Of Avarice & Sorrow
Velociraptor Capitalism & the Sustainability Challenge
©Copyright 2002 Alby Chrisbach. All rights reserved.
The Earth waxes and wanes between an iceless sphere and a frozen sphere. Our current geologic age of remarkable comfort is known as the Holocene Interglacial Age. It is considerably more fragile than we understood even a decade ago. Thriving human societies are dependent on the maintenance of the Holocene. We are not performing our tasks. Before us looms icelessness, monumentally high seas, ferocious storms and relentless disease. Many of the moral imperatives of our institutions have grown to become unethical; we participate in human and environmental atrocities blindly. Our badly entangled social beliefs deny us the ability to perform the Holocene's required maintenance. We must disentangle our historical ideas to generate a mutual-governing consciousness that will balance and continue this very kind Interglacial Age, our lifeline. In so doing we will become a better people; our systems will be those of intentional interdependence with a common goal. 'Sustainability' is the baseline of the solution. We require a "Sustainable Small Business Capitalism" with intensive environmental management so that we may escape our self-defeating rollercoaster of greed. The disparate references found in this text lead you to share a plausible vision. You begin to feel that sustainability is a goal that human culture could achieve. You start to see sustainability as a unifying force. This credible political realm of sustainability would change our extreme social and economic inequities.
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Writing Samples from various chapters
In this sphere that we call home, whether in your perspective it is a cosmic sphere, geosphere, biosphere, economic sphere or political sphere, there are problems of extreme social inequity that have directly resulted in extreme environmental damage. One cannot be fixed without the other. The avarice of today's capitalism is inextricably linked with the sorrow of tomorrow's environment.
As you have read many times, in December 1972 Ed Lorenz wondered, "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" Perhaps. Then, environmentalists were primarily concerned about the climatic impact of U.S. emissions and those of a few other industrialized countries. Then, fears of sea levels rising a few inches in hundreds of years were followed by fears of an ice age in thousands of years. Today, gigantic coal-emitting China appears on the runaway-consumption scene to compete head-to-head with the U.S. in generating greenhouse gases. Today, we know that our kind interglacial age known as the Holocene could flip into icelessness in only a few years. Tomorrow, China will overtake the U.S. and spew more damage into the atmosphere than even our own deteriorating smoke stacks. When China flaps her wings the 'Texas tornado' will be a story you would prefer not to hear.
Global Climate Models (GCMs) have grown in complexity and accuracy along with rapid computer development. Each year for 50 years the models have become smarter and the computers faster. Each day eager scientists rapidly write and incorporate careful algorithms into their brilliant GCMs. Today modelers can simulate with increasing accuracy the impact of climatic conditions resulting from considerations of the atmosphere, oceans, clouds, humidity, oil, coal, methane, forests, biotics, sun fluctuations, orbital wobbles, city heat, industry, aerosols, automobiles, fertilizers, glacial carbon dioxide, seabed methane, volcanoes, forms of nitrogen, other chemicals and more and more. As warming continues these same elements compound each other cumulatively as 'feedback.' Today's database models are profound and growing works of science and art, fed by thousands of sensors in the ocean, on land and in the sky. In orbit we have outstanding geostationary multi-sensor and imaging satellites like NASANOAA's Terra, Aqua and Aura. This is truly amazing science and engineering.
As China comes to enjoy 'the good life' we see inconceivable amounts of waste with even more disregard for the environment than in the U.S.. Chinese cities now sport highways that are becoming indistinguishable from Los Angeles. When the implications of China's emission data becomes visible I would imagine that all of the GCM's are likely to report the same result in 2005 and 2006 regarding our esteemed ecosphere: 'Tilt.'
The runaway buffaloes herded onto the high plain and stormed one after another over the cliff into the ravine's raging river. Like cows in a slaughter pen, they somehow knew. They could not stop themselves. They were running with their herd like lemmings in a migration, like fish in a school, like geese in a flock somehow aware of the death before them, but not able to stop. Herding forces mystify the animals upon this Earth. Homosapiens believe in consciousness, believe that we could be an aware species. Yet we blindly bask in a secret perception of impending extinction, a willingness to die, a disregard for ourselves and more frighteningly a disregard for our children. Characteristically, similar to other animals, we do not acknowledge our insatiable herding, like the snakes moving counter-clockwise around a swamp, like the ants marching in rigorous columns across a woodland, like the people driving Mighty Mobilicus in highway lanes of death. We want to think we are distinct from these forces. We drift among them.
The Medieval war known as the "100 Year War" from 1336 to 1555 was fought over wine and property. It killed many fewer than this second, less discernible "100 Year Automobile War" that the World Health Organization tallies at 50 million automobile deaths and 2 billion injuries. Worse, the projections for the next 50 years show staggering increases. Earth is but a massive cemetery for the increasing waste from the automobile. Our necessary escape from its entrapments will be complex.
Sustainable Small Business Capitalism
World War II ended with the United States celebrating its might, graciousness and economic know-how. Confidence led to arrogance. The Soviet Union feared the U.S. (Allied Powers) and blockaded Berlin in 1948 cementing the Cold War into history. For a year one of the most remarkable technical events in history ensued. The Allies flew millions of tons of coal, food and sundries into blockaded Berlin. Cargo planes and converted passenger planes landed in Berlin each minute and sometimes every 30 seconds. If a plane missed its landing it had to return fully loaded to its point of origin to request rescheduling. The narrow, protected air corridor did not provide for circling. Inconceivable amounts of gasoline were used by the planes in the airlift. If American military equipment backed by the power of American industrial know-how was impressive during the war, the Berlin Airlift was a staggering salute to the power of industry, now clearly interlaced with the power of oil. Western capitalists did not miss the moment. Oil as an exploitable fuel, reaching its 100th anniversary of use in 1950, took on a political, economic and social dimension of its own that has dominated the earthscape for 50 years.
The Fall of the Third Age
The successful conclusion of the First U.S. Age of Agriculture ushered in the Industrial Age with bravado, paying farmers not to produce. After unprecedented success, the great Second Age of Industry spawned the Third Age: the Information Age. In this latter age greed grew into a debilitating economic disease. With blind confidence in fantasy technology, Initial Public Offerings abounded. Foreign countries were asked to produce the bulk of the hard goods we consumed. Dizzy and arrogant in the misperception of wealth there was no longer a need to oversee difficult manufacturing or difficult labor. Technologists and stock traders created a New Economy based on Internet hits traffic instead of dollars. The traders, like drugged horses in a race, ran false market numbers while industrialists and corporate giants disassembled our manufacturing, wholesale and small-business base.
From Smiths to Chiefs
Built upon the backs of the blacksmiths, woodsmiths and other smiths, our nation no longer celebrates craftsmanship nor is familiar with the word. On the other hand, Commander-in-Chief, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and other chiefs are words with which we are familiar. We have devolved "From Smiths to Chiefs" discarding human dignity and fully risking civilization itself. Both public corporations and stock markets should be phased out in favor of the former small, local, private companies that would necessarily celebrate a Goods & Services Trading Economy, a Sustainable Small Business Capitalism. We could package sustainability with our technical and agricultural expertise. It is this latter system that America could share with the world with great pride, since the ownership would be local to those involved, and participation would be entirely voluntary. The money would not pyramid up and out of the local economy.
Tragedy Beyond the Menagerie
The next tragedy probably made the papers. I know about it since I heard it from this fellow's supervisor in Silicon Valley. Immediately following a company layoff a high-tech worker took his life and with him the lives of his three children and wife. This makes 10 deaths this season, to my personal knowledge, and the Christmas bells still approach. For whomever these bells toll, they toll not for you.
Of Avarice and Sorrow
The vulture capitalists of the 1980's circled the weak and waited for an opportunity to go in for the kill. Today's velociraptor capitalists plan strategically and execute massive tactics to annihilate all in their ever-widening vision. To velociraptors all customers are prey. I am not fooled by my idealism what you may dismiss as naivete, arrested development, idealistic visions or leftist rhetoric. I like this denial, these songs of innocence, these woodcuts of utopia. I must dream of the pathways that could be, must speculate on systems that could bring us from what is to what should be. I want the innocent goodness, peace and the myriad of ideals the vultures and velociraptors laugh at with intense condescension at home while igniting the fury of the world's poor. As the velociraptor throws this text across the room screaming "Luddite" we see only his own fear of the machinery and technology that could bring about real trade based on American goods for the mutual benefit of all.
The Denial Paradigm
Consider a few pairs: Egalitarians versus Velociraptor Capitalists - Democrats versus Republicans - Secularists versus Evangelicals - Small Businesses versus Global Conglomerates - Cooperative Humility versus Corporate Arrogance - Competence versus Demeanor - Consciousness Forces versus Market Forces - Anonymity versus Proselytizing.
The Denial Paradigm is a tricky, insidious phenomenon that persists in our species despite advances in human understanding and the sciences. It lurks, it wallows, it threatens our existence. The issue goes beyond the appearance of "Left versus Right" that you see in the above pairs of opposites. We are a blind species, caught with a kind of dramatic stupidity called "denial" that transcends considered thought.
NonViolent Civil Disobedience
In times of exasperation over the madness in the Vietnam era I thought I might expatriate. I tried it once. My wife and I lived in a cave in the Canary Islands for 13 weeks. Our total expenses, including food, averaged $1.09 a day. It was wonderful. Those islands off the coast of Africa, in 1972, were undeveloped. We thought we might settle there, away from it all. Guilt mounted. We were abandoning our country. It was struggling. I thought things could be improved. We returned out of this loyalty and became involved again in grass roots groups. Over the years I have been arrested in NonViolent Civil Disobedient demonstrations four times one time each for Civil Rights, Vietnam, Nuclear Power and the Environment. I believe these actions were effective, contributive. More powerful than even velociraptors with military enforcers, the march of the masses makes change.