Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Politics of Happiness

In a couple of days, the U.S. elections will be decided. As has been the case for more than a decade, many races are so close that the difference between winners and losers depends mostly on who is most motivated to actually vote. This leads to the inescapable conclusion that no matter who wins, at least half of us will lose. From a big picture perspective, however, all of us will lose, because virtually all the competitors have a fundamentally flawed worldview that practically guarantees it.

This worldview, that there are no limits to what can potentially be done to increase human happiness, is tempered only by the answers to questions that define people's values and seem to most influence how they vote. Such questions include: how much influence any of us should have over the happiness (and survival) of others; what, if any, is the minimum amount of happiness society should tolerate; and who (or what) can be denied the means of attaining happiness. If the worldview is right, then the proper application of ingenuity, effort, and social engineering by a society can sustain unending growth in the happiness of its members in accordance with its values.

The flaw in the worldview is the dependency between happiness and ecological impact: as happiness increases, we use greater and greater amounts of resources other species need to both survive and keep the world habitable. Over the past forty years, we've used so much that those species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Continuing and accelerating this trend is already endangering our own species, exemplified (but by no means limited to) the destabilizing effects of carbon pollution on the world's climate. As more species die off, and we directly consume many of the rest, the world will become so difficult to live on that our own life expectancy – and happiness, which is proportional to it – will reach a maximum and then drop in response, along with the number of people on the planet.

Worldwide, more people are getting this message, and are actively finding ways to at least become more efficient with how much happiness they get for the ecological resources they consume. Here in the U.S., we're still like adolescents who want the advantages of adulthood without the responsibilities, taking from our mother (Earth) without paying our own way. Other nations, such as the oldest in Europe, have experienced the consequences of overburdening their environments and learned to live within limits; we petulantly deride them for not being growth-oriented enough, not acknowledging that it is because they have already grown up.

Whatever the results of this year's election, we all need to work toward creating a healthier, more enlightened world, beginning with the people and places we personally interact with. Changing the dominant worldview is key to this; otherwise we will see a growing number of people lose much more in the years ahead.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Personal Finances For a Healthy World

The basics of personal financial planning must necessarily be far different from anything that most of us are used to, especially on a timescale of a decade or more.

Many of us in middle class America are lucky if we can keep a job for a year, and very lucky if it lasts five years; this is likely to get worse as corporations continue their drive to exponentially reduce the cost of labor to keep their profits growing. Humanity's pillage and sabotage of natural systems will continue to contribute to increasing costs of food, water, healthcare, and insurance. Energy prices will keep rising, boosting the prices of everything else. As a result, less money will be available for investment, which is the main driver for both economic growth and providing income when people are unable to continue working. Eventually, even ultra-rich wealth hoarders will find it extremely difficult to maintain a comfortable standard of living.

It is useful, when planning, to consider at least three possible scenarios for the conditions that will influence that planning: an expected case, worst case, and a best case. Given the dynamics described above and a realistic extrapolation of current trends, by 2030 most people will be losing money and more people will die than are being born. In the worst case, things will degrade far faster, in large part due to global warming that already threatens to bring about a world food shortage as early as next year. A good candidate for the best case is a world-wide race to enable a healthy lifestyle for everyone that provides resources for other species and includes use of clean, efficient, and renewable technologies across the board, beginning with energy, that also focus on the cleanup of existing waste.

Common to all three scenarios is personally withdrawing from activities and products that are the opposite of the best case; that is, dirty, inefficient, and unhealthy. What differentiates the scenarios is whether this will be voluntary or not, and whether the damage we've done will become self-sustaining, unrepairable, and overwhelmingly fatal.

The last time the world was consuming a safe amount of ecological resources (the ecological footprint was low enough to accommodate other species and ourselves) was in 1975. Consumption is now an estimated 1.75 times as much, with the environment becoming effectively unlivable when that ratio hits 2 (I project peak world population when the ratio is 1.9). Here in the U.S., we consume more than the world average (largely at the expense of other countries); this means we would need to consume no more than 20% of what we do now to help maintain a healthy planet.

Based on data from the Global Footprint Network, the U.S. as a whole could make the necessary reduction by eliminating its carbon and forest footprints. Focusing on reducing both of these ecological impacts would have the added benefit of addressing the problem of climate instability. As simple as it appears, the reality will be extremely difficult given how pervasive the use of wood, fossil fuels, and oil derivatives is in our society, but on a personal level we can do as much as possible so the alternative scenarios become less probable.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dangerous Optimism

I've seen it so often now that I can put numbers to it, and it applies to both individuals and organizations. A goal is set based on an optimistic judgement of what's involved, and one of the following results: (1) the goal isn't met; (2) the quality of what's done ends up being a fraction of what was intended; or (3) the goal is met, but someone else pays a large part of the price for it. Typically, the effort and resources required to accomplish any given task is two to three times these optimistic estimates, a factor that determines either the diminishing of quality or the "externalized cost" incurred.

For those who are successful at externalizing costs, it can appear that they are up to three times more efficient than others who incur more of the costs. Where competition for resources depends on achievement of more aggressive goals and on low internalized costs, such as in the world economy, everyone involved eventually must externalize as much as possible just to survive, and waste grows exponentially.

The poorest people are often those who have been forced to bear the costs pushed off by more "successful" people. As the waste grows, it overwhelms the ability of people to deal with it, and the number of poor and dying people grows with it. The world's combined waste is now nearly 60% of what the rest of nature can annually recycle, and still growing. The consequences are becoming catastrophic; like a Ponzi scheme, if it keeps going then everyone loses (I estimate this to be when the waste nears 75%).

Obviously, the simplest solution is to try to make more realistic assessments of the resources involved in meeting our goals, and to put as at least as much effort in assessing the impacts of our actions on everyone and everything potentially affected by them. In the simplest case, we would triple our estimates of required resources. The extreme case would involve full accountability: all of us honestly studying and publicizing the full effects of what we do and plan to do. This would no doubt slow down "progress," but it would also make it less destructive. Any error would be in large part due to lack of knowledge and understanding, which could be reduced by targeted efforts to increase both (as science is dedicated to doing).

Such solutions are, on their face, extremely unrealistic. It is human nature to compete, and deception is easier (and cheaper) than improving performance as long as the other competitors can be kept ignorant until the prize is won. Even a single competitor willing to deceive will decrease any value to performance for everyone else. A compromise is to have judges, which in society may consist of unbiased entities such as governments and journalists. The success of many of today's societies is often determined by how successful these entities are in maintaining their objectivity and power to limit deception.

Governments have the larger role of ensuring that their citizens can meet their basic needs, which includes keeping waste below an amount that overwhelms people's ability to survive. Not all governments acknowledge this role, and factions within every country actively debate its validity, but it remains a role that must be assumed by someone (if not everyone) within a society for the society to function.

Ideally – and I would argue, no matter what – plans for every goal, by every individual and group, should provide for preserving this basic right for the people impacted by the actions taken to meet the goal. Those who believe in limited government should take this into account before they act on their belief, or they should accept responsibility for the harm caused by not meeting this fundamental responsibility of society. We can't enjoy the benefits of society without providing for its survival, and that means avoiding dangerously optimistic planning that increases the waste that society has to deal with.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Evil Among Us

The recent mass shooting at a movie theater here in Colorado is a classic example of evil. The death of potentially hundreds of people was coldly planned for months. The randomness of the targets suggests that they were but objects in the murderer's mind, with no value as fellow human beings.

Objectification of people, which I've traced as a key enabler of evil, is also at the root of the vast plundering done by people seeking perpetually increasing power for themselves or those they work for. The difference is scale: the theater killer exercised the ultimate power, the power of life and death, over a much smaller number than many leaders of organizations (such as businesses, governments, and religious institutions) have the potential to affect.

Predictably, a lot of attention has been directed toward the issue of accessibility to guns. Guns are relevant only because they are extremely efficient multipliers of power that don't by design ensure that their users are capable, or willing, to exercise a proportional amount of responsibility. Cultural tools, such as education and enforceable laws of behavior need to be in place to fill that gap, and clearly they weren't.

We are left more vulnerable to these kinds of events as cultural tools are disabled, removed, or rendered incapable of being improved or replaced with better ones. Similarly, we are at increasing risk of being harmed when the designs of our tools are left to the whims of people who either can't or won't anticipate and mitigate the tools' potential negative impacts on people and their environments. Without some outside force (such as an all-powerful – and preferably benevolent – deity, for which there is no evidence of existence) to protect us from ourselves, we must rely on each other to instill and exercise responsibility so we can keep the risk of harm to a minimum.

There are some of us who will harm people for reasons that can't be anticipated or offset. They must be deprived of the power to do so, by isolation or other means. To the extent that a society is willing and capable of doing so, it will survive, but it must constantly try to build up its ability to anticipate and mitigate such threats while enabling people to achieve maximum happiness. If we abandon this challenge, we do so at our great peril.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Identity and Purpose

This Memorial Day is one of the few opportunities for people in the United States to bond as a community to thank other members of their community – posthumously – for sacrificing their lives for us all. It is particularly meaningful, since that sense of being part of a larger group with a common identity and purpose seems to be under assault.

The diversity of cultural background in this nation has always been as problematic as it is celebrated. Merging different values and backgrounds requires a willingness to learn and compromise our own, which can be particularly difficult for a sizable fraction of any population that is easily stressed by unpredictability.

Lacking sufficient identity, a common purpose can unite people – at least until the purpose is reached. Eliminating a threat is one such purpose, but the threat must be recognized as such by everyone to be an effective uniter. Wars define a society in this way as long as the memory remains, which holidays like Memorial Day are a means of assuring.

Communications and transportation technologies have enabled diverse people from around the world to get to know each other, promoting among many a common identity as part of the human species. It has promoted in others a desire to take advantage of a unique opportunity to collect and exercise huge amounts of personal power over the rest of the population.

Complicating this dichotomy is a set of natural resource crises that threaten the livelihoods of large parts of the human population, many of them precipitated by the dumping of astronomically large amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Mass movements of people will almost inevitably result, threatening the existing socio-economic power structure and potentially leading to far more wars than what we're used to. This will happen if we don't all embrace our species identity and adopt a common purpose of distributing power so everyone can at least meet their basic needs and stop contributing to the core problem: creation of waste faster than it can be reprocessed into something useful – if at all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Arid Despair

Well, I finished reading Merchants of Despair a few days ago, shortly after completing A Great Aridness; and I walked away from both feeling pretty depressed, even though I had a good idea what to expect from them when I started.

A Great Aridness delivered on its close-up look at the likely future of the American Southwest in the face of climate change, drawn within the context of this region's relevant history. Bottom line: it's going to be very hot and very dry, with opportunistic species like bark beetles and mosquitoes making life very much worse. Tales of skeptical professionals in a number of disciplines, including climate science, who have been forced by overwhelming evidence to both accept and help prepare for the effects of climate change are particularly powerful in driving home the harsh reality we're facing.

This stands in stark contrast to the glowing assessment of climate change portrayed in Merchants of Despair, whose author expects natural balance to ultimately be maintained, counter to the claims of environmentalists who want to limit humanity's power out of a mistaken belief that the resources we need are limited relative to population. Indeed, the author portrays environmentalists as the latest members of a worldwide conspiracy dating back to Thomas Malthus that has justified depriving, killing, and forcefully limiting the birth of people deemed by pseudoscientific reasoning to be unfit to survive by themselves. Innovation, manifested as technology, will save the day as it always has, he argues, and anyone who holds it back is guilty of the greatest evil, intended or not.

I've studied, thought, and written a lot about climate change, species loss, and sustainability over several years, with a focus on understanding the drivers of humanity's future. While there are certainly some people with similar interests who hold a low opinion of humanity's intrinsic value, even to the point of hoping for a limited pandemic to "cull the herd," the vast majority are searching and advocating, as I am, for solutions that maximizes people's happiness with no casualties. Counter to the conspiracy theory, the people profiting most by harming the poor are in favor of curbing controls on environmental degradation, not getting more of them.

One of the main non-pseudoscientific principles guiding environmentalists and sustainability advocates is an understanding that exponential growth is fundamentally unsustainable; my own exploration of the validity of this principle in large part converted me to my current views. Malthus was indeed wrong: consumption has been able to keep pace with population growth, thanks to human ingenuity and some damned good luck – such as finding large sources of cheap energy, and it too has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, as I found out when I focused on both ecological impact and conversion of mass into less useful forms ("waste," a crude form of entropy), this has accelerated the extinction of species, many of which we depend on for free services that keep the world habitable for creatures like us. Merchants of Despair suggests that ingenuity can deal with this too, through soon-to-be ultra-powerful manipulation of matter and genes; but I would suggest that only a fool or a megalomaniac destroys something he gets for free while trying to develop the power to make it himself. The world seems to have an unhealthy supply of both fools and megalomaniacs these days, which is one of the reasons I get depressed when thinking of these things.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Community and Uncertainty

Perhaps the most fundamental requirement for a community's existence is for all of its members to know under what extremely limited circumstances one member may harm or kill another member. In addition to the obvious benefits to individuals, this protects the community from self-destruction. For this to work, members must also be able to reliably identify who is a fellow member and who is not.

A community can be a member of a larger community if its survival depends on other communities. The same requirement therefore applies, though the circumstances may be different from those for members in each community. Here, confusion could drive down the overall population, endangering all remaining individuals.

Power (the ability to influence the lives of one or more individuals) can be concentrated so much in an individual or group such that they effectively become a community unto themselves and apply different criteria to the remainder of their original community. Beyond a certain threshold of power, they may become unable to effectively know or control the consequences of their actions, even if they want to; in such a case, their power must be reduced below that threshold for those affected to avoid harm or death.

As a general rule, we could expect all individuals to avoid harm, which can be simply defined as a reduction in power that they don't initiate. Within the context of the community, there may be a level of power (such as the group average, or where basic survival is jeopardized) below which an individual is considered "harmed," regardless of whether the amount of power was restricted involuntarily. If there is the threat of harm, whether direct or through uncertainty, individuals can be expected to confront or avoid the source of the threat.

Several examples from recent news illustrate some of these points.

When President Obama approved the assassination of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen, without going through a publicly known and acknowledged legal framework for determining the guilt or innocence of a citizen in a capital crime which is punishable by death, he effectively threatened the survival of every citizen using the power of the government. By losing a basic protection of membership in his community, Awlaki could be construed to have lost that membership based on judgment that the community as a whole had no knowledge of, or control over.

Obama himself has been subjected to unfounded claims that he is not a legitimate citizen of the U.S. by an arguably racist group of political rivals. Indeed, racism is practically founded on the notion that slight biological differences should properly define communities, a test applied by some people regardless of whether it is accepted or acknowledged by others who believe they are in the same community. African Americans have clearly lived with threats of harm in a myriad of ways, and the recent death of Trayvon Martin strongly indicates that they still live under the threat of murder in some parts of the country.

The global interdependency of the majority of people due to technology and cultural innovation makes it imperative that people become more, not less inclusive in their community affiliations if we are to avoid massive population loss. Our relationships with other species, defined largely by predation and despoiling of the resources they need to survive, threaten to impede their ability to maintain the habitability of the planet we share with them; they live under much greater uncertainty than we impose on each other, even in the most violent third world nations. We must therefore include them too, at least to the extent that we don't continue driving them extinct -- and potentially ourselves in the process.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Changing Values

A community is held together by shared values, beginning with the lives of its members, and extending to what makes those members happiest. Happiness (and survival) requires resources, which, while being consumed, are not available to anyone – or anything – else.

If the definition of the community is extended to include more members, the community must either make more resources available (such as acquiring the resources already used by the new members), get more use out of the resources already consumed (increase efficiency), or settle for a lower level of happiness. If the amount of happiness is increased, statistical trends indicate that consumption – and the amount of available resources – will need to increase exponentially to compensate.

If the community defines itself more restrictively, then it may view former members as competitors or even resources to be "consumed." This could result in an increase in happiness, an increase in longevity (the amount of time that resources can last), or both, by decreasing the happiness and longevity of the members it shed. A more humane way to shed members is to send them to other areas, voluntarily or otherwise, which has the potential benefit of providing access to additional resources.

Changing values is especially costly if a community reclassifies someone or something it typically consumes (uses and throws away) as a member. Slaves and species used for food are obvious examples. The community's resource base must be redefined in fundamental ways that can fundamentally change how the community deals with itself and its environment. What was good is now evil, and what could be counted on to enhance happiness must either be replaced or happiness must be reduced. Understandably, a reduction in happiness (which is proportional to life expectancy) would be considered unacceptable by many people, so we could expect a lot of resistance to a such a change in values.

With humanity's ecological impact rising so high that it threatens the habitability of our planet, our values must change in such a way as to reduce that impact to a safe level, and this must happen soon – in much less than 20 years. Arguably, all of the alternatives are already being tried. Environmentalists are promoting the redefinition of community to include more of the biosphere (other species), while limiting population growth as a multiplier on individual impact/consumption; this potentially has the additional benefit of growing the resource base, especially when combined with efficiency-increasing measures. Those who favor restricting communities are promoting the "shedding" of members of the population, most without acknowledging the threat, by favoring perpetual warfare and declining working conditions as "others" either become slaves or die. Space enthusiasts are pushing for the settlement of other planets, which is the equivalent of humane population-shedding – though most of the places people might go are uninhabitable wastelands, just as the Earth is in danger of becoming.

Given the urgency of the task of reducing our ecological impact, the first two options have the best chance of working, while the third (space settlement) is at best a desperate insurance policy against total extinction. If all human life is valued, the second option must be ruled out, though it is arguably built into human nature (and some humans more than others). Unfortunately, the environmentalist's approach requires the most change, and is therefore prone to facing the most resistance – which it is getting.

For those of us who favor an emphasis on the environmentalist's approach, reducing resistance to it is critical. Based on this discussion, it should be clear that attempting to counter the resistance without addressing the associated values is likely doomed to failure.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fatal Optimism

President Obama's recent State of the Union address came across as the unveiling of a plan to reestablish the status quo, circa 1990, albeit with much better technology and natural gas replacing oil. This shouldn't have been surprising: It is his job to manage government resources to provide the social and physical infrastructure necessary for the kind of life most citizens expect to be able to have. In this, a presidential election year, he needs to at least give the impression that he's capable of doing that job better than anyone else.

Unfortunately, his vision of what's possible is out of synch with what our much-fuller and ailing world will allow. Thirty years of exponential consumption and concentration of social and economic power have sabotaged Earth's natural life support systems and society's resiliency, respectively; this is a fatal combination, since as a consequence of the former we will require a huge amount of the latter if we are to survive. The world needs to consume half as much natural resources as it does now, an amount that is one-fifth what the U.S. currently consumes. Rather than increasing the economic production and consumption of our population's majority, we should be working as hard as possible to increase the efficiency of how all of us use everything, from energy to water to minerals, resulting in a net decrease in the amount we use while increasing its ability to keep us and the rest of the world's population alive in the rapidly changing world we face.

The time for an easy transition from the life we know to something radically different is practically gone. A confluence of impending critical resource shortages and accelerating climate change are likely to force us into a much more austere lifestyle, if not a global death spiral, well within two decades. The world's population can't afford for us to waste any of that time by taking a "drill, baby, drill" stance, even if it does appear to be much more politically feasible (though improbable).

As disappointing as the president's proposals are, his political opposition has far worse ones. While he acknowledges some of the problems (such as climate change), if not their magnitude, they speak and act as if none of the problems exist at all. They are focused on taking even more of the actions that created the problems in the first place, and creating additional problems in the process.

It is tempting to just give up on the political process altogether, to try to go it alone (or at least with as many like-minded friends as we can find). However, the changes we make to ourselves must match the changes we face, and enough of us must change to keep the storm that's coming from totally overwhelming us. Such organized effort requires government, both as an enabler and as protection against the forces whose power derives from the current system and who will try to preserve that system, no matter who or what else may die as a result. Those forces specialize in squashing the most local of efforts to control personal fate, and know full well that a strong government is the best protection people have against their predations. Strong government requires political involvement and participation in the constant fight against its corruption. Meanwhile, the people must attempt to steer the government toward taking action that will truly preserve the commonwealth, and to determine that action they must also take the local actions many would prefer.

We have a big job with a short timeline, and the State of the Union just added some valuable resolution to just how far we are from achieving it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Basic Needs

A recent news story clarified for me the fundamental need for society to provide, as much as possible, for the basic needs of all its members. By "society," I mean any group of people who interact with each other, which is effectively the entire world's population. "Basic needs" include what's necessary for survival (primarily air, food, water, protection from environmental extremes such as heat and cold, and health care), education (about how the world works, and minimal shared values that enable people to live together without harming, future generations, or the ability of life to be maximized over time), and security from any threats to the means for meeting the other needs.

The story that prompted this discussion is about an outbreak of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis in India which is 100% fatal. Drug-resistant TB has been around for several years, an evolutionary response to the global effort to wipe out TB. This response has been enabled by inadequate detection, treatment, and education about the disease, mostly in poor regions of the world where resources are limited to deal with these issues. Clearly. meeting basic needs for everyone would go a long way toward eliminating this disease, and very likely many other diseases as well. Not helping people who can't meet their basic needs forces the rest of us to deal with consequences that could be a lot more costly, such as: infectious diseases that are out of control and threaten everyone; and wars that threaten resources that are needed by many more people than those who are fighting over them.

Because we depend on Earth's natural processes for meeting both our needs and our wants, we have a strong self-interest in maintaining them; the alternative is to do everything ourselves, which is practically impossible. Other species already perform most of that maintenance, so from even such a narcissistic perspective we have a strong interest in keeping them healthy as well (beginning with not driving them to extinction). Again, the consequences are potentially horrific, among them: contaminated water, food, and air that kills millions; and climate changes that threaten our food, water supply, and physical security from natural disasters, and numerous other aspects of our lives.

When what we do – or don't do – causes people to be unable to meet their basic needs, or impacts the functioning of Earth's natural systems, or causes the death of other creatures without supporting the overall goal of life to be maximized over time, we are responsible for the consequences, whether we intend them or not. Our culpability is etched into history, whether or not someone recognizes it or holds us accountable for it. Responsibility, defined in this way, is absolute, as are the values it represents.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Science and Commons

In the book "Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America" (which I reviewed on, Sean Lawrence Otto describes how the U.S. is facing a major crisis brought on by its growing unwillingness to embrace the freedom of inquiry into objective reality, a basic prerequisite for science and democracy, and the use of its results to inform and ground discussions of public policy. With politicians and citizens alike increasingly unable to discern opinion from fact on a range of issues (not the least of which being greenhouse gas-induced climate change), our access to vast technological and economic power coupled with near-ideological pursuit of the tragedy of the commons on a global scale has made the U.S. a (if not the) key player in an unfolding disaster that may doom most of life on Earth.

Otto argues that the best way to deal with this is for scientists to actively promote awareness of the process of science, which would add credibility to the knowledge it produces and make it more meaningful and useful to the majority of citizens. I have no doubt that this is true: it was the basis of much of my work with my father on attempting to transform math and science education in the 1980s. If you can enable people to observe and respect objective reality, understand how it works, and appreciate the value of testing their most basic assumptions, then you are empowering them to achieve their maximum happiness without compromising the ability of others to do the same.

The role of government as protector of the commons is explored in the book, as a means to prevent the tyranny of the few, with the power to consume more, over the many who either cannot consume as much (or choose not to out of respect for others). I look at it as the equivalent of preserving enough resources for everyone to meet their basic needs, and enabling them to do so, with the remainder as open to basic market competition subject to personal ability and effort. Critical to this is the universal availability of knowledge about what people's needs are, what it takes to meet them, and what variables in nature and human behavior may change these; science is a valuable tool for providing this, and therefore should be nurtured.

In my own work, I've tried to be careful about identifying what is conjecture and what is fact. However, much of what I write, this entry included, is a mixture of both which I don't pretend is strict science, but rather a collection of ideas that can be used to spur further investigation into the areas I've explored. The freedom to hypothesize, to play with ideas, is as important as the freedom to test one's beliefs and identify how the Universe really works, but we must exercise both in order to create something truly worthwhile. If you're familiar with complex mathematics, I see it as the equivalent of operating on imaginary space to derive an object or relationship in real space that can actually be observed. Just as entertainment provides pretend experiences that can inform how we live our lives, we still have to live our lives and be able to understand the difference. This is a facility we appear to be in the process of losing, a process which must be reversed if we, and those who depend on us, are to survive and thrive.