Saturday, July 30, 2011

Biodiversity Shrinkage Mirrors Economic Stasis

It appears that the biodiversity on the planet is shrinking along with the diversity of ideas, attitudes, possibilities and choices instigated by our economic culture. Probably not with intent. But littered with a lot of self-righteousness mostly out of ignorance and greed. Maybe just ignorance as greed is probably more from ignorance than from evil. In fact, I'd be more than willing to argue that all evil is created or steeped in ignorance. According to a recent study on biodiversity plummeting on the planet, our societal and cultural use of the planet may be largely responsible for the shrinking biodiversity:
Overall, humans have direct effects on most of the Earth’s surface: globally, human activities affect ~83% of the land (Sanderson et al. 2002) and 100 % of the ocean, with ~41 % being strongly affected (Halpern et al. 2008). As a result of our appropriation of resources and more direct impacts, an increasing num- ber of species is threatened by extinction (Baillie et al. 2004, Hails 2008, Secretariat of the Convention on Bio- logical Diversity 2010). This loss is occurring in spite of the goods and services that biodiversity provides to humankind, valued in the order of a few trillion dollars annually (e.g. Costanza et al. 1997; the United Nations Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project [], the United Nations – backed Prin- ciples for Responsible Investment project [www.unpri. org]). In addition, several studies indicate that main- taining biodiversity is much simpler than restoring it and that, depending on the nature and extent of our impacts, some damaged ecosystems might never return to their original states, meaning that any imper- ilment or loss could be permanent (Scheffer & Carpen- ter 2003). In the face of ongoing biodiversity loss, the recognized value of biodiversity and the need for steps to maintain or restore it have prompted a renewed effort to develop safeguarding strategies. ( Mora, Sale ).
While the statistics of the documented shrinkage of biodiversity are probably not arguable enough to change the conclusion, we might agree that the underlying complexity of the shrinkage in terms of past, present and future is probably of greater value to understand than is arguing over blame or is fighting over whether we should even care about earthly creatures, including ourselves. Some people think we shouldn't. The earth, they argue will take care of itself. I disagree. Not with the notion but with the attitude, which seems to be a red herring for "I need not take any responsibility for what happens to the planet.

Regardless of which debate takes the lead on this and confuses out the other debates, 1/4 of the earth's mammals are threatened with extinction (Conservation International).

Shrinking Diversity in Economic Culture

One could say that the documented shrinkage of economic diversity (global cost of oil or credit, for example--or general wages) is probably not arguable enough to change the conclusion, yet we might agree that the meaning of the shrinkage in terms of past, present and future is probably of greater value than is arguing over blame or is fighting over whether we should even care about the economic differences that determine a person's survival, or kind of survival, in the culture. Some people think we shouldn't. Some people think we have enough diversity to keep us busy in choosing which clothes to wear or which TV show to watch or which market to shop at. They argue that too much diversity is a pain in the ass.

As the Think In the Now While Accumulating Speed and Money Era, we go against our era the moment we began critically thinking or acting responsibly when it comes to adverse effects on the planet and the creatures that live on it, whether we cause all or any part of the adverse effects. We also go against stepping outside the borders of the notions that bind us to this era. As we can see with the current debt crisis, manufactured or not, we have been forced fed without much resistance that our current top monster combines minus signs with red numbers. Thus, our collective goal in the Think In the Now While Accumulating Speed and Money Era is to keep the government, banks and corporations as far from the minus signs with red numbers as possible. And as we carry this triad on our backs, we have room for nothing much else. Thus other activities or priorities are threatened with extinction.

So what exactly has gone extinct in our Think In the Now While Accumulating Speed and Money Era? Maybe it's better not to know. Maybe it's better to remain culturally deaf and dumb on this issue.

Our Role as Citizens

As mutes, along with prayer, I suggest we race one another to any bank as a Monday and Friday exercise. On Tuesdays, we should race one another to a government building. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, we should race one another to a corporate office. These should be our only civic obligations. Other than praying and racing, we should work at as many jobs as possible to accumulate as much money as we can. These activities, while not particularly diverse in themselves, can be made diverse. We can alter routes, for example. Change buildings. Change times. Wear different shoes. The options to choose from are plentiful. We can write up the names of the contestants on different colored or textured paper. That in itself can get us through a year. Moreover, we can leave Saturday and Sunday open for praying that our government, banks and corporations keep their distance from the minus signs with red numbers. Here too we can create diversity. We can change sites for prayers. We can change the words. We can change the prayer leaders. Thus, we can change the very nature of diversity and save ourselves from extinction unlike the other creatures on the planet who haven't a clue, it seems, to figure out their own diversity plan if the original one isn't working for them. Some argue that these extinct creatures were just not strong enough. Or they say those on the brink of extinction are genetically disadvantaged.

Racing and praying (and working) of course take nothing away from shopping, which still remains our number 1 civic activity in contributing to the maintenance of diversity within our current institutions.

 Think In the Now While Accumulating Speed and Money Era

The Think In the Now while Accumulating Speed and Money Era is the pinnacle height of the me first no matter what thread of civilization woven to its heights and reached by corporate capitalism as a global phenomenon. We created it. Now we have to maintain it, diaper it, clean its ass, and give it billions of gallons of milk (money and labor) to sustain it. If we choose not to, we can probably find a river to drown it or a cancer looking for a host. We can expect to be ferreted out by a roaming clean-up crew. We can expect to spend much of our time looking over our shoulder.

On the positive side, the shrinkage in biodiversity may work toward our advantage. It will be less of the unpredictable, which might mean less surveillance on the rest of us, less turning our heads to look over our shoulder, which could result in less doctor visits for wear and tear on the neck or blood pressure.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Super Congress to the Rescue

Do we always have to watch a bunch of neurotic bullies find ways to re-create the public space in their own image, and in particular, in the interests of the wealthy? And do we always have to play the role of a bunch of enablers?  Will this relationship never tire? How many ways can we play this out?

When I heard that the democrat and republican leaders were seriously considering setting up a Super Congress of 12 members (6 from each party) to decide policy issues, in particular, the debt ceiling woes, I was a bit stunned. It seemed so anti-American I had to find out why the idea of a Super Congress was even a consideration. I didn't remember voting on turning the country over to 12 people.

Why a Super Congress?

First, the rationale  for the establishment of a Super Congress is to break the impasse current lawmakers find themselves in finding a solution to the debt ceiling. At least in the public theater space it has created for itself. I can't find the logic in a Super Congress as the solution unless--I just can't find any justification for it.  But with so few options for addressing the debt ceiling on the table, why wouldn't Congress reach an impasse? There are just so many way to rearrange the paltry options it is considering. Meanwhile, the more serious problem is either overlooked, denied or derailed. What is that more serious problem? The problem appears to be in the number of options not in the $$$$ currently associated with social security, medicare and mediCal (Medicaid outside California).

Second, a Super Congress narrows the conversation and keeps out contrary opinions on decreasing entitlements.  More than twelve is a crowd, you know, whether it's a supreme court or a last supper. Twelve then is a good number. It's a number already associated with a higher authority in a lot of people's minds. It feels familiar. It must be right! Twelve works.

The Cloak of the Super Congress and Who it Rescues 

 Who needs all those members of Congress who are accountable to constituents who don't like the paltry options?  Who needs those annoying constituents who want to keep the three entitlements intact and not connected to raising the debt ceiling? Members of Congress need to be rescued from such constituents. A Super Congress can shield all those members who might face pesty or angry voters.  With only the 12 legislators accountable to their constituents, a Super Congress will let the vast majority of current members off the hook. They can go home and get some sleep, or play golf, or go on vacation.  They can say, I wouldn't have voted that way. No sir. Not me.

But just what cloak of rescue does the Super Congress wear?

A little drama: The cloak of fear. If this thing isn't resolved by August 2--we all go down.

 So far Congress, the administration, The Treasury, Wall Street, and even the rating agencies have tried almost every scare tactic to gain control of public sentiment on the issue. They have worked very hard to convince us all that maintaining these entitlements is so dangerous it could lead to the collapse of our economy--once again. Or is that not raising the debt ceiling that can lead to collapse with the only way out the dismantling of entitlements? Face it, these official groups are frustrated. Fear hasn't worked so far to dismantle what the wealthy want dismantled. They expected us to agree, to consider the loss of entitlement a shared sacrifice, to say, yes, yes, of course, it's the only way. We must wean ourselves off of social security, medicare and mediCal while we still can before disaster strikes! Besides, with the current goal  to re-create America in the image of the wealthy, in goals, morals, ethics, economics, religions, fashion, and laws, clinging to entitlements makes no sense. The wealthy have no need for entitlements. As emulators of the wealthy, nor should we.

But we hate to give them up. We've already invested our hard-earned money in them. We're concerned about an uncertain future. Maybe if the wealthy provided us with some kind of Retirement Camps or some soft or innocuous way to die when we get sick. In exchange, we can promise to not cost too much. If they can make these promises, I'm sure we'd give up our entitlements for them.

 Meanwhile, the wealthy will not let us down. They too are thinking up ways to help convince us. More fear to convince us might work. But more fear walks a delicate line. Too much fear or the "wrong" kind of casualties can backfire. Hurt profits. Cause a revolt.  Cost votes. No, the wealthy still trust us. We rarely stir. They are convinced we will give up our entitlements willingly. It's only a matter of time. The deadline helps. Oh my gosh, August 2 is almost here. Thank god the Super Congress promises to rescue us all.

 Of course there might be one glitch. By silencing the vast majority of members of Congress, the Super Congress  of 12 silences the larger than large voice of the people. Some people could get suspicious.  Cause trouble. Create doubt. They could say it sounds like the old Soviet Union or Communist China or old Fascist Italy, or Egypt or Iran, or some other totalitarian regime. No, they have to convince us that it's for our own good, that the way things are set up is just plain outdated. As George Bush said, America would be a lot easier to run as a dictatorship.

The first thing we have been told by the  people who thought up the idea of a Super Congress is that a Super Congress is perfectly legal because nowhere in the Constitution does it say you cannot have a Super Congress. On that thought, the Constitution fails to say you can't create a Citizen's Congress to overrule a Super Congress. Hmmm. Now there's a novel idea. We haven't tried that one yet.

Anyway, there's my first off the top of my head thoughts on this issue.