The story simply wasn’t true

On global fraud and terrible error:

The world was told that putting its money in the US was a low-risk, high-return investment. But like the victims of the Wall Street trader, now we are all learning the truth.

What comes next? The fallacy is punctured.

Globalization will be seen as what it is — a game with risks that can’t be wished away. And U.S. prosperity will depend on the success or failure of its ability to innovate — not its ability to tell an implausible story to foreign investors…

What to expect ahead?

THE shift of the 21st Century:

The richest 1 percent of households owns nearly half of all individually owned investment assets (stocks and mutual funds, financial securities, business equity, trusts, non-home real estate). The bottom 90 percent of the population owns less than 15 percent; the bottom half of the population — 150 million Americans — own less than 1 percent.

If America’s vast wealth is mainly a gift of our common past, how, specifically, can such disparities be justified?

The Rich Are Hogging Our Common Inheritance
And how we can take it back. Dec 14, 2008

Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland.

Beyond 2009

Bruce Sterling summing up the future. He’s done it every year for ten years:

There’s no visible other space. There’s no liberated territory. It’s like rebelling against a funhouse mirror because it makes you look so fat and stupid.

But dude, this is not just a bad vibe happening. Merrill Lynch is gone. Enron is long gone. Madoff is a crook. The big boys are hurting. Cities are broke, states are broke, the feds are a laughingstock. The Congress and the former Administration have fully earned the public’s contempt. You can’t “blame the media” for that. Even the media’s broke — ESPECIALLY the media. You can’t pull a Reagan, triple the national debt and pretend that everything’s jolly.

I agree that there’s an irrational panic now. There are also a large crowd of severe, real-world, fully rational, deeply structural problems that have gone unconfronted for years. These problems are not directly responsible for the money panic, but the blatant neglect there has created an atmosphere of crisis.

The Iraq War was a harebrained adventure that wrecked the international community. And to what end? The War on Terror is a bust: stateless terror is the new status quo.

Huge demographic changes in the world have not been confronted. Why are the victors of World War II still the so-called Security Council? What real security are they providing most living people today?

The planet’s population is aging. Contemporary Italy looks like a Florida retirement city. And it’s not just the rich white guys who forgot to have kids — Mexico is also rapidly aging, and China has one-child families. We lack the financial capacity to allow retirement funds to run the world. We can’t have ninety-year-olds who are rich when young people can’t go to college. That doesn’t compute.

Then there’s energy. I’m not a Peak Oil guy, but of course wild turbulence in energy prices is gonna put people on edge. How can any person of reasonable prudence invest, plan and build with that kind of uncertainty?

Last, and slowest, and worst, there’s the climate. The planet’s entire atmosphere is polluted. Practically everything we do in our civilization is directly predicated on setting fire to dead stuff. Climate change is a major evil. It’s vast in scope and it’s everywhere.

Communism, capitalism, socialism, whatever: we’ve never yet had any economic system that recognizes that we have to live on a living planet. Plankton and jungles make the air we breathe, but they have no place at our counting-house. National regulations do nothing much for that situation. New global regulations seem about as plausible as a new global religion.

None of this a counsel of despair. Seriously. We dare not despair because in any real crisis, the pessimists die fast.

This is a frank recognition of the stakes.

It’s aimed at the adults in the room.

Let me put it this way. People don’t have to solve every problem in the world in order to be happy. People will always have problems. People ARE problems. People become happy when they have something coherent to be enthusiastic about. People need to LOOK AND FEEL they’re solving some of mankind’s many problems. People can’t stumble around in public like blacked-out alcoholics, then have some jerk like Phil Gramm tell them to buck up.

When you can’t imagine how things are going to change, that doesn’t mean that nothing will change. It means that things will change in ways that are unimaginable.

Pillage of Food

There’s much discussion about our food system. Not often are the issues summarized.

Professor Tim Lang of the UK’s new Food Council warned that the current system, designed in the 1940s, was showing “structural failures”, such as “astronomic” environmental costs. It followed on from the dust bowl in the US, the collapse of food production in Europe and starvation in Asia.

I do want to stress, when we’re saying how terrible things are, that actually there have been huge advances in the 20th century; increased output of food, more people being fed, wider range and availability, people being fed better and life expectancy rocketing in many countries for all sorts of complicated reasons, but within that, diet has been a critical factor.

Lets not forget that.

BUT. The environmental cost has been astronomic. The impact on public health, which is what my colleagues and I work on a lot, is immense.

Diet is now THE single, biggest factor in causing premature death worldwide.

Thirty years on and the world was now facing an even more complex situation

In order to feed a projected nine billion people by 2050, policymakers and scientists face a fundamental challenge: how can food systems work with the planet and biodiversity, rather than raiding and pillaging it? We all know that waste is everywhere; it is immoral what is happening in the world of food.

A sustainable global food system in the 21st Century needs to be built on a series of “new fundamentals“.

81 million Americans

27% of our population, the Net Generation was born between 1977 and 1997.

Eight traits have been identified.

  1. they prize freedom;
  2. they want to customize things;
  3. they enjoy collaboration;
  4. they scrutinize everything;
  5. they insist on integrity in institutions and corporations;
  6. they want to have fun even at school or work;
  7. they believe that speed in technology and all else is normal;
  8. and they regard constant innovation as a fact of life.

That Tomorrow Ahead

Dear World,

You may be selling the bottles but the poets own the water.

You can manufacture all we say and package and wrap

All you want, more and more,

But unless it springs from the earth

It is not yours.

Grace Cavalieri

Sometimes, when a wind sighs

“All things change when we do” is the subtitle at Changing Places where I found this poem:

From Sunset to Star Rise, by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Artist Polly's Nambe SnowGo from me, summer friends, and tarry not:
I am no summer friend, but wintry cold,
A silly sheep benighted from the fold,
A sluggard with a thorn-choked garden plot.
Take counsel, sever from my lot your lot,
Dwell in your pleasant places, hoard your gold;
Lest you with me should shiver on the wold,
Athirst and hungering on a barren spot.
For I have hedged me with a thorny hedge,
I live alone, I look to die alone:
Yet sometimes, when a wind sighs through the sedge,
Ghosts of my buried years, and friends come back,
My heart goes sighing after swallows flown
On sometime summer’s unreturning track.

Painting, ‘Nambe Snow’ available from Artist Polly.

Happy New Year

New puzzles for 2009.

  1. “we are descended from neutrinos”

  2. The ‘trick’ of consciousness is that for the most part we are not conscious at all. We don’t consciously operate our heart or our breath. We don’t consciously regulate every aspect of our muscular motion. If that would be the case, life would be unlivable and unbearable. We would have a hard time even making one step with our foot or opening our mouth. So because we are for the most part automatic, we can be conscious.

planet–arium in a puddle