lot of money and nothing to spend it on. Or, the other potential case is that we will have a lot of money and have to all of the sudden spend all of it at once to combat the effects of climate change. Either way, a massive economic collapse is sure to be in order unless we begin to prepare for the reality of our physical situation soon. The reality caused by our choice to ignore nature’s many signs that we are breaking it will become evident soon enough. We can not ignore this inconvenient truth much longer.

Please follow your bliss

An interesting and elegant perspective on cannabis.

Carl Segan, a good scientist and one of my greatest idols, left a elegantly written piece on his personal experiences with cannabis. Any thoughts?

What a lovely Friday and Saturday it was. Warm fires, cool rain. When it was dry between rains, I got out on the longboard. Beautiful time of year!


Please follow your bliss. Love and be loved. Do what you really want to do.