Those who are mindful are beginning to realize that only an entirely
new operating system can prevent the collapse of civilization. However,
to date, no one has presented such a system. This presentation outlines
a system that has the potential to serve as a viable replacement for
the current paradigm.
Small per diem for personal items such as clothing
Ability to transfer to another campus within the system/network
That's the labor side of the equation.
Now for the capital side:
How would you like to invest and live in a system in which everyone who works in the system is content with the above perks?
Compare it to the system we now have and the unequal rewards that come from that system. A majority of those who work in the system just barely get by and a minority live much better than kings. The majority is worried about paying the bills and the minority wants to maximize profit and get their progeny enrolled in a prestigious university that trains them to maximize profit. No wonder we are so screwed up.
Many of us will find that our retirement savings will be substantially eroded. From an organic standpoint, this was to be expected. In nature, it is only prudent to store enough to get through the winter season. Our retirement plans assumed that we could store up decades worth of "nuts" and this is just plain nuts in an organic or natural world -- the world that we will revert to either willingly or unwillingly. Bottom line is that most of us will be working for much of the rest of our lives. Depending on how we structure this work, it can either be pleasant or a hellish experience.
Most of us will not be able to pay for expensive college educations for our children. "Higher" education will have to be restructured and it's about time.
We will be forced to transition away from an energy-intensive lifestyle to one that uses less energy. This will mean smaller and more energy efficient living quarters. It also means that big, inefficient homes will decline -- yes, even further -- in value.
We will shift from an emphasis on financial engineering to sustainable development engineering.
Currently, we are all scrambling to make a living. This scrambling makes it difficult to be bodhisattva-like. We can transition to a system that encourages us to find right livelihoods.
Independence will mean being near our food sources and possibly having our own paradise -- a walled garden.
It makes sense to integrate education, work, and leisure in a comprehensive institution/system that also integrates Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Where would you rather have your wealth stored? In a fund in which the principles have multiple houses and a big office or in an asset-backed account that is administered by a group of independent scholars that have taken an implicit vow of non-accumulation and sustainable living?
A fitting "post"script:
Right living is no longer the fulfillment of an ethical or religious
demand. For the first time in history the Physical survival of the
human race depends on a radical change of the human heart. However, a
change of the human heart is possible only to the extent that drastic
economic and social changes occur that give the human heart the chance
for change and the courage and the vision to achieve it. [p.9&10]
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.
My sense is that there is some momentum building in the area of sustainability. This issue of Interconnections would be a good start for neophytes -- and neoclassical economists. (Interconnections is a practice-based research journal published by Ashcroft International Business School at Anglia Ruskin University.)
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?
In an interesting book that I may have previewed here at some time in the past, Lex Hixon traces enlightenment in ten different traditions. My interpretation of the message is that we need to move beyond the concept of a supreme being to one of a supreme identity. This means that we must develop to the point where we drop the ego.
While enlightenment is often presented in tandem with mysticism, it can be discussed in practical terms. It is more important than ever that anyone who is in a position to do so research enlightenment and get the message out to those who they can influence. Remarkably enough, there are theologians who have never reached the enlightenment stage. (I recently previewed a book, Darwin's Gift, by Francisco Ayala that makes the case that evolution explains why "God" did nasty things. Wow!)
The concept of supreme identity is consistent not only with the advanced levels of religious traditions but also with physics, biology, psychology -- just about anything you can name. One doesn't have to be a mystic to know this. A few moments of reflection is all that is required.
My research has led me to the conclusion that we must have living systems that encourage individuals to develop a supreme identity. In simple and practical terms, we're all in this together. A sustainable system would not permit accumulation beyond what is necessary to get us through a winter or two. Buying a 2500 s.f. house and working for 30 years or more to pay for it is not sustainable. If we die with material assets, then we have failed the supreme identity test and the sustainability test.
Many impressive "green" structures are being built by those with the resources. Unfortunately, most of these structures are second and third homes. As a consequence, these properties on a macro level are more energy intensive as the result of being vacant for much of the time. All dressed up with no where to go.
Here is an example of the type of property that I envision. Open the PDF and take a look. Keep in mind that the kitchen -- at a similar scale -- will be a restaurant for guests. Guests and those who operate the company will live in private quarters similar to the guest room that is shown in the pictures on the PDF. The best part of it is that the entire property will be occupied to the fullest extent possible. Contrast this with a property that is only occupied on weekends and holidays. Green construction misses the point if it is infrequently occupied.
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour, Rains from the sky a meteoric shower Of facts…they lie unquestioned, uncombined. Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill Is daily spun; but there exists no loom To weave it into fabric.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay (As quoted in A Bridge to the 18th Century)
I am currently reviewing a book by Amartya Sen entitled Development As Freedom. According to the publisher: "This is a landmark work that shows how in individual human freedom -- the exclusive possession, Sen shows, of no particular nation, region or historical, intellectual or religious tradition -- lies the capacity for political participation, economic development and social progress." In my opinion, this process of individual human freedom -- it is rare here in the U.S. -- has to be supercharged and a "loom" must be developed to integrate existing wisdom. Developmentally, as a society, we are not even to the stage that the founders of the U.S. were in the 1700's. (Wilber, 2000)
We have to create a new loom/institution that enables us to live in a way that provides quality and reverses the destructive course of humanity.
What would the physical infrastructure look like? While the physical structure of a village may be fine, no one has ever claimed that a village is innovative and encourages personal development. Quite the contrary, many find village life stifling. When I think about village, gossip springs to mind. We need to inject a new element into the village. That new element is the university. Another way to look at it is to talk about injecting the university into the village. Most individuals leave the university and their personal development stops. They enter into structures that have boundaries: religion, family, and work/corporations -- just for starters. (It should be mentioned that the corporate infiltration of universities has served to impose boundaries in that institution as well.)
Any new institution -- or re-tooled institution -- must be interdisciplinary.
There are many ideas out there that have merit. However, they do not address the personal development that is necessary in order to lift the world up and reverse the current, widespread destruction that is occurring.
Guiding premises and goals:
All life is important
Reduce suffering/Eliminate empty bedrooms (there are more empty bedrooms each night in the U.S. than there are homeless individuals)
Development is only possible though dropping the desire to acquire
Draw from the wisdom of all religions and traditions
Create an environment that can provide a way for bright, young people to envision a fulfilling life without producing offspring
Institutions must encourage and facilitate lifelong development
Physical infrastructure might physically resemble the villages envisioned here. The creator of the site wisely counsels us that cars need to be banished to the periphery.
Operational structure would resemble a university. Trustees who serve without pay. Researchers/fellows who work a baseline of 20 hours per week in hands-on productive activities. Gardening, Cooking, etc. Home Economics in the sense that this is work that is done anyway by someone in the household. What we are doing is incorporating all the elements of living into one institution that is far more comprehensive than the cobbled up mess that we currently pay homage to.
Improving local sources of food is key to thriving in the coming decades. (See this Richard Heinberg transcript for an explanation of the importance of local and labor-intensive agriculture.) However, if someone is working on an important project, other fellows who recognize the value of their work may step in and "cover" for them in their labor obligations. Fellows will be free to come and go at the end of the "quarter."
Capital will come from patrons who deposit money in an institution account that is drawn down as they use the services. First class accommodations in a university village.
One may argue that neither a chimp nor an elephant could design a computer, but I ask: What is more consequential, the ability to design a computer or the ability to protect, sustain, and nurture the planet on which one resides? Of what value is the computer if none of us is here to use it?