Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tony at his best

Yesterday, I noticed some extra traffic from Ian Welch's blog so I went to check it out.  It seems as if our very own Tony decided to make a few points on a post.  As usual, they are brilliant.  I have copied the best ones below.

Tony suggested to me in a recent phone call that we should adopt an "either you spend $100 trillion or you die" approach to the problems of climate change and related issues.  It made me giggle.  The problem with us Viking / Scandinavian types is that we have lost our willingness (ability?) to be so blunt. I have been editing a video of the speech I gave last month to the Minnesota Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions and while I covered many of the same topics as Tony below, I was still very much the choirboy-preacher's kid.  (The video will be up soon so you can see for yourself.)

But it's more than that.  I am the patented inventor and so have the perspective that if people could simply understand the new possibilities, even the greedy Predators could get on board.  Tony has a much more jaundiced view of the Predators and their willingness to destroy things for the pleasure of amassing their petty fortunes.  He isn't much impressed by the idea that even the bad guys can have moments of redemption (or that the redemption would mean all that much—after all, John D. Rockefeller was a Baptist Sunday School teacher into his old age.)  So even though I would rather be back in a workshop beavering away at the fixes necessary for human survival, I am delighted to be associated with someone who is quite willing to shout down evil and stupidity.
Tony Wikrent,  March 17, 2015

I should wade into this issue of “limits to growth” gingerly, but I just don’t have the time or inclination right now, so I am going to be blunt and direct.

The luddite problem is one the left’s greatest vulnerabilities. Chris Macavel is absolutely correct when he argued, in June of 2014, that the Democratic Party in USA started to go off the rails under Jimmy Carter, when Dem elites adopted the idea of “limits to growth.”

” ‘Instead of championing a radical idea of a new society,’ Jacoby observes in The End of Utopia, ‘the left ineluctably retreats to smaller ideas, seeking to expand the options within the existing society.’ ” Source: The Missing Link to the Democratic Party’s Pivot to Wall Street

Another digression here: the other big shift under Carter was allowing Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to institutionalize usury. That was one of the major turning points to deindustrialization and financializtion. I’ve been repeating this for years now, very politely, but now I am going to put this bluntly: if you believe Paul Volcker is a good guy, you are either an idiot or hopelessly ignorant of the economic history of the past half century, and you should not be offering your opinion on anything concerning any issue of political economy.

OK, now, Malthus. One of the most evil apologists for the genocidal crimes of the British Empire, ever. Period. Anyone who quotes Malthus with approval is, again, either an idiot or hopelessly ignorant of the crucial moral conflict between Great Britain and the United States over the past three centuries. Now, most people can be forgiven for not knowing this history, because, frankly, the British have been winning since they hoodwinked the USA into World War One. “Special relationship” anyone? If you think the British Empire is a thing of the past, please, sit down one evening and begin tracing out the connections on the boards of directors of the corporations that run the world, identified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology on October 2011. Here’s the URL:–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html#.VQjuH-G6XgY

Guess which is the most powerful corporation in the world. Goldman Sachs? No. JP Morgan Chase & Co. No? Try Barclays PLC. Just go look up the Board of Directors and their profiles on Wikipedia. And for good measure, take a look at HSBC, the old Hong Shang, historically one of the dirtiest banks in the world. Did you know that the former head of British intelligence is on the board of HSBC? Start putting some names and faces on the one percent. Know who they are, or please don’t bother us with your bullshit anymore.

And let me lay this down: do not DARE, ever again, to mention Adam Smith or Malthus or David Ricardo favorably until you have read some of the stuff written by Henry Carey in the mid-nineteenth century. Usually, when I’m dealing with Malthus, I include a nice quote from Carey. I’ve done it dozens of times the past years. Sorry, not tonight. You people are the best humanity has. YOU are the last best hope of the human race. There is not a single elite in elected office anywhere in the world that knows more and has better intentions for humanity than YOU. Barack Obama is a fucking moron compared to you people who read this blog. I have to hold you to a much higher standard. So go read the entire fucking webpage. And follow some of the links to some of the other chapters Carey wrote. 
Anyone who believes there are limits to growth are aiding and abetting the one percent in imposing genocidal austerity on the planet. That’s what Malthus’s role for the British Empire was – to blow smoke up people’s asses so they wouldn’t see how the British Empire was literally starving and destroying entire countries and peoples.

We have the technology to solve ALL the world’s problems. Right NOW. WE HAVE IT, ready to go. We need, minimally, $100 trillion to deploy those technologies on a scale large enough to actually solve those problems. And the only way you get a $100 trillion to do that is to either destroy the fucking wankers that run the world, or terminate their monopoly on the creation and allocation of money and credit. Any other bellyaching about getting people to consume less, or that there are too many people, or technology is bad, is just bullshit that plays into the hands of the one percent.

I wrote this in November 2013: Would’ya like a serving of hope for Thanksgiving?
We are at a history-shattering point of transition, where resources and energy will not be scarce, and will never again be scarce. In the past half century, humanity has developed technological capabilities which are now growing exponentially. The best known example is Moore’s Law: that the number of transistors we can put on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. In a cell phone, one person has at his or her fingertips more computing power than NASA used to put astronauts on the moon forty-four years ago. The only things holding us back are old thinking in the Malthusian mold that denies the possibility of technological solutions; and old ideologies of political economy that prevent us from reforming the financial and monetary systems for the common good and to pay for what we need to do….

But many progressives and liberals object that our world is overpopulated, and the planet simply cannot support a high standard of living for nine billion people. We are already using thirty percent more natural resources than the planet can sustain. Diamandis and Kotler explain example after example of new technologies that will solve this problem. Such as nano-engineered filters for making drinking water from the most heavily polluted sources, to new materials that will allow us to build photovoltaics without semiconductors, reducing the cost of solar energy by not one, but several orders of magnitude.

Just as important – and as hopeful – as these new technologies, is the fact, demonstrated over and over and over again, that as a society becomes more prosperous, more economically secure, and healthier, the birth rate drops dramatically. In fact, the birth rate collapses. We have seen this happen in Britain and the USA in the mid-1800s, in Japan in the late 1800s, in South Korea in the 1960s, in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and India more recently. In a number of advanced industrial countries, such as Italy and Japan, the birth rate is now actually insufficient, and the populations of those countries are shrinking. Diamandis and Kotler write:

John Oldfield, managing director of the WASH Advocacy Initiative, which is dedicated to solving global water challenges, explains it this way: “The best way to control population is through increasing child survival, educating girls, and making knowledge about and availability of birth control ubiquitous. By far the most important of these is increasing child survival. In communities where childhood death rates hover near one-third, most parents opt to significantly overshoot their desired family size. They will have replacement births, insurance births, lottery births — and the population soars. It’s counterintuitive, but eradicating smallpox and vaccine-preventable disease and stopping diarrheal diseases and malaria are the best family planning programs yet devised. More disease, especially affecting the poor, will raise infant and child mortality which, in turn, will raise the birth rate. With fewer childhood deaths, you get lower fertility rates — it’s really that straightforward.”

What about water shortages? Only 2.7 percent of the water on the planet is non-salty and usable for human consumption. Right now, one billion people have no clean drinking water, and 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. Dean Kamen has developed a water distiller that recovers 98 percent of the energy it uses and can produce 250 gallons of sterile water per day. The power source is a Stirling engine that really can burn almost anything, such as rice husks. Others have invented machines that process human wastes and turn them into electric power.

Energy? In sub-Saharan Africa, 70 percent of people live with no access to electricity – yet one square kilometer of land soaks up from the sun the energy equivalent of 1.5 million barrels of oil. Deploy enough photovoltaics, and Africa has a huge surplus of energy it can export to Europe. University of Michigan physicist Stephen Rand discovered a way of creating magnetic fields one hundred million times stronger than what the known, accepted “laws” of physics had previously predicted was possible. The result of this research will hopefully be a way of making photovoltaics without semiconductors, reducing the cost of solar energy by not one, but several orders of magnitude.

Global climate change? Diamandis and Kotler describe the SunShot Initiative by the U.S. Department of Energy

….now funded the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a $122 million multi-institution project being led by Caltech, Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. JCAP’s goal is to develop light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers, and separation membranes-all the necessary components for faux photosynthesis. “We’re designing an artificial photo-synthetic process,” says Dr. Harry Atwater, director of the Caltech Center for Sustainable Energy Research and one of the project’s lead scientists. “By ‘artificial,’ I mean there’s no living or organic component in the whole system. We’re basically turning sunlight, water, and CO, into storable, transportable fuels — we call ‘solar fuels — to address the other two-thirds of our energy consumption needs that normal photovoltaics miss.” Not only will these solar fuels be able to power our cars and heat our buildings, Atwater believes that he can increase the efficiency of photo-synthesis tenfold, perhaps a hundredfold-meaning solar fuels could completely replace fossil fuels. “We’re approaching a critical tipping point,” he says. “It is very likely that, in thirty years, people will be saying to each other, ‘Goodness gracious, why did we ever set fire to hydrocarbons to create heat and energy?’ “

And what about the carbon we have already dumped into the atmosphere? Dr. David Keith at the University of Calgary has developed technology that actually removes CO2 from the air. Can the technology be scaled up to actually make a difference and undo the damage already done? With enough cheap energy, it probably can.
Either you have faith in what humanity can do, despite the obvious propensity for evil and mass lunacy. Damn, try to have some historical perspective: three hundred years ago we didn’t even have plastic bottles, let alone aspirin and other meds to put in them. 300 years ago I would have to wait weeks or months for you to finally have in your hands what I’m writing right now. I’m not saying things are not screwed up. I often say, unguardedly, in conversations, things are TOTALLY screwed up. And they nearly are. But we, humanity collectively, know how to solve all these problems. The only obstacles to employing those solutions are the damn ideas of political economists of the fucking British Empire from 300 years ago! more

1 comment:

  1. WOW! I am totally in the right spot to learn about our prospects for the future. Thank you Jonathan Larson and Tony Wikrent for everything. Thank you, thank you.