Save Public Broadcasting

The House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate public broadcasting. This means no more NPR, no more Sesame Street (won’t somebody think of the children?!), no more Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me, no more PBS Kids. As a parent with a child who loves Elmo, as well as a frequent listener of npr’s great programs, I cannot remain silent while this great resource is voted out of existence. I know that our corporate house representatives want to make this last public supported media resource, I do not!If you won’t listen to me, listen to Mr. Roger’s saving public broadcasting in 1969.

Check out this infographic released by the campaign to save public broadcasting, 170 Million Americans:

Tell you senator to vote against this bill.

Perhaps instead of eliminating a valuable public resource (that costs relatively nothing when compared to the rest of the budget) we should start taxing our corporations – you know those business that make billions of dollars a year and pay practically nothing in taxes! Read my last post about the One Good Cut Campaign or check out the newest issue of Mother Jones to see just how much we pay and how little those big fat cats pay.

One Good Cut

When you first learn about how our money is controlled, created and loaned you might very well not believe it. In fact, it is both so simple and so outrageous that often people think it is a lie. The reality is that our privately owned, corporate banking institutions have the power to create money out of thin air, then charge you for it. There is no real effective oversight either. Another lesser known fact is that the Federal Reserve, which set interest rates for banks and oversees banking in general, is not a entirely government agency. It is mostly controlled by the very private, corporate banks that it oversees.

All of this information just shows how distorted our banking systems and how reprehensible the actions of these banks are that led to a massive taxpayer bailout. They still show record profits and give out million dollar bonuses. These are just people who manage our money, not doctors or nurses or teachers – people who give real benefit to our society. Instead, because of the economic collapse caused by our bankers we have to lay off doctors, nursers, police officers and teachers while banks pull in still greater profits. Do they really provide such a useful service to our society that they should make millions while our basic social services are cut?

The creation of our money should be entirely in the hands of our publicly represented government, where we can see and control it! Banks provide a very basic service to our society, but when it comes down to it they shouldn’t run the world or have the power to ruin it.

One Good Cut is a great little film put together by Positive Money that outlines this issue and how we can repair it. Check it out:

Check out more on the One Good Cut website and take action!

Towards A Not-For-Profit World

I’ve often thought that the profit motive is one of the roots of our problems. That’s basically the statement behind the documentary The Corporation, which shows that the corporate model is, clinically speaking, a psychopath. When we are constantly chasing the “up and to the right” we are no longer striving for enough but more than enough. And the more than that. And still more than that. Profit motive drives the growth economy.

My wife’s been doing a lot of reading for a class about diseases around the world. One thing she commented on was regarding the “industrialization” of a lot of third world countries, namely those in Africa around the time AIDS appeared. These relatively flourishing countries had small, cyclical economies – that is, economics that produced enough for everyone involved. (Rob Hopkins talks about a similar economy in the intro to The Transition Handbook) These countries we not “developed” by western thought, but most everyone had a job and a stable home. Farmers produced enough food for their families and those in their community.

Then in come the western industrialists, saying “you can produce more than that and sell it to people in the next city/county/country to make more money!” And it was all down hill from there… Then the westerners leave the country pillaged, in ruins and aimless. No one benefited by the introduction of the growth concept in these examples except for the big company’s pocket books. And in order to feed that profit motive, in order to make even more money, these companies move on to the next unsuspecting country.

What if we were to change this line of thought? What if we were to introduce a cyclical line of thinking back into our corporate models? Instead of constantly “up and to the right” what if we said we need to maintain a certain level in order to sustain our employees, our country, our planet? What if we reinvented our way of living to serve our community and ourselves instead of just our bank accounts? Where is my rambling going? Well…

Donnie Maclurcan is a fellow Post Growther whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot recently. (He also wrote a guest post a while back) He gave a TEDx Youth Talk a while back that is now available online. His concept is this: change the world to a not-for-profit model. Remove this destructive and unsustainable profit motive and focus on enough, on sufficiency instead of excess. I particularly love the story of the African village.

Check out the video:

Carrying Capacity And Overshoot

There once was a time when I was a very active homebrewer, making upwards of 14 batches of beer a year. Things have slowed down on that front quite a bit since having our son (not to mention my increased activity blogging and working on post-growth projects). Nowadays I make mead, wine and the occasional beer. The mead and wine are much easier to make in terms of labor hours, but require much more patience.

I bring this up because recently I have been thinking about the magical thing that drives that hobby of mine: yeast. They are amazing little creatures, and some even consider them to be proof of a higher power (that old Ben Franklin quote “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”) More to the point, I’ve been thinking about how much we seem to have in common with yeast:

  • They consume feverishly, producing wastes that slowly build up in their environment.
  • They produce CO2 in amazing quantity.
  • Their population reaches in the billions, each one is bent on consuming over everything else.
  • Eventually their waste (in the case of yeast, alcohol) spreads so far and wide into their environment it turns an otherwise supporting system into a killing system – they die in their own waste, poisoned by it.

We’ve definitely started to edge into the last one, but we already have hit the first three. Our economy and society, most especially here in the United States, relies and exists solely to consume (and produce things to consume). We’ve released so much CO2 into the atmosphere that we’re altering our beautiful ecosystem’s ability to support life. Our consumption continues to rise, but so does our population – both adding to the problem.

The pity is that we can’t bottle up our waste and toast it over a good meal with friends, like we can with the “waste” yeast cells produce. Maybe instead, we can learn from their experience – if we consume too much, produce too much waste, we will have a massive drop in production capacity and population. We can choose a different path. We can choose to stabilize our consumption, work to remove the CO2 from our system and try to restore a lot of the ecosystem we’ve destroyed so far.

This month is all about the Global Population Speak-Out. I’ve signed up to write some posts, and the GrowthBusters have decided to write a few more on our Post Growth blog. Let’s start talking about population and consumption – they’re getting out of control and we’re starting to look like we have the collective intelligence of single-celled organisms, so let’s start acting like we’ve actually got the intelligence of an evolved, sentient spices, huh?

Endangered Species Condoms?

Next month is the Global Population Speak Out Month – a whole month focused on raising awareness of a large (and growing) issue – population growth. We live on a finite planet, with only so many resources. Yet our population (and consumption, as I mentioned earlier) continues to grow. We’re over-stretching our carrying capacity, and it isn’t good for our species or other life on Earth either. What can we do?

The project I have been working on recently is involved with the coming documentary Hooked On Growth, which will be releasing later this year. Here’s a great video on the subject of population growth… and contraceptives.

The Real Population Question

Population
7 Billion People

This year will be a monumental one. 2011 is the year our spaceship Earth will have 7 billion people on board. A large majority of the developed countries’ populations are entering the elderly years, when they become less able to work and need more care. This means a lowered workforce all around and an increased need for a workforce to care for our elders. In the developing world, where a large majority of this population growth is occurring, there are more malnourished children, more uneducated mothers and more people living with inadequate shelter, food, health care, water, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve written before about population. This is a dodgy issue surrounded by misconceptions, fear and contention. It is an easy topic to bring up if you are looking to start a heated argument, loose friends or out any Nazis in a group. However, the topic of population is an important one and it simply needs to be framed properly with the other root cause of “the problem” – consumption. The two go hand-in-hand and we like to avoid talking about either in respect to natural limits.

Jeremy, over at Make Wealth History, brought it up last month in a great post, “How many people can the Earth support?” and I want to echo his thoughts. I also want to make it clear to everyone that this debate must be had! We must have debate over these serious issues. We must be willing to potentially change our minds or, at the very least, be able to open them to solutions we might not have thought of ourselves or might not have be completely confident in their success. Either way we have to do something.

Next month is Global Population Speak Out Month, and I think we should all open up this topic for discussion. It is important for us to recognize that there is a limit to the number of people the world can support, as well as the amount of consumption that can be supported. The real question is what is the desired level of consumption that we want for everyone? We must be fair and grant enough room for all to equally share the Earth, so what is an appropriate stable population and consumption level? Our generation must answer these questions, so we should start by at least asking them.

Check out this infographic on the subject (my thanks to Grist for showing it to me) or this National Geographic video:

Top Ten Steady State Posts of 2010

Another year under the belt, Steady State Revolution celebrated two years of publication in November! It seems only fitting on this, the first day of 2011, we take a moment to review the best articles of the last year. This is a list of the top ten posts in the last year, chosen by me but with influence from feedback and analytic tracking (oh, technology!) as well. For those of you that are new to this blog or haven’t checked out the archives yet I hope this list is helpful for you!

2010 Top Ten Posts

  1. Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy – Inspired by Yes! Magazine yet again, I decided to map out the things I think will construct our post-growth/steady-state/new-economy. It is an open thread, by all means, let’s work together to make that list long, thoughtful and inspiring to others!
  2. Decoupling Demystified – Tim Jackson’s work in Prosperity Without Growth tackles this subject very well in an entire chapter. This post was written to further this key argument against the growth paradigm, and to show how real-life science trumps the back-woods mysticism that is the current economic theory.
  3. The Limits of Efficiency – A follow-up piece to the “Decoupling Demystified” post, this topic is in my opinion the ultimately proof that growth everlasting is impossible – unless we find a way to re-write the laws of physics, of course. Initially the idea for this post never blossomed into a full article, but after some prodding from some of you wonderful readers I committed to it.
  4. Dear Dick Smith – 2010 presented a wonderful surprise – Australian businessman Dick Smith challenged the world to bring the debate to the main stream public. The prize? A cool million (in Aussie bucks). I know, there is some irony in it, but it still presents a great opportunity to get something moving, and then eventually funded by Mr. Smith. This post is my response to his announcement.
  5. The Opportunity of Limits – It is very easy in today’s constant news feeds full of climate catastrophes, apocalyptic prophecies, peak oil and the apparent lack of government action, to get run down. I have fallen into this downward trap a few times myself, but we must recognize that opportunity in our trails. Climate change and peak oil are frightening, yes,  but dwelling on the negative is akin to giving up. Meanwhile, the limits that we face on a finite planet actually give us the potential to create a better society, not a worse one. We just need to identify to the potential for good and act on that foundation, instead of the other alternative.
  6. Ethical Banking Systems – This isn’t the first time I’ve ranted about banking and monetary policy, because it’s pretty important people! Like the awful and cheese bumper sticker says, “if you aren’t mad, you aren’t paying attention,” we are mostly clueless of the injustices we allow the banking system to get away with on a daily basis. We definitely need a better system, so let’s make one!
  7. Resiliency & Peak Oil – This is a short post, but the topic is the main reason it made this list. In the next few years we will see more and more how resilient communities prevail in the rising costs of oil, as well as the rising impacts of climate change. The Transition Town movement was created to help foster that resiliency, and whether you buy-in to that specific movement or not it is still an extremely important concept for sustainability.
  8. Nothing Grows Forever – In May Mother Jones released a issue tackling some strong topics: population, consumption and the growth paradigm. This post was my review of their article on steady state economics. By far this is one of the largest media outlets to write a (mostly) good critique of ecological economics and the post growth movement. The ending left something to be desired, but I won’t hold it against them.
  9. Earth Overshoot & Natural Debt – This year I wrote three separate posts for this blog, Post Growth and a guest post on another blog: all focused on the very real fact that we’re using our planets resources faster than can be generated, we’re in overshoot. This is not a good place to be in, especially if you have any knowledge of biology and carrying capacities – typically those populations in overshoot have a mass die-off and collapse. However, we’re smart and motivated, with knowledge of our mortality, so hopefully we can find a way out of this spiral and into a sustainably scaled economy and society.
  10. Obama Announces Degrowth, Wins Republican Support – I couldn’t not include this great little post. I talked myself out of doing an April Fool’s day post last year, but in 2010 I was invigorated by a few other fool’s day posts and went for it. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a great post and was well received!

Happy New Year to you all! I think Two-Thousand Eleven has a lot of good in store for us all, and I’m excited to see how we move forward on these important issues facing humanity.

Attack of the Vampire Squid

The newest video from the new economics foundation (nef), titled “The Vampire Squid” takes the title from commentary on our banking system by Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone back in 2008, referring to Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid, wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Watch the video here:

Also, check out the campaign website and briefing (pdf).