By design, all of our dominant institutions -- religion, education, and work organizations -- erect barriers to learning. I have been in the fortunate position of having the leisure time to explore dozens of disciplines through reading hundreds, if not thousands, of books. My conclusion is that we must establish institutions that do not impose barriers to learning. Indeed, the survival of our species and possibly all life on earth depends on there being no boundaries to learning. The handwriting is on the wall spelling out our demise. We simply do not have the vision to read and recognize the obvious. It is because our institutions put blinders on us.
Of course, absolute freedom to learn must be balanced with survival and, by extension, productivity. The two key elements of survival are food and shelter. Another key element in my opinion is quality. The foundation for quality is scale. Therefore, any institution must have the production of food and shelter in a quality environment as its foundation. It just happens that gardening, building, and cooking are three of the most gratifying activities known to man so long as they are done at a proper scale. A human scale.
The realization that all existing institutions hinder our survivability is the key to our survivability.
First of all, an article that cuts to the chase with respect to population.
A recent comment of mine at chrismartenson.com:
I'd like to recommend a book entitled The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics by Christopher Lasch. It is a comprehensive review of Liberalism that makes one realize that Stephen Moore (Club for Growth) and anyone else who believes in unlimited growth are liberals. Stephen Moore wants to promote growth without big government and those such as Barack Obama and his "team" are willing to use big government to keep growth going. Both, however, are pro-growth. There are very few people who have contemplated what it would mean to have a steady state economy.
It is important that we understand why we are where we are today. This book changed my perspective on liberals and caused me to realize that our entire system is based on an idea of progress that is not sustainable. Ironically, the problems with progress were foreseen over two hundred years ago by individuals who are best defined as republicans (small r, almost all Republicans today are liberals as defined by Lasch).
There are ways that we can avoid growing ourselves into oblivion and enhancing our quality of life at the same time. Most of us these days seem to have a bunker mentality. How can I keep my assets? Gold? Silver? More ammunition? Investing in foreign currencies and companies? We should focus instead on how to transition our society to a steady state. (Please note that I believe that the changes have to be far more comprehensive than the transition town plans that are making the rounds. I believe that the foundation of our society has to be a new type of university that is present throughout our lives much like religion and the nuclear family is today.)
I just read a report that compared the collapse projections by the team that wrote Limits to Growth with what has actually occurred since 1972. In almost every category, their projections were dead on. (Pun intended.)
For those who don't have the time to read The True and Only Heaven, I can recommend The Unconscious Civilization by John Ralston Saul as an alternative way to understand why we are in the mess we are in today.
We have to get away from these online back and forth discussions and delve deeper into the cause of our predicament.
Finally, this presentation on organic agriculture is worth viewing. Organic food will be the cornerstone of any society that is centered around quality of life.
The following sentence appeared at the end of this article: "Growth is dead. Let’s make the most of it. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
This is a good time to go back and review several items that were posted on this site over the last four years. At the time they were posted, they may have not appeared as compelling as they do today. Let's not waste this crisis.
the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think
tank that Gell-Mann had helped set up in his capacity as a director of
the MacArthur Foundation, founding director Gus Speth and others have
argued that global sustainability is possible only if human society
undergoes at least six fundamental transitions within a very few
1. A demographic transition to a roughly stable world population.
2. A technological transition to a minimal environmental impact per person.
3. An economic transition to a world in which serious
attempts are made to charge the real costs of goods and services --
including environmental costs -- so that there are incentives for the
world economy to live off nature's "income" rather than depleting its
4. A social transition to a broader sharing of that income,
along with increased opportunities for nondestructive employment for
the poor families of the world.
5. An institutional transition to a set of supranational
alliances that facilitate a global attack on global problems and allow
various aspects of policy to be integrated with one another.
6. An informational transition to a world in which
scientific research, education, and global monitoring allow large
numbers of people to understand the nature of the challenges they face.
The trick, of course, is to get from here to there without one of
Cowan's Class A global catastrophes. And if we're to have any hope of
doing that, said Gell-Mann, the study of complex adaptive systems is
clearly critical. Understanding these six fundamental transitions
means understanding economic, social, and political forces that are
deeply intertwined and mutually dependent upon one another. You can't
just look at each piece of the problem individually, as has been done
in the past, and hope to describe the behavior of the system as a
whole. The only way to do it is to look at the world as a strongly
interconnected system -- even if the models are crude.
But more than that, said Gell-Mann, the trick in getting from here
to there is to make sure that "there" is a world worth living in. A
sustainable human society could easily be some Orwellian dystopia
characterized by rigid control and narrow, confined lives for almost
everyone in it. What it should be is a society that is
adaptable, robust, and resilient to lesser disasters, that can learn
from mistakes, that isn't static, but allows for growth in the quality
of human life instead of just the quantity of it. [p.351]
original universities in the middle ages were simply collections of
teachers who attracted students because they had something to offer.
They were the marketplace of ideas, located all over town, where people
could shop around for the kinds of ideas and learning which made sense
to them. By contrast, the isolated and over-administered university of
today kills the variety and intensity of the different ideas at the
university and also limits the student's opportunity to shop for
ideas. [Page 232]
might the company of the future look like? Lawrence Summers, a former
Treasury secretary who is now president of Harvard University, suggests
in the latest Harvard Business Review that the American research
university (ie, Harvard and its few peers) might be a model. He does
not mean that firms should set up their own "universities" -- although
plenty, from Motorola to McDonald's, have done that. Instead, they
should adopt the research university's fluid and decentralised approach
to creativity and hierarchy. "If you look at the organisations in the
economy where the greatest value is being added," argues Mr. Summers,
"they are increasingly the organisations that share the values and
characteristics of universities."
you answer the title question, you should be aware of a few key facts.
I heartily recommend that you take Chris Martenson's Crash Course.
It may cause you to have doubts that the current system will deliver.
This is not new information. However, Chris has done an outstanding
job of presenting the information.
After you have watched and digested the Crash Course come back
here. I have known that we have a sustainability problem for a number
of years. (The problem has been written about comprehensively for at
least 50 years.) All of my thinking has centered around coming up with
a way to live that sets a new course. Most ideas that are
tossed about these days will only help at the margins. Most, if not
all, institutions that exist today are only positioned to help at the
margins. They are not able to effect meaningful change and
really serve only as a balm for the ill-informed and those who want to
delude themselves. (If you are interested in a deeper understanding of
the problem, read this article.)
Freedom is the most important ingredient to a happy and healthy life in
my opinion. (Freedom, of course, has to be balanced by responsibility.) Therefore, freedom is my "measuring stick."
Ask yourself whether you have tangible assets or whether you have
paper assets? If your system provides only -- or mainly -- paper
assets it will not provide freedom in the long run.
Ask yourself whether your system is flexible enough to handle
global climate change? Will you be stuck with a living environment
that may end up beneath the surface of the oceans? Losing most of your
assets in the rising seas is not freedom.
Will you be stuck in a community that you have outgrown? Freedom is not having to listen to those who are not well developed.
In an age of ever increasing energy prices, will you have the resources to heat and cool your home?
Is debt the cornerstone of your system and your balance sheet?
Debt is not freedom. Indeed, it is probably the most insidious
component of any system.
Does your system provide a quality living and working environment
to all participants? It should. Our freedom is contingent upon the
happiness and healthiness of all.
Does your environment promote stimulating intellectual discussions? Freedom is the offspring of such discussions.
Will your system leave something for future generations? Does your
freedom come at the expense of others -- now and in the future?
Does your system provide plenty of leisure time or does it sap so
much energy from you that you plop yourself down in front of the TV
when you get home from work?
The system that currently dominates our culture does not provide
any of the above freedoms. The institutions that exist today do not
provide any solutions. Maybe it is time to explore other options.
have no alternatives to the models of corporate capitalism, social
democratic or Soviet socialism, or technocratic "fascism with a smiling
face." The popularity of this view is largely due to the fact that
little effort has been made to study the feasibility of entirely new
social [and financial] models and to experiment with them."
We actually don't have to give up or adopt any particular system.
We simply need to be creative about rearranging the furniture on the
deck. Fromm was one of the first to integrate several disciplines as
he explains in the introduction to The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.
He realized that this was necessary in order to comprehensively explore
the subject matter in the book. We are doing the same here.
Integrating several components of life that for hundreds of years have
been separate. And, integrating them in a way that is necessary in
order to live comprehensively.
Can we "rearrange the furniture" in a way that gets our footprint
below one (two?) and improves our quality of life at the same time? Is it
time to come up with a way of living that provides the freedom that is
so lacking in the current system? A structure that divides work
into meaningful components? A structure that integrates shelter, food,
education, work, and leisure? Real sustainable development?
have described this integration over the years in various posts.
Although it has evolved and will evolve in the future, the concept is
Capital from members/patrons is used to build pedestrian-only campuses around the world and as working capital.
Living quarters will be approximately 500 s.f. with separate gourmet kitchens and dining areas dispersed throughout each campus.
Those who build and operate the campuses are independent
contractors with rolling quarter-long contracts. These contractors
The entire campus will be a classroom at all times as we should all continue to learn as we live.
On-site gardens and orchards will provide fresh fruit and produce to the extent possible.
Reservations will be based on seniority. Those who reserve and
occupy specific living quarters will have options to reserve those
living quarters in the future.
Members/patrons will draw down their membership accounts as they
utilize/occupy the properties. They can deposit additional membership
funds at any time. So long as funds to cover a stay have been on
deposit for at least a year in advance of the commencement of any
reservation period, members can reserve one or more living quarters.
If there is a sufficient amount of cash in the working capital
account, members can opt to withdraw all or some of the funds in their
Please note that this can serve as a comprehensive alternative to the current carbon offset schemes.
It is important for those with savings to recognize that our lifestyles will likely contract in the future. This does not have to be unpalatable. To the contrary, it can be invigorating. Those who want to store their wealth may be amenable to the idea that it is better to preserve their principle rather than to expect a return over and above their principle.
One cannot expect everyone to shift immediately into more sustainable ways of living. However, those with the capital need to realize that assets with sustainable "footprints" represent a more secure place to store wealth than non-sustainable assets represented by almost all of our current infrastructure -- offices, large homes, sprawling subdivisions, most restaurants, most retail, etc.
The physical campus described above represents a sustainable footprint. It also represents an environment where participants are continually researching, learning, and adapting to the new reality of contraction rather than expansion. The future must focus on the expansion of minds.
This will be easier to launch with the endorsement/participation of an established institution. Does this institution exist?
The recent intervention of the government in the markets is just one more reason to escape from the bloated system that has been created. There is nothing that is sustainable about the current system.
Is there a way to check out of this system and check into one that is more sane? The answer is yes.
We have to come up with a way to get away from the complicated, credit-driven system that has to collapse sometime. One of our problems is that as specialists, we are unable to grasp the whole. [University -- ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French universite, from Latin universitas ‘the whole,’ in late Latin ‘society, guild,’ from universus (see universe ).] Indeed, our universities have become places where we are trained to not see the whole. We are a society of specialties that needs to rapidly shift to a Society of Universities.
What would a Society of Universities look like? A series of campuses in strategic locations. What would the capital structure look like? Instead of the credit-centered structure that dominates today, the structure would be equity only. Rather than relying on interest, the system would enable members to access assets at the lesser of cost or market. How would the campuses be run? They would be run by independent contractors who have enough free time to understand the whole. In order to be a self sufficient community, all contractors -- and resident members if they chose -- would be required to be involved with any harvests that occur.
This stucture/society responds in a meaningful way to all of our current problems. It permits us to leave behind the waste of the current system. This system will collapse after a prolonged period of government efforts -- begun in earnest in recent days -- to prop it up.