Title: Gaia Brain: Integration of Human Society and the Biosphere
Summary: On the basis of an analogy between how nonhuman organisms (from unicellular to bees) affect and are affected by their environment and how economic forces affect the use of natural resources, this paper proposes a radical transformation of human life: Children are to be educated differently, governments as they now exist will be abolished, and the labor market will be liberated from its current constraints.
The detrimental impact human beings have on the environment presents us with the "greatest challenge" the species has faced since it began to walk and talk. Economics provides the key to its solution: a "resource fee" that will be assessed to every product and service. These fees will penalize the use of environmentally damaging things, providing the "feedback mechanism" that is needed so that human culture will be in touch with its impact on the biosphere. This fee will provide the marketplace with information about the product's or service's environmental impact. They will be determined democratically by every person on the planet. Proceeds will be used to support "things we would like to see more of."
Evaluation: This paper is eminently clear; the author is able in a few paragraphs to present and weave together findings from microbiology, ethology, and economics into an intriguing and intelligible picture. On the basis of his assessment of the current "environmental crisis," he proposes an interesting (and to me, novel) solution. An effective way of affecting people's behavior is through their wallets, so charge them for the damage they are indirectly doing to the environment. The author also recognizes a number of problems which might be raised to this suggestion (Who determines the fees?, How will this money be used?, Etc.) and attempts in the limited space available to address them. Although, as proposed, this suggestion seems to be thoroughly unrealistic, there could be merits to its basic idea. Something like a "resource fee" might be worth considering as environmental policies are discussed.
The significant "leftist" tendencies of the paper weaken it. The author continues to have hopes in a world (non-) government, a radical transformation of society, a radical and universal democracy, and an elimination or significant reduction of alienation. His solutions to the problems inherent in his proposal seem weak. It is not clear to me that all people (including children -- p.7, ln.20) can ever be in a position to assess the conflicting "findings" of the "experts" of interested parties as to the true environmental impact of every product and service of every activity of every person and company of the whole world. And, without governments, how will the money be spent? Will every person on the planet have a say? How could that occur?
Recommendation: If a clear and interesting voice from those who continue to propose radical transformations of society and of human nature is needed, this paper could find a place in the proceedings. If the volume needs to be limited to realistic proposals, it does not belong.
-- End of this anonymous critique --
The idea of a pollution fee or fee on use of natural resource, the commons, is not new with me. I learned about it in a college text during a course on political economy, in a book called, 'The Economics of Social Issues'. What is new, to my knowledge, is the connection drawn between this method of management of resources and the feedback mechanisms that operate in biological organisms, such as sensory nervous systems. Also new is the (proposed) practical realization of the idea that all people share in the ownership and management of the air and water, the commons, the natural resources, by receiving the proceeds of the user-fees, and by deciding what absolute limits will be placed on the use of the resources.
I do not propose that a fee be assessed on 'every product or service', but on those human actions which adversely impact the environment. If I am a reading tutor and I ask a student to read to me, I am providing a service, but I am not adversely impacting the Commons, and would not expect to have to pay the people to compensate them for degrading a public resource. If I drive 50 miles to get to the school, I expect to pay a fee to compensate the people for degrading their resource, the air, but this fee would be incorporated in the price of fuel by the fact that extracting petroleum for use as fuel would have the appropriate fee attached. If I take some kind of waste products and recycle them into new product, I would not expect to have to pay a fee. " . . . [C]harge them for the damage they are indirectly doing to the environment", sounds like we would examine each life, each person and make an assessment, a judgement of their impact on the earth by recording their purchases or examining their habits. That does sound totally unrealistic. But that is not what I propose. I would rather charge the corporate agents that damage the earth directly, and charge individuals for the damage they do directly.
As a practical matter, if a material is produced and marketed for a particular application, such as petroleum for fuel, then the producer ought to be assessed at the point of production as if delivery to market was equivalent to actual use. This way, the market will reflect in price the (perceived) ecologic impact of use. I would judge, for example, the 'damage to the earth' as the act of taking oil out of the ground, where it can be easily measured, rather than have gasoline delivered to the market prior to the assessment of any impact fees, and assessing the fees on the end-user. Making the necessary measurements as close to the point of production as possible will reduce the potential for subversion through black market trading.
It would be easier for me to accept 'unrealistic ... radical transformation' as valid and true argument against this paradigm if not for the fact that this plan could help to alleviate or eliminate some of our society's seemingly most intractable problems. This possibility of multiple benefits through the realization of this new paradigm could overcome the resistance to change that usually makes radical change such an unrealistic possibility. If not now for radical transformation, when? We have just invented a whole new media: Interactive hypermedia. Perhaps soon, this new form of human communication will be as extensive as the telephone network, which also continues to expand. We are in the midst of a long period of accelerating change. It is in times of invention of new tools that we see the greatest social, political and economic changes, because they so affect the ways that human beings interact with one another.
The basic idea here, or basic ideas are that we all own the air and water and natural resources, and to the extent that any person or corporate entity appropriates any of these resources for their own use, that entity ought to compensate the owners of the resource. The monies paid in exchange for the use of resources are controlled by the people, who may use them for whatever purpose they choose, but perhaps with a portion dedicated to community projects that enjoy the support of a large majority of citizens, and the remaining portion available for individual needs and wants. The people also control the level of the fee, or the overall level of resource use: The people are owners and managers of the commons.
"Something like a resource fee..." What does this mean? What thing like a resource fee might we consider? How would this something be like a resource fee and how would it be different? (Who would decide on the fee amount? How would the proceeds be spent?) What is meant by 'leftist' tendencies, and why is it in quotes? (I did not use the term in the paper.) Perhaps 'leftist' refers to the idea that all the people own and would help manage the commons, and would receive the proceeds of the fees on their use. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this idea is readily understood and accepted by members of the public who have been apprised of it. Many people feel that, yes, this is a good idea, but 'they', the established interests, will never go for it. To the extent that politicians and captains of industry successfully turn the purposes of government and corporate institutions toward these ends, they can help restore a sense of integrity and efficacy to our public institutions. This idea, put in practice, would reverse the trend toward greater disparity of wealth, while preserving, even improving, free market rewards of individual effort and initiative. It would help to promote a sense among the populace that we all share a power and responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. For these reasons, it seems to me not a weakness, but a strength.
I did not intend to suggest that children would be responsible for making decisions regarding resource use. I do suggest though, that children, students, might be involved in the process of gathering information about the opinions of the adults in their neighborhood. But the reviewer's statement brings to mind the idea that some communities might choose to celebrate exceptional, exemplary schools that cast their own mock votes with such careful consideration and clear explication of the why behind their votes that they stand as a model to others of how this responsibility for stewardship of the commons might be carried out. The community might want the school's mock votes published so that they can be copied by others, in effect letting the adults delegate their vote to those outstanding students.
We could ask someone from Pete Marwick, (or someone who knows more about accounting principles than I), how we might make scalable structures, accounts of each person's preferences, then each community's preferences, etc. that could be surveyed at any level, just as search engines survey large amounts of data through a network. The example of the school above may offer a clue to how this might be done. If teachers and students made it their business to ask community members what their opinions are about conditions in the community, they could post the results of their surveys on the internet for all to see. To the extent that the expressed wishes of the people conflict with actual conditions, we would expect resource user-fees to rise or fall as appropriate, until the disparity is resolved.
What better time to consider and make radical transformations than now? These are times of rapid, accelerating change, when the situation is dynamic and plastic, when we can make a great difference for the future depending on what decisions we take today, what we do today. A radical transformation, in the right direction, could be a very helpful and timely change.
But what change in human nature does the reviewer believe is required by this proposal? If anything, this paradigm is more respectful, more accepting of human nature as it is. The current system has a problem with externalities, which put every economic actor in the uncomfortable position of having to sacrifice community interest for self-interest, or, (perhaps less frequently), vice-versa. We all are driven by a mix of desires: to promote the community interest, and our own individual interest. This proposed system of incorporating external costs into the price of economic goods allows us to quickly and efficiently find a balance between self-interest and community interest, simply by seeking the lowest price for the things we buy, which we are naturally inclined to do, already.
Is it plausible to think that we do not need radical transformation of society? Is it realistic to think that if we could just teach a few more people to stop dumping motor oil in the back alley, get the miles per gallon numbers up a bit more, get some more people to separate out their paper and glass and other recycleables, take their shopping bag with them for re-use, and such things, then we will have met the environmental challenges that confront us? I wonder what alternative proposals the reviewer would suggest that might have the potential for resolving the 'tragedy of the commons'. Or would he/she take issue with the suggestion that this proposal does that, or that the tragedy of the commons is an issue of concern?
This paradigm, by the way, does not only address environmental problems-- although ideas about how we might better address the problem of pollution did provide the germ that it grew from. It is hard to over-estimate, I think, the combined effect of both a completely free labor market, which gives everyone the greatest incentive to increase their knowledge, skills and abilities, and a guaranteed income, which protects all from abject poverty, which currently debilitates a large portion of humanity.
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More Critique and Response:
From: "John C. Champagne" <firstname.lastname@example.org To: "ECOPSYCHOLOGY: NATURE-COUNSELING COMMUNITY CONNECTION" <ECOPSYCHOLOGY@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU Subject: Re: Gaia Brain, short version On Sat, 11 Jan 1997, Joseph Cautilli quoted my Jan 8th post: > > > We could issue permits for various pollutants according to how much of > > each pollutant we will allow, and auction these permits in the free > > market. Thus, those industries which can adapt processes to reduce or > > eliminate waste emissions will have an advantage in the market, while > > those industries which continue to emit large amounts of waste will > > have to include the costs to ecosystems in the price of their products. > > I am concerned about a free market auction. I think that this leaves > extreme power to those with the cash. . . . 'Those with the cash' will be those who meet human needs through the cleanest means, (and, on the part of ownership and management, in the most 'labor friendly' way), rather than those who (supposedly) meet human needs by exploiting a free ride on the commons, on the backs of everyone; and by exploiting a labor force threatened with poverty if they object to insulting or oppressive conditions. 'Those with the cash' will be all of us, much more than it is now, because we will all be receiving the cash raised from sale of these permits. There will be _less extreme_ concentration of wealth and power than there is now. This system will mean that capital will only make money, will only turn a profit, to the extent that it is successful at meeting human needs at the lowest cost to the environment--in terms of resources used and pollution put out; and at the lowest cost in another way, too, in terms of oppression of labor, (as people would be more free to seek better working conditions, more rewarding work). This is exactly what we want. Everyone who has any money to invest will see that the place to put it is into clean industries, (or if 'industry' is a too-narrow word, 'enterprise' or 'undertakings' might serve). The economic situation changes to one that has money flowing toward people involved in and ingaged in cleaner industry rather than toward those who control capital engaged in the most advantagous exploitation of the current free ride on the commons. In other words, polluters are now subsidized by everyone: we all, most especially the poor, must pay the price of dirtier air and water and soil: more disease, lower quality of life. If you would not have the free market allocate natural resources, who or what would? Who would get that extreme power, that control of earth resources? This system puts that control in the free market, in the hands of the greatest number of people, and it compels the most efficient use of resources, and gives the people the tools they need to bring about a cleaner environment. > . . . It is similar to my concerns about > democracy in your last post. Not to sound antidemocratic, but democracy > in areas were their is a minority to be hurt needs that we must take > steps to assure that this is not the case. This is the primary concern. The only reason for government to exist, it seems to me, is to protect the individual and community against those (individuals and groups) who would violate the rights and interests of others. A government dedicated to take action against those who initiate the use of force, and committed to never initiate the use of force itself, is the best guarantee of individual and minority rights; and, if putting out pollution and taking more than your share of natural resources is recognized as forcing others to live with your pollution and live without, with less of, what you are taking, then this principle of the non-initiation of force provides the legal/moral basis for a paradigm of democratic ownership of the commons. Joseph quoting me again: > > > > Because just about everyone will have a different opinion regarding > > the levels of pollutants that would be safe and harmless, the actual > > amount that we decide on will be a summary of the opinions of all the > > world's people. And, because many of us are not able to make an informed > > decision about appropriate levels of some or all pollutants, we may choose > > to delegate our vote to someone whose opinion we respect. For example, if > > I believed that it is safe to release 100 million tons of fossil fuel > > carbon dioxide into the environment, and that no level of organo-halogen > > emissions (e.g.: CFC's, Heptachlor, DDT) can be called safe or > > sustainable, but I had no opinion or knowledge about safe levels of other > > pollutants, then I might refer to lists of people who share my views on > > CO2 and chlorinated hydrocarbons to see what their opinions are regarding > > other pollutants, either to inform my own opinion, or to find a > > knowledgeable and responsible person to whom I could delegate my > > 'emissions allowance' vote. > > Environemntal protection by democracy can be a problem. People vote for > things for alot of reasons (1) local jobs (2) trades during comprimise > (3) a belief that all are equally knowledgable about an area. I certainly > would not like to be diagnosed by democracy, if I need surgery I want to > be diagnosed by a surgeon. Some spend their whole lives studying > environmental indicators and just understand the information better. Would you want someone telling you who your doctor should be? I would prefer to be able to treat my own medical proplems, seek the advice of a physician if I choose, and seek the advice of another if I want another view. I would prefer to be able to say myself whether levels of pollution are acceptable or should be reduced, or, if I feel unqualified to offer a judgement, I would want to be able to seek the advise of or delegate my vote to someone else. > > This concept of assigning fees to the use of earth's waste removal > > services can be applied to other areas. Pollution fees are actually a > > subset of green fees. Green fees are a way to manage scarce natural > > resources that are subject to overuse and depletion, such as forests, > > fisheries and grazing land. This system could also be applied to the > > management of the use of non-human animals by human beings. Someday, > > perhaps soon, we may completely eliminate the systematic enslavement and > > exploitation of non-human animals in industry and agriculture, but until > > that time, we might create a system whereby industry and agriculture are > > subject to economic costs in some proportion to how much suffering they > > inflict on the animals they use. This will give them an incentive to > > reduce both the numbers of animals they use and the amount of suffering > > inflicted on each one. > > Howe do you ensure that the huge cooperations do not exploit this > situation at the expense of us all? The *current* set of rules allows them to do just that. How might corporations exploit this new paradigm to the detriment of all? Let's explore the possibilities, then develope systems that can prevent such abuse. > > > > The Gaia brain/pollution fee system will so transform the global economy > > and society, we probably ought to think in terms of an elimination of > > government as we know it. With the introduction of significant pollution > > fees, conventional taxes not only would be difficult to support > > financially, they may seem rather without philosophical foundation: we > > may see that a fee according to our use of the earth's natural resources > > is well founded on philosophical principles of fairness, while taxes on > > income or sales do not seem on the face to be eminently fair. > > Slow down. I think you made a leap here. Can you explain how this will > eliminate government? And why you see the elimination of government as a > good thing? This would eliminate government as we know it because many things currently done by government for people without means could be done by people for themselves if they had a guaranteed minimum income--their 'natural resource wealth stipend'. Government as we know it would end because government would give up the right to initiate the use of force. If two people come together and decide to exchange goods and services, the government currently forces them to give a portion of what they exchange, including when one offers to do something for a fee or wage. What is the source of the authority of government to threaten me with imprisonment if I do not share my income with government, (which may then spend that money in ways that I find offensive or harmful)? > > The greatest challenges for any organism are those challenges which must > > be met to ensure the very survival of the organism. The difficult but > > life sustaining task before us is to transform ourselves from cancer > > cells of earth to brain cells of earth--to make a healthy, properly > > functioning world brain; to create/re-make our global society, and > > ourselves. > > Interesting point! > > Joe > Thanks. John Walter Cronkite for President! Franklin Thomas for President! Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 22:50:59 -0600 (CST) From: "John C. Champagne" <email@example.com To: "ECOPSYCHOLOGY: NATURE-COUNSELING COMMUNITY CONNECTION" <ECOPSYCHOLOGY@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU Subject: Re: Gaia Brain, short version On Tue, 14 Jan 1997, Joseph Cautilli wrote: > On Sat, 11 Jan 1997, John C. Champagne wrote: > > > > > those industries which continue to emit large amounts of waste will > > > > have to include the costs to ecosystems in the price of their products. > > > > > > I am concerned about a free market auction. I think that this leaves > > > extreme power to those with the cash. . . . > > > > 'Those with the cash' will be those who meet human needs through the > > cleanest means, (and, on the part of ownership and management, in the most > > 'labor friendly' way), rather than those who (supposedly) meet human needs > > by exploiting a free ride on the commons, on the backs of everyone; and by > > exploiting a labor force threatened with poverty if they object to > > insulting or oppressive conditions. 'Those with the cash' will be all of > > us, much more than it is now, because we will all be receiving the cash > > raised from sale of these permits. There will be _less extreme_ > > concentration of wealth and power than there is now. > > How can you ensure that? How can you ensure that once they have the > money they don't change and set a different agenda? . . . Who is 'they'? The people would set the agenda. Money would flow toward those who work toward some aspect of the agenda that is set by the community. Money would flow away, too: from those who are working counter to some aspect of the agenda set by the community. If the people say they want, we want, less CO2; less asphalt; less light pollution interfering with our view of the stars, then the people whose decisions run counter to these community-agreed goals will be made to pay a fee. When the levels of the fees are such that the economic 'bads' are sufficiently reduced, the people will stop saying that they want to see less of these things, and they will turn their attention to other things. The permit fees would stablize at this dynamic equilibrium point until the people changed their views on what is permissible, or until the users of the resources changed their demand for resources, up or down. Those entrusted with the responsibility to decide, on behalf of thousands or millions, appropriate levels of emissions and resource extraction would likely enter into that position by virtue of a reputition among many that they do quality work and are people of integrity. Because there may be some social prestige and status in holding such a position, there would likely be some incentive for a person to maintain this reputation, so as to preserve this favored status position. This would seem to mitigate against capricous, unfounded action on their part. Therefore, I would expect that people in these positions would not make abrupt changes, (unless there is an abrupt change in the attitudes of the people regarding what is permissible), lest they loose some of their constituency. (Presumably, many people will have delegated their vote with the proviso that it would be recalled if the delegate changes his or her vote beyond a specified limit.) The persons or organizations entrusted with this responsibility for assessment would have every incentive to make their work widely available, both the data-gathering and the analysis, to possibly further increase their constituency. This could only help to improve the quality and relevance of information and materials available to our schools and the public at large. > . . . . Money is power and to > qoute the rest of the cliche power corupts. Once some one else has power > they will begin to rewrite your agenda and people who currently are in > power will not just give it up. I would have power to say what I want, you would have power to say what you want, they would have power to say what they want. Our power would be more equal. Money, and the concomitant power that goes with it, will be more evenly spread. To the extent that our system does not bear this out, I will work to change it. I hope you will, too. (I wonder where Walter Cronkite stands on this, by the way...) Sometimes people decide that they must change--giving up some things in order to preserve some other things more precious. Granted, there will be resistance, but someone once said, "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come". I think someone else said, "Nothing worthwhile is easy." If the people know about this idea and want it to happen, we can make it happen. If there are flaws in the idea, let's find them, so that we do not build them into whatever future we make for ourselves. If there are useful insights inspired by this paradigm, lets see how we might embody those in our institutions or protocols. [this plan would reduce or eliminate] > > oppression of labor, (as people would be more free to seek better working > > conditions, more rewarding work). This is exactly what we want. Everyone > > who has any money to invest will see that the place to put it is into > > clean industries, (or if 'industry' is a too-narrow word, 'enterprise' or > > 'undertakings' might serve). The economic situation changes to one that > > has money flowing toward people involved in and ingaged in cleaner > > industry rather than toward those who control capital engaged in the most > > advantagous exploitation of the current free ride on the commons. In > > other words, polluters are now subsidized by everyone: we all, most > > especially the poor, must pay the price of dirtier air and water and soil: > > more disease, lower quality of life. > > > Interesting design.However, their is an old saying "In Eden there was a > free market." The point is to have a free market you need an infinite > number of buyers and an infinite number of competors. Ecologically > speaking this situaton would not stay for long, mergers and aquisitions > (big companies eating smaller ones). Also envirinomental shifts will > cause competition for resources (i.e. less people buying Christmas hams > will cause some companies to go broke). Granted, some ham producers may, no, some WILL go out of business. And some solar water heater makers and bicycle makers will be born. The point of the free market is not to prevent anyone from going out of business. Rather it is to produce the most value for the resources spent, with the costs of production placed on those who benefit. Now, with natural resources kept out of free market constraints, we have much resource used for relatively little benefit. The fee for use of resources would change that. And this suggestion that the number of players in a market must be infinite before it is free is either absurd or an exercise in semantics. The important thing in a market is that the number of players must be large, yes, but large as in '1000' or '10,000'. The important thing is that the number not be small. The improved workings of a market that can be realized by increasing the number of players from 5 to 100 is much more than the improvement that can be gained by increasing from, say, 10,000 to 10,095; or even 1,000,000 to 2,000,000. There is, by the way, not only economies of scale working to make organizations bigger. There are diseconomies of scale, too, which tend to make organizations less efficient as they get bigger. If there are some things, such as a city water system, which are natural monopolies, then we ought to recognize that fact and deal with it by regulating the monopoly, as we do now. > > If you would not have the free market allocate natural resources, who or > > what would? Who would get that extreme power, that control of earth > > resources? This system puts that control in the free market, in the hands > > of the greatest number of people, and it compels the most efficient use of > > resources, and gives the people the tools they need to bring about a > > cleaner environment. > > I think that the real question is what type of people given what type of > history and contingencies on their office would be more likely to act for > the good of the community and less likely to act for their own personal gain. > (snip) The question stands: If you would not spread this power to manage the resources of the commons as widely as possible through free-market mechanisms, who would you entrust with it? > > > in areas were their is a minority to be hurt needs that we must take > > > steps to assure that this is not the case. This is the primary concern. > > > > The only reason for government to exist, it seems to me, is to protect the > > individual and community against those (individuals and groups) who would > > violate the rights and interests of others. A government dedicated to > > take action against those who initiate the use of force, and committed to > > never initiate the use of force itself, is the best guarantee of > > individual and minority rights; and, if putting out pollution and taking > > more than your share of natural resources is recognized as forcing others > > to live with your pollution and live without, with less of, what you are > > taking, then this principle of the non-initiation of force provides the > > legal/moral basis for a paradigm of democratic ownership of the commons. > > I think what I am discussing is the difference between a pure democracy > (majority rule ) and a republic. In the United States this was a very > serious issue in the countries founding. It was worried with some real > historical demonstrations that democracies often make big mistakes. > Recently in this country California passed a proposition that children of > illegal aliens could not go to school. To check and counter that we have > the court systems which serve to protect individual "rights". > Unfortunately protecting rights is a problem also. > (snip) > > > > > > Environemntal protection by democracy can be a problem. People vote for > > > things for alot of reasons (1) local jobs (2) trades during compromise > > > (3) a belief that all are equally knowledgable about an area. I certainly > > > would not like to be diagnosed by democracy, if I need surgery I want to > > > be diagnosed by a surgeon. Some spend their whole lives studying > > > environmental indicators and just understand the information better. > > > > Would you want someone telling you who your doctor should be? I would > > prefer to be able to treat my own medical proplems, seek the advice of a > > physician if I choose, and seek the advice of another if I want another > > view. I would prefer to be able to say myself whether levels of > > pollution are acceptable or should be reduced, or, if I feel unqualified > > to offer a judgement, I would want to be able to seek the advise of or > > delegate my vote to someone else. > > Unfortunately you are one person and in your example competing > contingencies are not acting on you. A closer example might be that you > are from town X. On your land is found resource Y. The government wasts > to relocate the town because resource Y is very needed. The people in all > the sourrounding towns all vote to have you relocated. This has happende > to the Indians here in the U.S. on many occassions. Sometimes the courts > (who are to protect the rights of the minority) block the move, some > times they don't. This is back to the question of democracy vs. republic > again.(snip) A government which renounces the first use of force will not engage in this kind of activity. > > > > inflict on the animals they use. This will give them an incentive to > > > > reduce both the numbers of animals they use and the amount of suffering > > > > inflicted on each one. > > > > > > Howe do you ensure that the huge cooperations do not exploit this > > > situation at the expense of us all? What do you mean? > > The *current* set of rules allows them to do just that. How might > > corporations exploit this new paradigm to the detriment of all? Let's > > explore the possibilities, then develope systems that can prevent such > > abuse. > > Agreed! > > > > > is well founded on philosophical principles of fairness, while taxes on > > > > income or sales do not seem on the face to be eminently fair. > > > > > > Slow down. I think you made a leap here. Can you explain how this will > > > eliminate government? And why you see the elimination of government as a > > > good thing? > > > > This would eliminate government as we know it because government would > > give up the right to initiate the use of force. If two people come > > together and decide to exchange goods and services, the government > > currently forces them to give a portion of what they exchange, including > > when one offers to do something for a fee or wage. What is the source of > > the authority of government to threaten me with imprisonment if I do not > > share my income with government, (which may then spend that money in ways > > that I find offensive or harmful)? > > Without income how does the government function? Without a functioning > government how do you make sure some-one is not exploiting the new rules? What exactly is it that you want government to do? Presumably, many other people would want the same things you do. You and they could fund accounts, could contribute some portion of your share of the sales of permits for use of the commons, toward those activities. As long as I and many other people did not see fit to veto these activities, they would proceed. (A veto would occur, I suspect, if the 'government function' was to evict people from their land, as in the case you just cited). And why would we need to make sure someone is not exploiting the new rules? What do you mean? What might they be doing? If they are doing something that harms others, the community at large, ecosystems, future generations, they should be called to account. > On a tangetnial point the way that the government of Britian moved away > from a monarchy was by the house of commons gradually gaining the power > to tax. It was once argued that for the U.N. to become more then a > discussion body it should have the right to tax countries. > > Joe This new paradigm essentially gives all people the power to tax, and to decide on the spending priorities. It represents continued evolution of society, politics and economics, as tools, techniques and ideas allow, and as conditions demand. John
Cronkite for President! | Franklin
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Pass it on.... They would do it if we ask
Cronkite says why he should not run for office
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From firstname.lastname@example.orgSun Jan 5 18:46:58 1997 Date: Sun, 5 Jan 1997 16:31:00 -0600 (CST) From: "John C. Champagne" <email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: GPC- Gaia Brain: Sculpting Society John CROFT's critique of my Gaia Brain article, and my response. For the most part, the objections raised are, I hope, answered already within the text of the paper. Other points apparently presented as arguments against the general idea seem to me to actually support it; or they do not speak to the basic premise of the proposal, but may be germane to discussions about how best to implement it. CROFT begins by quoting from the paper: > > Gaia Brain: Integration of Human Society and the Biosphere > > > > The History of Life > > > > An obvious trend throughout the history of life on earth is the nearly > > continual, albeit unsteady progression from simpler, small-scale > > organization to more complex and large-scale organization. CROFT wrote: > This is not strictly true. Research cited by Professor David Blair, in the > UWA SETI project (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) suggests that > there was a trend towards "encephalisation" (general braininess) from > the late Pre-Cambrian until the Permian extinction at a rate that would > have meant that human brain size should have been achieved 70 million > years ago. The Permian extinction seemed to have ended this trend, as > the rate of encephalisation that continued from then until the Miocene > was such that a human sized brain would have only been achieved > some 5 billion years into the future. In the Miocene the rate of > encephalisation increased again, and voila! Here we are. You are saying that the fossil record shows variation in the rate of increase in the size of the brain through evolutionary history. So far, this is consistant with the lines you quoted above. > When looking at the reason for this trend it can be shown that > "braininess" is in fact like a normal distribution Bell Curve. Unbrainy > animals are evolving at the same rate as brainy ones. But as the > diversity of life increases, so the range becomes "stretched", and as it is > impossible to go below "zero brain" it seems that there is a general trend > towards more complex structures. But this is a result of the > displacement on the mean in one direction only. "Less than zero brain" would be the time before multi-cellular organisms. And this time, between the emergence of life and the appearance of multi-cellular, differentiated organisms would also have had variation-- increase--in levels of complexity through time. But this makes the point: Once we have undergone a transition from single celled organisms to multi-cellular, we do not seem to go back. "The genie is out of the bottle". And once we invent, say, money, we cannot un-invent it. It will forever change the way that we can interact with and communicate with one another. (Although other communication mediums will still be used. It seems axiomatic that introduction of new communications tools means a wholesale restructuring and rearrangement of pre-existing mediums. For example, invention of printing forever changed the Catholic church, itself a medium of communication. But I digress). We have had many successive 'mean displacements', as life has emerged, then elaborated into many forms, which themselves interact and integrate into new forms: first bacteria; then a new kind of life, the eukaryotic cell, came into existance as a community of bacteria, (mitochondria and chloroplasts); then eukaryotes, because they were able to communicate one with the other, were able to come together in communities to form meta-organisms; and meta-organisms, (again, because they were able to communicate), came together to form societies. (And, to continue the trend, could it be that 'culture' is a collection of societies, a collection of many different ways of interacting in groups?) > "Encephalisation" thus is a byproduct of the biosphere capturing more > energy through photosynthesis, rather than a "direction of evolution". It > is the breakthrough of plants into forests which produced the first > pre-Permian encephalisation trend. Similarly it is the breakthrough of > Angiosperms into grasslands in the Miocene which produced the next > round of encephalisation. > > Thus > > Simple entities elaborate themselves into more complex forms in > > response to changes in the environment; changes that are often > > brought about by the very life processes of those simpler entities. > > They accomplish this transformation by integrating elements of their > > environment into themselves. [Alberts, et al] > > is only partly true. Which part is not true? CROFT quoting me again: > > Multi-cellular organisms, or meta-organisms, continue the progression > > toward higher levels of complexity by extending the function of a > > prototypical eucaryotic cell, (e.g.: protozoa), to a community of cells, > > in communication with and cooperation with one another. Each cell > > receives products and benefits from its neighbors and, likewise, > > provides products and benefits to its neighbors. > > Again, this is only partly true. The shift to Muli-cellular life as > Eucaryotes is "very recent" and cannot be explained purely as an > "inevitable trend towards complexity". > > For instance, if the whole of life is measured in Galactic Years (1 > Galactic year = time it takes sun to circle the Milky Way core = 240 million > years), then life on the Earth is 19 Gyrs old, and only 2 of these have > been as multicellular. The fact that the time span between emergence of multi-cellular organization to emergence of language and culture is much shorter than the time-span between emergence of life and emergence of multi-cellular organization tells us only that transition between multi-cellular organization to language and culture is relatively straightforward when compared with the transition from simplest life to multi-cellular organization. Or, it could tell us that, as overall complexity increases, the rate of change also increases. Or both may be true. > It seems that life is limited by whichever pre-requisite factor is in shortest > supply. Thus until the appearance of photosynthesis it was the rate of > abiological formation of sugars. It seems that the Phanerozoic period (i.e. > Multicellular life) was brought about by a massive increase in the > availability of phosphates, which prior to that period were in short > supply. What the cause of this "breakthrough" was has still to be > determined, but it would probably be due to a mixture of biological and > geological processes. > > > This habit of living beyond what is sustainable--with innovations in > > culture and technology driven by the challenge of adapting to a > > degrading environment, even as our numbers increase--points to the > > need for new feedback mechanisms that will enable the human > > supra-organism and its members to exist within the limits of the > > biosphere at large. > > There is disturbing evidence that shows that by elimination of > megafauna, humanity has been producing a "de-encephalisation" trend > across major fauna of the biosphere. If we eliminate ourselves, then our > effect on the reduction of forests will have major impact on producing an > overall contraction of life that will take millions of years to overcome. > > > The supra-organism consumes its resource base, and either > > dies, or finds a new resource base to exploit in another location. > > It is no mistake that the centre of the non-sustainable supra-organism > (Southern Mesopotamia) is today the epicentre of the most arid, > ecologically "stressed" region of the planet, strtching from the Atlantic > Sahara to the Gobi Desert north of China. > > > The most complex entity that has yet to arise on the planet--the global > > human society, civilization--is utterly transforming the environment > > which sustains it. There is now an urgent need to integrate the entity > > with the environment, the economy with the ecology--to prevent the > > one from destroying the other. We need to learn how to live, how to > > interact with our environment in a way that promotes our well-being > > while also preserving the health of the larger living community. The > > health of the ecosystem, economic health and personal health are all > > inextricably linked. > > The "illhealth" of the ecosystem is a purely temporary phenomenon, and > will be re-established once humanity is gone. That is not the issue, the > danger is that the planetary thermal and atmospheric stability will shift in > such a way as to eliminate humanity. Otherwise spot-on! > > > We could issue permits for various pollutants, according to how much > > of each pollutant we would allow, and auction them in the free market. > > Likewise for the taking of valuable resources. Thus, those industries > > which are most successful at conserving resources and cleaning up > > processes will have an advantage in the market, while those industries > > which continue to emit large amounts of waste and/or extract large > > amounts of natural resources will have to include the costs to > > ecosystems in the price of their products. [Sharp, et al] > > There are three problems with this approach. Firstly it is based on > the idea of an "allowable limit". Certain pollutants (for example dioxin, > PCBs, plutonium etc) are unsafe at ANY concentration. Setting allowable > limits and encouraging trade in permits therefore in these cases is no > sollution. I stated explicitly in the paper that there are some things, (e.g.: chlorinated hydrocarbons), that I would vote should not be allowed into the environment at all, that no level of emissions can be called safe or sustainable. But it is not enough that I or John CROFT would want to completely eliminate such emissions. Many other people must want the same thing; and there must be a means of translating those wants into reality. The fact that some kinds of emissions ought not be allowed at any level is compatible with the overall plan, not in conflict with it. > Secondly, this "privatisation of the atmospheric commons" is the > beginning of the redistribution of people's rights to a clean environment, > proportional to their purchasing power. Thus those that have the money > can use the "tradable limits to pollute" to ensure that their local > environment stays clean while the environment of the poor, and those > unable to enter the auction (eg. Third world, slum neighbourhoods etc) > get the concentration of "dirt". We have this problem now. People with means can afford the higher real-estate costs and transportation costs that limit the choices of people without means, without money. But, rather than make our problem worse, this new paradigm allows us to both reduce the overall levels of pollution in the most efficient way, and at the same time, reduce the disparity between the haves and have-nots. (I am not sure that I would accept "privatisation of the atmospheric commons" as an accurate characterization of what I have proposed. (I did not use this phrase in the original article, the quotes around it notwithstanding.) Currently, governments grant to private interests the priviledge of polluting the air and water, and depleting natural resources, such as fish, forests, biodiversity. I suggest that these resources can better be thought of as *public*, as belonging to all, and to the extent that any private interests want to appropriate these resources for their own use and profit, then these same interests can and should be required to compensate the owners of the resource: the members of the public.) > Finally speaking of such tradable limits, as Lester Brown et al show in the > latest edition of "Vital Signs" "Industry analysts had preicted that each > pollution allowance, which carries the right to emit one ton of suphur > dioxide, would trade at $1,000; today the figure is less than $130 each. > This unexpected result points to two miscalculations in the (US) Clean Air > Act: industries exaggirated the costs of reducing its emissions, and the > US government made its requirements far softer than necessary, given > the ease of reducing emissions." (p.70) Another way to interpret this data is that the actual cost of reducing a ton of emissions dropped to close to $130 from $1000. The industry had overestimated the cost, or had exagerated it for political reasons, or had based their cost estimates on past history. A free market system that encourages investment in the most efficient methods of pollution control can be expected to cause a reduction in the cost of emission control. The fact that the cost of emissions control goes down with the introduction of such a system is not an argument against that system. It is an argument for it. If we are pleasantly surprised that the cost of reducing emissions is lower than expected, we can afford to re-examine our goals and perhaps adopt a more stringent target, (although, in consideration of the needs of industry to engage in long-term planning, we perhaps ought not indulge in frequent and volatile changes in our targets). > Secondly, the assumption that economic value can be put on > environmental amenity in fact is a "procrustean bed" that does violence > to the community and the environment. . . . How so? What is the violence? Don't we already transform ecological wealth into economic wealth, (forests, fisheries)? But we do it as a cancer on the earth, without any feedback mechanisms to warn us when we are exceeding the limits that the ecosystem can withstand. This system of pricing externalities, or charging fees for use of the commons, would change that. We would learn more about the ecological impact of a product by looking at its price than we ever could under the current system. We cannot NOT connect economy with ecology, it seems to me. This system makes that connection and thereby addresses the problems of externalities and the tragedy of the commons. > . . . It is a case of misplaced > concretism, trying to fit the elephant's foot into the glass slipper. Human > economics should be a subsection of human ecology, rather than trying > to fit the environment "inside" the economists calculations of value. What > price life! It is infinite! Any attempt to give value to the environment is > immediately wrecked by someone who takes this common sense > viewpoint, and so economists immediately exclude anyone who takes a > point of view that the value of life is infinite! It is wrong to suggest that this paradigm puts economics ahead of human ecology. On the contrary, since the overall picture of what society and human-ecology interaction will look like is drawn by the sum total of all human beings expressing their preferences, (to the extent that they wish to), about what kind of world they would like to live in, and, as the economic values of the ecologic resources are *derived from* these expressed wishes, we cannot say that ecology is being sub-ordinated to economy. As for the sanctity of life, we make judgements every day about the relative value of some living things over others. We sacrifice the life of plants to make our meals, so that we preserve our life at the cost of their lives. Some people also sacrifice the lives of other animals so that they may enjoy eating them, even though their own life does not depend on it. CROFT quoting Champagne again: > > Because nearly everyone will have a different opinion regarding the > > levels of pollutants that would be safe and sustainable, and because > > we are committed to democratic principles that allow all voices to be > > heard, the actual amount that we decide on will be a summary of the > > opinions of all the world's people. And, because many of us are not > > able to make an informed decision about appropriate levels of some or > > all pollutants, we may choose to delegate our vote to someone whose > > opinion we respect. For example, if I believed that it is safe to release > > 100 million tons of fossil fuel carbon dioxide into the environment, and > > that no level of chlorinated hydrocarbon emissions (e.g.: CFC's, > > Heptachlor, DDT) can be called safe or sustainable, but I had no opinion > > or knowledge about safe levels of other pollutants, then I might refer to > > lists of people who share my views on CO2 or chlorinated > > hydrocarbons to see what their opinions are regarding other > > pollutants--either to inform my own opinion, or to find a knowledgeable > > and responsible person to whom I could delegate my 'emissions > > allowance' vote. If I were convinced that the level of emissions that I > > regard as sustainable could not be achieved immediately, I might want > > to structure my vote in the form of a percent reduction per year, > > toward a specific target. > > This is built on the premise of "perfect equality" amongst those making > the decision, and will not apply in the real world. For imagine when 51% > of the population decide they are not going to have a toxic waste dump in > their backyard, but they will allow it to occur in the backyards of the > other 49%. And what happens when business corporations start > lobbying with someone delegated to make the decision on "my" behalf > because I am ignorant, who has a chance to relocate from Love Canal to > the Bahamas. If someone to whom you have delegated your vote votes in a way that you find offensive or unacceptible, you can take back your proxy. You could design your proxy in such a way that it would automatically revert back to you when those to whom you have delegated exceed some limit that you define. (Incidentally, I would expect that, under this paradigm, toxic waste dumps would no longer be a part of doing business, simply because no business could afford the insurance against leakage of toxins into the water and soil. Manufacturing processes would become closed loops, out of necessity.) > > Every kind of human behavior and lifestyle would have associated with > > it economic costs which would reliably reflect the perceived > > environmental costs of that behavior. Economic forces, which all > > people respond to, will induce us to make changes in habits and > > lifestyle that are compatible with the interests of the larger living > > community, and with the interests of future generations of human > > beings. > > > > This concept of assigning fees to the use of earth's natural resources > > and waste removal services can be applied to other areas. We could > > apply gaia brain methods to the management of the use of non-human > > animals by human beings. > > God save Gaia, and us from such "economic totalitarianism"! Assigning > fees is an anthropocentric way of resolving any situation. This is not > "gaia brain" but human chauvinism at work, and, through our ignorance > of the complexity of the Earth, even a small miscalculation would result in > devastation that makes the arid belt look like chicken feed! As Gaians we > must realise that the world is not only more complex than we imagine... It > is by definition more complex than we can imagine. Human language and > conceptual apparatus are a product of the world. We must not mistake > our maps for the territory, nor our menu's for the meal. > > > Someday, perhaps soon, we may completely eliminate the systematic > > enslavement and exploitation of non-human animals in industry and > > agriculture [Singer], but until that time, we may wish to create a system > > whereby industry and agriculture are subject to economic costs in > > some proportion to how much suffering they inflict on the animals they > > use. > > And who "ranks these costs"? The animals who suffer the torture, or > the powerful humans who control the institutions we establish? And > why stop there, what about us creating "a system whereby which > industry and agriculture are subject to economic costs in proportion to > how much suffering they inflict on the people they use"... As major > insurance houses are beginning to do by valuing a human life at about $3 > million if they are a white European, but less than one eighth the amount > if they are a "person of colour". Slavery is on the way back! > > > We could attach or increase a fee on anything that we would like to > > see less of in the world. We could contribute a portion of our share of > > the proceeds of natural resource fees toward those things that we > > would like to see more of. We could say: "Less asphalt"; "Less > > advertising billboards"; "Less outdoor lighting, and more stars in the > > night sky"; "More city parks"; "More libraries"; and the economic > > incentives that would accompany our expressed wishes would result > > in real change, so that our wishes would be born out in reality. > > This argument makes the mistake of not realising that "market > mechanisms" redistribute access to resources proportional to a person's > purchasing power. In a world where 50% of the wealth goes to just 9% > of the population and where 50% of the population has access to just > 7% of the wealth, such a "fee" system will entrench the dictatorship of > the rich over the poor in a way never seen before. And the poorest of > all are those whose interests do not and cannot ever enter into any > market... the future generations, and the non-human animals and plants > and environments of this world. Wouldn't the fact that we are giving people money, the money collected in exchange for the priviledge of using the resources of the Commons, actually have the opposite effect? Continued operation of the current system is producing ever-increasing disparity between rich and poor. I think this alternative would reduce disparity. > > Alienation, in the Marxist sense of living in and creating through our > > actions and interactions a society which we would not choose, would > > be eliminated, or at least dramatically reduced, because society would > > evolve to reflect our expressed wishes. > > Not at all. Our alienation, by putting an abstract figure, monetary > measurements, as the arbiter of all life, would at last become total. > Humans would have at last become totally and finally separated from > physical reality and our extinction would be the very next step! It is not clear to me how preserving the priveledge of corporate interests to take natural resources from the commons and pollute the air and water for free, without compensation to the owners of the commons, will help anyone. A fee for resource use would mean that economic actors, (which we are and will be, unless and untill we un-invent money or abolish its use), we economic actors would be more connected to the physical reality of the ecological costs of the things we buy. We would get some measure, (in a form that we will pay attention to), of the ecologic costs of our actions. > > This gaia brain model would invite early introduction of ideas about > > social interaction, and would invite the active involvement of children in > > the collection of opinions among community members about appropriate > > levels of pollution and use of natural resources, and about perceived > > community needs; and it would invite their involvement in the > > assessment of actual conditions. > > Again this is so totalitarian as to be terrifying. It is no accident that > the Nazis used such "organicist" models for social functioning as a > means of "ensuring community needs were met". It is not clear to me how children or youth surveying the population about their opinions re pollution and natural resource use, and their opinions about public investments in libraries, parks, police and fire protection, ect., constitutes a 'totalitarian' system. My understanding of totalitarianism is that it attemptes to dictate private behavior. The gaia brain paradigm does not recognize any authority of government to regulate private behavior. It is interested in exploring how society might reconcile the interests of the individual vis a vi the community. Individual *private* behavior that has no direct impact on the community is outside the purview of this paradigm. [But, I would add, a large portion of the populace may choose to support libraries, schools, parks, the existance of which can have some *influence* over citizens' private behavior. > > The Gaia brain/pollution fee system will so transform the global > > economy and society, we probably ought to think in terms of an > > elimination of government as we know it. With the introduction of > > significant pollution fees, conventional taxes not only would be difficult > > to support financially, they may seem rather without philosophical > > foundation: we may see that a fee according to our use of the earth's > > natural resources is well founded on philosophical principles of > > fairness, while taxes on income or sales do not seem on the face to be > > eminently fair. > > It certainly would see a transformation of our global society, but rather > than using the "polluter pays principle", it will see a total transfer to the > principle of "those that cannot afford to pay will be those that suffer. > Governments are unfortunately already moving in this irresponsible > direction, towards "flat tax" and the reduction in government roles. Why > is it then that we currently have one billion people unemployed on this > planet? Why is it that in London and New York we see features of > beggars in the streets that were abolished by the Keynesian reforms at > the end of World War II, and were unknown in the time I was growing up. > > > The proceeds of the pollution fees and green fees would be a > > monetary representation of the value of earth's air and water and > > biota. > > No way! They represent a "human valuing" of the Earth's air and water > and biota. This bears no correlation to Gaia's true value of these things. > Ours is based on ignorance, and always will be. Gaia's alone attaches a > true value to human actions. We cannot force her into the straight-jacket > of our economics without doing great violence. > > > This could be the basis of a guaranteed minimum income. > > This could perhaps address a little of the structural inequalities I have > mentioned, but how, in the real world do we achieve this? > > > The pollution fee/gaia brain concept applies ancient principles to > > today's challenges: All things are connected; We must live in accord > > with nature; We must give something back in proportion to what we > > take; We are the stewards of this planet. > > No! We are not the stewards of the Earth! We are a simple member of > the Earth's biota. One leaf on the tree of life, one strand in the web. > To assume that one species, evolved in the twinkle of an eye, at 30 > seconds to midnight on December 31st of the 19 Galactic Years of Gaia's > existence is "the steward of the Earth" is to do violence to our > planet and to establish a pernicious illusion as "truth". We are a member of the Earth's biota that has the capacity to seriously disturb, even utterly destroy much of the rest of the biota. And, yes, we have developed this ability in the proverbial wink of an eye. My Funk and Wagnalls Standard defines 'steward' as: 1. A person entrusted with the management of estates or affairs not his own... We could argue over definitions, but I do not see the point. We have the capacity to devastate the Earth. We have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that ensures that this does not happen. Having said this, I could remove the word 'steward' from the paper without doing violence to the basic premise: Our current economic system, which allows taking of resources without compensation, threatens to destroy the natural resources that sustain it. A system of fees for use of resources, with control of overall levels of use vested in the people at large, could provide the feedback mechanisms that would cause economic activities to adjust to ecological conditions which sustain them. Control of the proceeds of these fees, vested in all people equally, would go a long way toward redressing problems of disparity of wealth, and would ensure that they are invested in ways consistant with the interests of the people at large. > > The greatest challenges that life presents are those which must be met > > to ensure the very survival of the organism. The difficult but life > > sustaining task before us is to transform ourselves from cancer cells > > of earth to brain cells of earth--to make a healthy, properly functioning > > world brain; to create anew our global society. > > Agreed, but John, I feel your remedy is the culmination of the disease > rather than part of the cure! > > . . . What would you propose? John Champagne
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