Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Crisis of Debt: Options

To meet our obligations to the biosphere and save it (and us) from extinction, we must decrease our consumption relative to income, providing more goods and services than we use. To do so, we can reduce consumption, increase income, or both. These actions can be done either forcibly or voluntarily.

Forcible reduction of consumption can be done either by other people or by external conditions. Laws, taxes, and military action are ways that people can impose limits. External conditions include having fixed supplies of whatever is being consumed. A composite of the two approaches involves the law of supply and demand in economics, which drives up the price (the amount of work necessary to get more of something) by having too high a demand or too little supply, or both.

Getting people to voluntarily reduce consumption usually involves convincing them through education and experience that they will be better off doing so than continuing their current behavior. They must not only know it, but feel it, and with frequent enough feedback that they believe the transition is more painless than not making the transition.

People can get higher income by working harder (for one customer, or the same amount for multiple customers); increasing the value of their labor; or finding customers who will pay more for their labor. Where there is a choice of many customers, increasing income is voluntary; where the choice is limited, such as with a single customer, it may be involuntary. In the context of the biosphere, “customers” are other species; and increasing income might include providing services such as the repair of existing damage, increasing genetic diversity, and expanding the biosphere to include other planets (and potentially reduce the load on this one). “Products” that could increase income include clean water and air (less pollution) and habitat useful to other species.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Crisis of Debt

In 2000, average American workers, who comprised about half the nation's population (half of the non-workers being children), annually spent half their time (after eating and sleeping) in work-related activities (including commuting). Since 2005, Americans have spent more money than their disposable income. Debt will exceed income in less than 30 years if current trends continue (not counting the growing government debt, which Americans are all responsible for). Economically, American workers would become slaves, because no one would extend them any more credit and they would have to spend all their previously “free” time paying back what they took. Even if every American (children included) started working at that point, debt would once again equal income in another ten years.

Humanity's ecological prospects mirror the American worker's economic prospects, and the time frames are remarkably similar. Nature's economy, the Earth's biosphere, uses the equivalent of human barter: over the course of their lifetimes, members of species trade goods and services rather than money (“goods” are created and then recycled from renewable resources, using energy from the Sun). Because there is no natural equivalent of money, credit – any agreement to trade equivalent goods or services in the future for goods or services received in the present – is on the honor system. Humanity has attempted to bypass this system by extracting non-renewable resources and creating goods that cannot be recycled by the biosphere (from the biosphere's perspective, they are by definition “waste”). We have also denied the biosphere the use of our own matter to recycle and use elsewhere. Our waste began to overwhelm the biosphere around 1989, analogous to the point where American workers began going into debt. By my estimates, within 30 years from that time the biosphere will be trashed (in every sense of the word), and there will be no way humanity can “earn” enough to pay for what we've taken.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Computer Problems

The problem with my computer was not a bad mother board, as originally believed, but rather a combination of a failing hard drive and a problem with the flat screen. When I received the computer from the famous "Geek Squad," I couldn't load the operating system, and the new flat screen had a deep scratch. I sent the computer back, and hopefully it will be in working order by February 23, a full month after I took it in!

In the mean time, Windows updates had all but rendered by backup computer useless, using so much C drive space that the defragmenter balked. I switched to a Linux operating system, and discovered that the modem would no longer seize the phone line and detect dial tone. I've searched in vain for a technical fix; but have gotten some good writing done, albeit offline.

If you've been trying to reach me, be patient: I'm limited to sporadic visits to the local library until my main computer returns from the shop.