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Deep thought - Feb 8

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


The Making of an Elder Culture
(audio)
Mike Cuthbert, AARP
Theodore Roszak’s 1968 book "The Making of a Counter Culture" is considered one of the seminal works on that much-ballyhooed era, the 1960s. Now, 40 years later, he turns his trained eye on the impact the same generation, the Boomers, will have on aging. His new book is "The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation."

Will the Boomers bring the values of a “corporate economy” with them, in which the strongest survive? Or will they embrace the values of traditional elder culture, when people tend to value companionship and support over competition?

Press play on the audio player to listen to this forward-thinking and inspiring conversation between Roszak and host Mike Cuthbert.
Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation
(24 November 2009)
Book site
Review of the book (truthdig)



Slow-tech: Manifesto for an overwound world

Andrew Price, book website
Slow tech coverPublished by Atlantic Books (2009), SLOW-TECH explains how the ‘inessential’ and ‘unproductive’ protect us from the consequences of our obsession with efficiency.

The modern world has put its faith in high-tech processes that has left it weakened and ill-equipped to withstand catastrophe. Collateral damage has been immense, made worse by pressures from a swelling population.

SLOW-TECH argues for a world with greater robustness - something that is possible in surprisingly simple ways. Unexpected and counter-intuitive yet convincing and timely, SLOW-TECH offers an alternative vision for life in the twenty-first century – a rounded vision of balance and robustness that would be healthier for the planet – and healthier for us.

Principles of SLOW-TECH

  • The efficiency delusion: a quick fix and the quest for ever-greater performance isn’t always the best solution.

  • Low-tech remedies – including the simple expedient of adding time – still have a place, even in the rushed, modern world.
  • Don’t get rid of the ‘inessential’. Having something in reserve, and other means of avoiding catastrophic failures, empowers both the present and the future.
  • Indispensable whiz: robustness helps ensure smooth-running in nature, in what we do and in things we create, reducing the need for human intervention.
  • Environmental damage is not ‘free’, and should be compensated for: a weakened natural environment can be risky for business as well as species.

(retrieved 7 February 2010)
Reviews:
Guardian
Times Higher Education
Make Wealth History (blog)
Times



Stuck Accelerators: Toyotas and the Fossil-Fuel Growth Economy

Jan Lundberg, Culture Change
(Cartoon by Erik Lundberg Scott)(Cartoon by Erik Lundberg Scott)The story of Toyota cars having accelerator-pedal and brake problems, causing out of control speed and possible crash death in a fireball, is a near perfect allegory for something far more serious: the burning of the planet with fossil fuels including gasoline for cars. The vehicle for the burning of the planet is none other than the fossil-fueled growth economy. The difference this has with the Toyota phenomenon is that we do have real brakes for the global vehicle of destruction, which Toyotas may not have ("News Alert: Toyota Says Prius Brakes Had Design Flaws" - New York Times, Feb. 4, 2010).

As a long-time car-free activist and defender of nature, I have had until now a reaction of boredom and disgust for what I see is a predictable, consumerist news story.

... To take our foot off the accelerator of the fossil-fueled growth economy is to support local economies, stop commuting long distances, maximize local food production, establish cooperatives, engage in bartering and mutual aid, and love nature far more than accumulating dollars for hyper-consumption. These changes all have to come, but why smash into the wall at full speed when we can at least slow down and possibly lessen the impact? Is all we can do to avoid petroleum pollution is just step over the oil slicks on the asphalt wastelands of parking lots?

What can the average person do to gain some safety and to support local, ecological economics? Do not buy a car. If you must, buy a used one in order to keep money in the community. Don’t fool yourself that there’s a “clean car” to “help Mother Earth.” And, as the Transportation Secretary told Congress regarding the unsafe Toyota -- but applying his advice also to the fossil-fueled growth economy -- “Stop driving it.”
(5 February 2010)



Energy Flow, Emergent Complexity, and Collapse

George Mobus, The Oil Drum
Civilizations grow in complexity given the right circumstances. And all too often they end up collapsing. History is replete with examples. Joseph Tainter, among others, has examined collapse from the standpoint of decreasing marginal return on investment in increasing complexity, which he posits is the most common factor in collapsed societies. The key question one must ask is: What critical circumstance (if there is one factor above all others) enables a society to grow in complexity in the first place? If we find an answer to that question we may also find what causes the decrease in marginal returns as complexity increases. This is certainly a growing concern for our modern civilizations. I advance a systems theoretical and principled thesis, below, that puts the increased flow of energy as the key enabler of increases in complexity. And I examine what we might expect from declines in that flow rate when sources are depleted.

This is a guest post by George Mobus, who is an Associate Professor of Computing and Software Systems at the University of Washington Tacoma.
(5 February 2010)

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