Category: Paradigm


 

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Shaun Chamberlain, the Brit with the best darn title for a post-industrial blog on the whole darn internet, Dark Optimism, has an important reminder for anyone who thinks that sitting this one out is an option.

We cannot not change the world, whatever any of us choose to do. And as we change it, it changes us. And as it changes us, we change it. We Are All Activists.

Since there’s clearly no use in avoiding it, we might as well examine the options and get proactive with our activism. So here’s Dimitri Orlov on the roads most often traveled to “change”:

Any reform of a complex system, such as our existing one, involves further investment in social complexity through a wide variety of costly initiatives. And here’s the problem: there is no longer either the money or the energy for such initiatives. The default is to just let it collapse, but such an outlook, perfectly reasonable though it is, is generally not regarded as optimistic enough.

During the sustainability movement of the 1970s, optimistic, reform-minded expositions seemed useful; now they are starting to seem like compulsive anxiety coping behaviors: knock three times on wood, throw a pinch of salt over the left shoulder, mention sustainability and renewables.

So where does this leave us? I agree with Orlov on both counts. None of those approaches, incremental change without systemic change, nihilism or blind faith, seem to be producing any results.

If you do believe that there is something decidedly off about our system, what are you supposed to do about it. Emotional responses like fist pounding, ranting and chanting, are often unavoidable, and equally unproductive.

The Net Positive path offers up “Forced Obsolescence” as a profoundly simple yet effective alternative. The idea is to find ways to just Go Around the flailing behemoth of the terminally ill Industrialized-Globalized model of society. Leave them behind as you transition your own life without “asking permission” by wasting time on policy change.

The major problem with expending your energy working for policy change, is that it requires a fair and functional democracy to have an impact or even happen. Between campaigns that cost a billion dollars, $3.5 billion in lobbying last year alone, problematic electronic voting machines, corporations considered people under the law that use cash as their “free speech”, and a disinterested, anesthetized populous, democracy is becoming a fading memory at all but the most local level in this country.

Therein lies the problem and the solution. We still have our local communities, bastions of resilience in a world run amok. It is here that we can take our stand and walk right past the corporatocracy. It will require an open mind, a willingness to see change as a scenario where things improve rather than one of loss. It will require us to back away from our screens once in a while and actually interact with each other, on the ground, in the flesh, at the town hall or the farmers market. Forced Obsolescence means voluntarily relinquishing our addictions to the unsustainable outputs of our industrialized production model in order to make them disappear.

But we won’t even really see them disappear. We’ll already be facing forward, partnering with each other, walking into the human-scale future of our own design. We’ve done it before!

Take the “vote-with-your-$$” to the next level and vote with your life. And don’t waste too much time worrying about whether your own little choices in your own little life really even matter to the giant problems of the world. Not only are they effective, they are the only thing in the world you can actually control.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to oppose injustice by signing a petition, screaming your head off at a rally, or otherwise bemoaning the horrible atrocities perpetrated by banks, corporations and governments every day than it is to change something, anything in your own life.

Don’t forget that there is no such thing as a passive, Net Neutral life. Every activity equates to an energy transaction with the world at large. Your very existence has an effect on the world whether you agree or not. So if you’re not helping the situation, you are by definition hurting it. It is the height of hypocrisy to practice arm-chair activism, preach to your friends and whine to your lover if you’re not willing to stop contributing to injustice with your own lifestyle choices. But if you’re not willing to translate your feelings, values, hopes and fears into actions, you need to question whether they really truly matter to you at all.

Thanks Iceland!

“I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet,” said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland’s constitutional council.

The tiny island nation who was hit so hard in 2008 is using adversity to create opportunity. They are re-drafting their Constitution. And when I say they, I literally mean the people of Iceland themselves.

Using every social media outlet imaginable, from a youtube channel chronicling each discussion to a facebook forum and even a flicker account with photos of the representatives in action, the government has created maximum transparency and participation from their constituents. The people themselves have actually created the documents themselves, and what’s more

If the committee has its way the draft bill, due to be ready at the end of July, will be put to a referendum without any changes imposed by parliament – so it will genuinely be a document by the people, for the people.

Mob Rule at its best!

Photo: fotothing.com

Wow, finally an exponential chart that doesn’t terrify me!

Thanks Think Progress!

Who are you calling a dying city Newsweek?

Couldn’t be Grand Rapids Michigan! These guys were none too pleased to be included in a recent Newsweek piece on the bleakest cities in the land and decided to send a message to the media giant and their fellow Americans. Their medium of choice? A 9 minute, $40,000 music video set to “American Pie” featuring more than 5,000 of their citizens and a production that all but shut down downtown.

With almost 3,000,000 views on youtube as of this posting, it looks like they’re having no trouble showing the world how un-dead they really are. And really, it’s an important reminder that media outlets are in it to generate a profit like any other business. Bad news sells, even if it isn’t always the whole truth. Aren’t things tough enough without inventing more reasons to keep us up at night Newsweek?

Down but not Out! From Grand Rapids to America to the World!

Retire the GDP

We need to stop trying to measure progress by calculating the worst our society has to offer.

Extensive research has revealed that the dramatically escalating consumption of the last half century has brought no increase in the satisfaction levels of Americans. According to Manfred Max-Neef’s “Threshold Hypothesis” when macroeconomic systems expand beyond a certain size, the additional benefits of growth are exceeded by the attendant costs. (Max-Neef 1995.)

And as Elizabeth Kolbert eloquently illuminates in the New Yorker:

But let’s imagine, for a moment, that we had enjoyed ourselves for the past fifty years. Surely, trashing the planet is just as wrong if people take pleasure in the process as it is if they don’t. The same holds true for leaving future generations in hock and for exploiting the poor and for shrugging off inequality. Happiness is a good thing; it’s just not the only thing.

And this is all to say nothing of the actual dollars and cents value of the contributions of nature to our fiscal progress. Whether you’re using the GDP or something more realistic, you can’t discount the $33 trillion per year (in the 1990’s) that nature contributes to our economy (as calculated by Robert Costanza and other theorists of natural capital). Researchers arrived at the figure by analyzing 17 specific areas of contribution by the natural environment, including water filtration, pest control, pollination and erosion control among others.

So what are the alternatives? Measuring and evaluating our progress as a society is important work and we don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Enter the Genuine Progress Indicator or GPI. Developed in 1995 by a few geniuses in California, it was promptly and whole heartedly endorsed by about 400 other geniuses (Nobel laureates, economists, business leaders etc) in the following joint statement:
Since the GDP measures only the quantity of market activity without accounting for the social and ecological costs involved, it is both inadequate and misleading as a measure of true prosperity. Policy-makers, economists, the media, and international agencies should cease using the GDP as a measure of progress and publicly acknowledge its shortcomings. New indicators of progress are urgently needed to guide our society…The GPI is an important step in this direction.
The creator of the GDP himself even warned of its limitations:
The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income… Goals for “more” growth should specify of what and for what.
A group in Nova Scotia currently working towards a shift to the GPI astutely observes
The things we measure and count — quite literally — tell us what we value as a society and determine the policy agendas of governments.
The GPI may not be the last word in progress measurement, but it is certainly a more complete indicator than what we’re currently working with. The group in Nova Scotia has this to say about the scope of the GPI
The GPI system and framework is based on a capital accounting framework, in which the value of human, social, and natural capital are recognized along with the manufactured and financial capital that are currently measured. Like conventional capital, this human, social, and natural capital is seen as subject to depreciation, and requiring re-investment in the event of depletion or degradation. Based on this approach, the GPI assesses the economic costs of liabilities like crime, pollution, sickness, and natural resource depletion, rather than counting defensive expenditures in these areas as contributions to prosperity (as current measures do).
At this point, it’s safe to assume that as the GDP increases the actual quality of life will be decreasing. What does that say about the relevance of financial capital to social capital?

The Happy Planet Index is economics at its most basic: Input vs Output of a system. With one small difference. It’s focus is on efficiency or true economy. The New Economics Foundation, a “think-and-do-tank” that breathes some life into the musty theories of economics, has taken on the considerable task of demonstrating and then communicating that our lives can be rich and fulfilling without destroying the planet through their Happy Planet Index. It seems like they’ve succeeded in creating something imminently understandable yet profound.

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.

Attempting to quantify and measure the happiness level of a group of people is a daunting and controversial task whose very feasibility has been debated since the beginning of time. With a clear understanding of the complexities at play, here’s what the HPI team has to say:

In recent years, the debate has moved from philosophy to the realm of science, with a growing body of research identifying what it means to be happy, what drives it and how to measure it. For us, being ‘happy’ is more than just having a smile on your face – we use the term subjective well-being to capture its complexity. Aside from feeling ‘good’, it also incorporates a sense of individual vitality, opportunities to undertake meaningful, engaging activities which confer feelings of competence and autonomy, and the possession of a stock of inner resources that helps one cope when things go wrong. Well-being is also about feelings of relatedness to other people – both in terms of close relationships with friends and family, and belonging to a wider community.

Understanding the ecological footprint of an individual or group is relatively straightforward by comparison, but their attempt to break it down is still worth a read.

From here it’s just a matter of plugging the data into their elegant equation and making sense of the results.

The HPI shows that around the world, high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being, and that it is possible to produce high well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources. It also reveals that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. The model followed by the West can provide widespread longevity and variable life satisfaction, but it does so only at a vast and ultimately counter-productive cost in terms of resource consumption.

The complete results for over 140 countries can be found here. You probably won’t be surprised to see that the US falls into the “blood red” footprint category and shares the crown with most of Africa, Cambodia and Iraq.

And why is this measurement not only relevant but critically important? Once again the near religious worship of Growth as the means to any end is proving to be no more than an academic concept that becomes incredibly destructive when put into practice.

Biologists talk about physical growth as a process which has an optimum level beyond which further growth is not beneficial, and can indeed turn malignant. Economic growth can be subjected to the same analysis. Aside from the obvious environmental impacts which we have already discussed, there is gathering evidence that an obsession with growth may have led us to ignore other aspects of life critical to our well-being. This is where the HPI has a crucial role: pointing us towards a new vision of progress which does not depend on ever-increasing growth.

During an economic crisis, it may seem inopportune to question the centrality of economic growth. Now more than ever, governments around the world are desperate to restart growth by any means possible. And yet we should not lose sight of the fact that economic growth is just one strategy to achieve well-being and, in terms of natural resources, a demonstrably inefficient one. Rather than pursuing growth at all costs, even if detrimental to well-being or sustainability, leaders should be striving to foster well-being and pursue sustainability, even if detrimental to growth. The horse and the cart need to be returned to their rightful places.

 

She’s an anthropologist who examined the intersection between culture and behavior, a study that’s only become more crucial as time has gone on. Although she has many choice words of inspiration for us, one in particular stuck out as something that must be said and understood more often by everyone on a Net Positive path. The end of the current form of civilization we have been experimenting with is only that. It does not signal the end for man kind but a new beginning.

Even though the ship may go down, the journey goes on.



photo: lawntea.blogspot.com

“It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got” isn’t too exciting these days. Here’s an incredibly in-depth/ easy to watch animation detailing the various failures of our economic models/ experiments/ collective delusions. We should all be much more familiar with the workings of our financial system, after all it’s the primary driver of the way the world works these days, our biggest collaboration as a human race, and the most truly global experiment going. Few of us even know how money comes into existence and what it actually is.

Take it a step further with this entertaining and disturbing animation.

For some very entertaining reading on the subject of capitalism gone awry, check out the work of John Perkins, aka the Economic Hitman. His latest, Hoodwinked, reads like a spy novel while imparting a substantial education on our economic predicament.

Welcome

 

Hi there and Welcome to Net Positive!

This is a collaborative experiment in positive living. We’re writing this blog to share our journey toward living more consciously, more creatively, more compassionately….in other words: Net Positively!

The current paradigm we’ve all subscribed to has begun to fail as billions of our fellow humans are forced to endure abject misery while billions of others horde far more cash and resources than they need. Any paradigm will be stable until it generates problems it can not solve. Those problems then become the catalyst for a shift to a whole new paradigm. One that hopefully exemplifies the ingenuity, passion and promise of the human family.

We dream of a day when we are all partners and collaborators in the architecture of our happiness rather than rivals and adversaries competing in an endless and devastating cycle of manufactured scarcity. Opposing destructive forces through equally destructive solutions will only serve to multiply their damage.  Instead we propose a path to prosperity achievable without the frustration and rage we’ve relied on to revolutionize our world in the past.

This journey is constantly evolving and clarifying itself. The path unfolds before us as we walk it, never affording us more than a momentary glimpse of its future. We hope to be fluid enough to follow the path wherever it leads. After all, each passing moment is a chance to redefine, reinvigorate, awaken and transcend.

No one is perfect, but anyone can be net positive. The idea is to shift the balance of your interactions, ideas, contributions, choices to the positive side of the spectrum. We all have down days, and that’s OK. Our goal is simply to make the good outweigh the bad.

We’re glad you’re here and we hope you’ll share your voice and your journey with us!