The Necessity for Change

Recently, I have enacted great change in my overall lifestyle. For the most part, my quality of life has improved in response to these changes. One by-product, is that I am back to my old self-again. I suppose I was born anew. With this, is an addiction or a thirst for knowledge that I experienced when the world was a much more innocent place, when life consisted of recess, gram crackers, and an ignorance of the evil and brutality of this world.

However, there was a shift in the school curriculum that I was a part of. The material was much more meaningless to me, yet the authoritative powers of my school insisted that they knew what was best for me to learn. I learned at a very young age due to circumstances of my immediate family, to question every notion that is assumed to be true. For me and how my thought process works, that is the first step in obtaining a more accurate perceivement of the world around me.

So it was not uncommon for me to skip class to go to the school library to read a book on world history, theoretical physics, or articles on the elegance of human engineering. It also was not uncommon for me to actually question the relevance of what was being lectured in class. In some cases, I am sure there was some real world application. However, when the teacher of the class can not substantially answer the question, “What is the point of reading The Odyssey?” or “How is calculating the frequency of a duck relevant to my life?” leads me to believe that even they themselves do not have a meaningful answer. Which means, if they do not have such an answer, why are they teaching it?

And so I suppose throughout my brief academic career, I have struggled to rise through the established system of our current society, while trying to educate myself with knowledge that is more pertinent to my situation. At times I can not help myself. I will read a book that is more thought-provoking even if that means I will do poorly on a quiz the next day.

The point to all of this, is that the most recent intellectual journey that I decided to dive into, is one that I feel I must share with the rest of the world. Ideally I would share these views when I get a PhD in a certain field, so that the common citizenship can perceive me as “educated” and therefore someone who is worthy of their time to listen to. The problem, is that action really has to be initiated now. Not tomorrow. Not the day after tomorrow. Not next week. The revolution of the human mind and our value system must be done as soon as possible, if we want a habitat for future generations of humanity.

Change is scary though. There is a fundamental law with human thought with regards to fear. The more perceived control a human being has over any situation, the less fear is perceived. That one statement, explains a core component as to why humanity does not like change. Hypothetically, if people started to examine new ideas on how to tackle some very serious issues, and those ideas involved completely revamping everyone’s daily experience, the amount of perceived control that each individual has over their daily lives decreases (because the “new” daily life is different from the “old”), thus increasing the perceived fear. This, to me, is a core explanation as to why we have settled into a constant way of life, while not even attempting to look at the postulates and assumptions of our society. Just questioning our daily lives and looking at different possible ways of living is too fearful to a majority of the people.

The issues of our time that in my opinion are going to require a complete revamp of our philosophical view of the world and value system, are world energy and global warming.

I think we all can agree with the statement that oil is a finite resource on this planet. And just like myself at one point, most Americans believe that there is plenty of oil left, and if there is not, then at the very least things will be done in order to sustain our way of living.

There is a concept that actually shatters this fairy tale. The term is called Peak Oil. Some brilliant geologists during the late sixties and throughout the seventies, while some even having close ties to the oil industry, wanted to quantify or derive a mathematical model for the world’s recoverable oil. The whole concept of a mathematical model, is there is some predictability using that model. In any case, with some reliable data points as well as implementing rudimentary practices of calculus, the infamous bell curve graph of Peak Oil was produced.

This graph has time on the x-axis while having oil production (which is a rate) on the y-axis. This graph is essentially a derivative of what is termed cumulative oil (or all recoverable oil on this planet). What is more significant, is that as more and more actual data points are able to be inserted into the model, the curve gets increasingly more and more refined. Once scientists refine the equations, they make predictions about the future to test the reliability of the model. Furthermore, there is a strikingly close resemblance and approximation between the theoretical curve and the actual curve. This means, that there is strong evidence to the predictability of this model.

Scientists at around the year 2005 predicted that the world would reach the highest point of oil production at around 2008 or 2009. Just recently, an international energy association reported that oil production has decreased since their previous report. This is adding more evidence that not only is the model reliable, but that humanity has indeed passed Peak Oil.

So what exactly is Peak Oil?

Peak Oil is the very top of the bell curve of oil production. It is the point where humanity is able to produce the most amount of oil in one year. However, after that time, oil production will continually decrease because simply the amount of oil is running out. As of right now, humanity is consuming the last half of the recoverable oil reserve of the entire planet.

The next logical question, is what source of energy should or can humanity use after oil? I’m sure everyone has heard of all the various technologies and the debates for and against them, but in my opinion, there is one component to these typical arguments that is overlooked. That is the concept of energy investment.

The best way to look at this, would be to think about a financial investment. The ideal investment, would be to put what is called a principal amount of money towards a financial instrument, that would hopefully produce a profit after a certain period of time. In the context of energy, any process humanity decides to implement to replace oil, requires a certain amount of energy initially to produce the materials and build the structures. Currently, the entire power grid and the large machinery that would be required to build these technologies are dependent upon derivatives of oil. Yes, there are coal power plants, but large trucks that are powered by diesel with oil based tires, are needed to haul massive loads of coal from one point to the other. In other words, if there was no oil, there would be no coal power plants eventually.

Essentially, if humanity keeps consuming oil and refuses to make an energy investment in a renewable power grid, it is possible of reaching a point of no return. This point of no return, is where the amount of oil left is not enough to implement our next generation power grid. We would then be dictating with absolute certainty the regression of our species; not the progression. Humanity would talk of legends about a time where a person could talk to another person at any corner of the planet instantly, while enjoying each other’s food and company over a forest fire.

This maybe also an obvious statement, but the intensity of this statement is not typically understood. If humanity acts now, the transition of a life using a power grid off of renewables would be much less difficult.

The best way to think about the impact of building a new power grid would be to completely remove the required oil for this project from the overall supply of oil that would be sold to the common American, or any citizen of any country for that matter. That oil must be used to power the machinery and factories to get the transition done. This means there is less overall supply for gasoline, plastics, pesticides, and fertilizers for all the other daily activities that we enjoy. Therefore, prices would rise with just about everything. And, since corporate executives want to keep the same amount of profits if not more that same year, they would increase the prices of their product or service even if that product or service is not directly related to oil. Now, imagine if the transition was initiated later rather than sooner. Remember, the same amount of oil needs to be removed for the renewable grid. Therefore, the prices would rise even more, because there is even less of a supply. Therefore, the financial transition would be much more difficult if humanity decides to procrastinate such an important and impactful project.

Not to mention the fear that would be experienced. If humanity decided to transition as late and as quickly as possible, the intensity of fear would be much more compared to a transition that allowed more time, planning, and adjustment. If the daily lives of citizens had to be changed gradually (we are all most likely going to have to change how we consume energy. Nothing is more explosive per dollar like oil) the perceived loss of control would be less, therefore resulting in less of an increase in fear. This is much more manageable and less stressful than the alternative.

But I am sure most people are aware of the true obstacle that confronts humanity from embarking on such an important project. It’s some fancy, colored, and meaningless piece of paper termed money. The definition of the word meaningless in this context has more financial roots. Most currencies across the various markets in this world are fiat currencies, meaning there is no substance or resource backing the value of the currency. In other words, some government draws fancy looking designs on a piece of paper, and money is created.

And it is this undeniable lust for this object, baseless man-made concept, that has driven humanity to create the undeniable conditions of this planet. I am now talking about the issue of Global Warming.

As humanity was consuming the unquenchable thirst of an addiction of oil, tons and tons of green house gasses were emitted into the environment. When a 1970’s paper that coined the term “Global Warming” was published, the coal and oil companies took on a similar strategy that the tobacco companies initiated when studies were suggesting that tobacco smoke increased the likelihood of cancer. There are various words to describe what the oil and coal companies did, ranging from “expert panel” to “organization”, but the technical word does not matter. These companies paid men with the all meaningful credential of a PhD substantial financial contributions for them to criticize the science at every step of the way. The goal was to create a debate when there wasn’t a debate to begin with, simply so the coal and oil companies could continue making more money. As the “debate” picked up publicity, the denialists came up with extravagant arguments to not only protect themselves from intellectual pain, but to maintain control of the lives they are living.

But it also gets deeper than that. We live in a day and age where economic growth is perceived as the answer to all our problems. There is seriously a school of thought, that thinks that if the current market continues to grow, humanity will solve the global warming issue entirely. In fact, the only reason why there is a problem in the first place, was faulty regulations in the free market. Also, for some reason, it is perceived that growth can happen infinitely. It is in my belief, that once the majority of large corporations globalize and are able to insert themselves in all possible markets, that will be the point where there won’t be any possible growth. Because well, what other markets are there outside of planet Earth? Therefore, infinite growth is not possible, and that assumption or postulate is entirely flawed. Also, to think that the free market which brought these conditions in the first place will promote practices that will reverse these conditions actually go against current mathematical models on carbon dioxide emissions. Gross domestic product is a known variable to influence carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, when climatologists told of an upcoming tipping point (a point of no return), a 2009 conference of international leaders put self-maximization in front of nature. So because the world economies wanted more material things, the entire arctic is expected to melt.

I can not help but ask the question, how did this all came to be? How did we screw up this badly? The majority of humanity does not think twice about harming another individual or the environment if it means individual gain. To me, that is sickening.

A recent book I read put the start of this phenomenon on the shoulders of a philosopher that usually is presented with a very positive reputation. De Cartes, otherwise known as The Father of Modern Philosophy, thought of a new way to look at the natural world compared to the accepted Platonian view at the time. Plato suggested that there was a life force in every part of nature. De Cartes, with his “mechanical clock” view of the world, thought that the cosmos was like that of a mechanical clock, where each system can eventually be understood by man. The clock was initially created by the Creator, and he turned the on switch so to speak, and whenever the creator directly influenced the cosmos that He created, a miracle would manifest.

But this mechanical clock has many non-living parts. Also, only humanity can understand the processes of the cosmos. This is a very accurate statement, at least so far, but what this meant was that humanity could be separated from the natural world. Instead of treating the world as having a life force, and to treat it with respect, humanity had no moral obligation to the Earth, and felt perfectly fine exploiting the Planet’s resources for their gain, as these resources had no life force.

Compound that school of thought with free-market Capitalism, and the values that most people have can be explained. Since exploiting Earth’s resources had no moral significance, people had no problem ruining habitats, ecosystems, and killing animals unnecessarily for self-profit. And if people are still in denial on how individualistic and unempathetic our culture is, all one has to do is study the most recent financial crisis. Because rich executives wanted six private jets instead of four, they induced unsustainable practices and knew about it. Whereby, they tell their customers that their product is completely safe, but at the same time purchase credit default swaps from AIG. (Think of credit default swaps as insurance on an investment.)

What about the private banking sector? The private banking system is by far the most illusive system that we use on a constant basis. The Fractional Reserve Banking System only requires about ten percent of the overall deposits to be kept in their reserves. The other ninety percent of deposits, is essentially used to create more revenue for the bank. Not to mention, that there is a term called leverage, which is essentially the ratio of actual revenue to debt. Meaning, banks are even borrowing money from The Fed to further their self-maximization. It’s funny, it is illegal for me personally to borrow money from a bank to invest, yet banks or most likely participating in that practice on a constant basis.

Everything from loans, to typical investments in the stock markets (I remember reading that the large banks of this nation essentially have shares in every major corporation in the nation), to exchanging currencies on the foreign exchange markets, to finally high risk practices with derivatives, are used by the banks with essentially other people’s money to increase their intrinsic wealth. Not to mention, credit card companies are owned by the banks! And, those debt consolidation companies, who do you think they ultimately answer to? If people can not pay back their original loan, the banks will provide the illusion that they are helping the person out. If the bank lowers the payments of the original loan (which is money from other peoples’ deposits) then more interest will be added to the agreement with a longer repayment schedule.

And with a society so obsessed with consuming as much as possible as immediately as possible, many people are put into debt, which is exactly what the banks want. Whether it is the nice car, the awesome house, education, to the nice weekend out with friends on the credit card, all of that debt is going back to the banks. And as interest is charged on all of that debt with a finite money supply, bankruptcy is a known and integral part of the system, thus resulting in bankruptcy processes. We are not people to banks. We are just vessels of flesh and money whose sole purpose is to give the banks more power, and wealth, even if that means a life of unnecessary struggle. After all, what is the point of being a corporate executive to a huge bank, if there is not someone or something to take out my trash, or a machine to take me to any destination that I desire. If I want to eat at a restaurant, there has to be people who feel obligated to not only serve me the food, but to also clean up after my mess. The rich need a surplus of the poor to do the necessary work for their lavish lifestyle. And in order to pull that off, the private banking sector has created the illusion to people that they are free. When in reality, many people are constrained to what they do simply because of the amount of debt that is put on them like a whip; a wage slave. As Van Goethe elegantly put it, “There is no one more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsely perceive they are free.”

So individual self-maximization by acquiring the most amount of money in combination with the perception that humanity is separated from nature, resulted to the problems we face today. It is money that is keeping humanity from transitioning to a renewable power grid, lowering carbon dioxide emissions, and stunting the overall possibilities of what humanity can do. Engineers know how to create completely reliable, efficient, fossil fuel independent public transportation systems that could meet the demands of anyone in a city. The only obstacle is the money to see it through.

Now, it is easy to just pick out all the problems that are manifesting and not provide a solution. However, I believe there is a solution, and that involves the revolution of how people think and feel.

The first step is to reform the very beginning of this whole process. Currently I am reading a book entitled The Ages of Gaia which declares and defends The Gaia Hypothesis. The evidences for this idea is not for the scope of this work, after all, there is a whole book on it, but essentially The Gaia Hypothesis states that the planet Earth is a large superorganism. There are known super organisms on this planet, and examples of them are bee hives and ant farms. There are parts of the system that is non-living matter, but the overall system behaves as an organism. Another way to view and understand this concept, is that the evolution of the environment and biota, or life, is interconnected, not separated We are all a part of the environment and the environment is a part in every one of us. Not only do organisms dictate the evolution of the environment, but the environment also dictates the evolution of organisms. Furthermore, life provides essential processes that provides homeostasis of the planet, thus promoting life for the future.

It should be a little obvious as to how this theory conflicts with our current perception of the world around us. In some sense, both De Cartes and Plato were right. De Cartes was right in the sense that there are processes and matter that have no life force, but Plato was right to respect these processes, otherwise known as ecosystems, habitats, and other living things. The Gaia research is showing that as biota diversity decreases, temperature stability decreases as well. Also, mathematical models and predictions are showing that evolution most likely occurred during periods when the earth was re-stabilizing itself, most likely from “perturbations” which is another fancy word for catastrophic events such as plagues or cosmic impact.

Considering other mathematical models on carbon dioxide emissions, as well as this perception of the planet as an organism, it is just a matter of time if no change is made before the planet will re-stabilize itself for self-preservation, even if that means the destruction of most life, including humanity. In fact, the most impactful variable in carbon dioxide emissions as it is an integer, is human population. Gaia Theory also suggests that processes known as feedbacks, or other words, snowball processes, is the planet’s way to re-stabilize Therefore, the feedback melting of the arctic and other large bodies of ice, in the long run, will allow the planet to restablize the temperature, and Gaia will kill large amounts of life for the future of life. Gaia has shown to do that through the ages. And why does Gaia allow some life to remain? Because Gaia could not exist without life entirely; it is a completely symbiotic relationship.

Gaia is a dictatorship, and she will preserve herself and other forms of life for the future of life. We have to come to terms with that as humanity. We do not fully control or exploit nature, nature has just as much of an impact on us as we do to nature. One problem however, is that the geological clock of this planet is much different from the clock of humanity. The ramifications of our actions now, will not fully be expressed until hundreds, maybe even thousands of years later.

And this is where the lack of empathy in our society is so detrimental. Why should I change my way of life for a bunch of humans that will not live until thousands of years later? Our culture breeds people who truly only care about themselves (economic collapse, banking sector). If other people are involved in other peoples’ lives, it is because there is a use for themselves. That is how selfish I think our culture has become. If this selfishness does not change, we will continue to consume for ourselves, driving the conditions that could very well make life not possible for humanity.

And so, we need new ideas. There is a new economic theory out that obviously is being ridiculed because it is forcing people to view another possible daily life (which induces fear). The Resource Based Economy is a good start with economic reform that would start to condition the human philosophy and value system in a way that would compliment humanity’s relationship with nature. Now, I am not saying that this is a perfect system or idea. But what I am saying, is that it is a good start. And if some very bright minds start thinking outside of the box and looking at different possibilities, we may be able to come up with a system that would ensure the progress of humanity while also ensuring sustainability. Money, free-market capitalism, and oil are responsible for the explosive growth of humanity’s progress over the past two hundred years. With out those three things, humanity could not embark on a revolution of the mind if we decide to do it. So, we should give ourselves some credit. But, we can not ignore the relationship between change and fear, and the possibility that drastic change could bring a better quality of life for everyone. The difference, is there is more and more scientific evidence to suggest that humanity has to change, and we have to change as soon as possible. So ideas like ridding the entire economy of a currency, is extremely fear inducing. But I hope humanity has the strength and rationality to ease the fear, and question the assumptions and postulates of our time. Are financial incentives the only incentive? After all, Leonardo DaVinci, Einstein, Newton, Stephen Hawking, Mozart, Beethoven, to even geniuses of Jazz in my opinion like Stan Kenton, did not do what they did solely for the money. They obviously had a passion for progressing their knowledge and expression. In my opinion, money has provided a level of growth, but not at all compared to humanity’s full potential. If we took the cost of the entire second world war as well as the cost rebuilding all of the destruction of that war, every single necessity of life could be provided to every single human being during the duration of that war.

That life, that future, makes a whole lot more sense to me. Shelter, food, and water would be provided to everyone on this planet. We have the resources and know how to do it, but our current value system is just too selfish and restraining us from doing it. We justify this selfishness by saying that humanity would not progress without money, even though the best contributions in math, science, and art by the best geniuses of those fields, did so with the incentive of passion and enlightenment, not financial. There are countless stories of great ideas, being bought from the established corpocracy, so that they can continue their economic growth instead of allowing humanity to experience the benefit of that new idea. There is progress with the use of current economic thought, but humanity has the potential to progress at a much quicker rate if we start valuing each other and our environment, instead of just ourselves.

So I implore humanity, I implore all of us, to re-think and question many things. Maybe it is time to start putting down the video games, the movies, television, and any other form of entertainment, and devote just some of that time to thinking on not only how we can make life better for all of us, but to do so while being sustainable. What we are doing now, which is self-maximization with a completely individualistic culture, is completely unsustainable in the long run, while also providing unnecessary struggle for the majority of the populace. Enacting change is scary, and it is very possible that our initial change might start to make things worse. But that is part of any process of change. We should learn from that attempt, and not give up on an ideal of a completely sustainable system that provides a better quality of life to everyone. (Studies have shown from the United Nations, that as economic inequality increases, the overall health of everyone in that given population regardless of socioeconomic status, decreases.)

I think it is reasonable to assume that the founding fathers of our country had levels of fear and uncertainty about the future. But they believed in the universal laws of human rights that were recorded by Thomas Jefferson in his Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

It’s time for change, and no one is going to do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves. Please humanity, now is the time more than ever for a revolution.