Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 12:49:10 -0000
These are reasons why I believe eMergy analysis must be used if we are to move the discussion beyond the simple and incomplete frame of reference that results from only considering how much energy is returned for an investment of another kind of energy. Without the more complete analysis provided by eMergy, we cannot know what level of civilization can be supported by the remaining energy sources.
Emergy is a profound, quantitative effort at understanding ecosystem and energy flow interactions, including that of the human. It is also a most difficult tool to effectively use in present society. I have presumed to calculate the emergy value of a hectare of good soil two meters deep in the desert, put the study up on a web page [http://greatchange.org (nitty-gritty)], and talked personally to some of the "developers" about how the ecological worth of the soil is some 10,000 times the values they are working with, as they negate that greater value through conversion to the asphalt covered. But it is absolutely beyond being able to mean anything in this "real world" --the property cannot be sold for such a dollar price and therefore it is incontestably not worth the emergy evaluation.
It could be easier to account for the differing quality energy inputs which would be necessary for an accounting of emergy, than some might believe. The practice of calculating value added tax, which requires each stage of the production process to value its own contribution, would be quite similar to tallying the emergy content of any composite production, facilitating with bar-coding, computing networks, and known transformities. Therefore, it should be theoretically possible to now design a society about a focus upon emergy, enabling such as ten fold improvements of systemic energy efficiency, if that were what was being sought.
But global society does not desire the redesigning of itself around the most intelligent usage of energy for the entirety of the planet and its peoples, which is the way in which a system perspective makes the greatest sense and can yield the greatest benefit to the ecosphere. We are stuck in the Newtonian mechanics of individualism as compelled by the usage of money, and nationalism as circumscribed by separate currencies. I can find myself being selfishly calculating, more from adaptive habits than from a willful, aware stance; I feel the potentialities of my being inchoately struggle to manifest, suspecting that there is a greater consciousness of light which might be known with sharing of goal within genuine community, centered toward the well-being of the planet and humankind --but I know it not. Other than fleeing from humankind into the wilderness, almost all of the life possibility that we can choose from in this consumer society is demarcated and constrained by the monetary transaction.
Still, emergy could serve as a guide to government regulation --a resource
that only weakly remains as the defender of we governed-- to prevent the most
egregious sacrifices of ecosystem value and follies of energy design. But regulation
is a curious thing, in that it is by conceptual definition a restraint upon
the natural tendency of the existing social impetus. It is a reining in of
the Exponential Horse which wants to always go faster. Give a bit of slack
and you will subsequently find your self having to pull back as hard as before
a beast now running at an increased speed. This is the evolution of the capitalist
economic system that we have repeatedly seen, a reining in, then a new acceleration
beyond the past maximum velocity. Regulation is always an after fact attempt
to compensate for damage occurring to society through someone's profit seeking,
more often than enough resulting in conversion of the regulators into cohorts
of those raking in.
A Tobin tax could be imposed upon all global financial transactions, to gather from the convoluted money-sequences of profit seeking, a just sharing for all that society expends to make their pursuit possible through its maintenance of judiciary, financial, and trade mechanisms. Milton Friedman's forgotten call for 100% reserve banking could also theoretically be implemented, to prevent this hyper compounding of representative wealth from so exceeding real capital value, with the consequence of either having to liquidate wealth from the biosphere or its societies to fill its bottomless maw of growth, or to ultimately inflate. A tax could plausibly be imposed on gasoline according to one's net worth and income, so that each might feel their dependence upon these fuels equally --a more effective approach than simply an across the board carbon tax, considering that it is the attitudes which we must finally confront. Some of the above have been proposed as much as seventy and twenty years ago. Such actions might be quite advantageous could they be imposed with sufficient anticipation, but they were then and are yet contrary to the momentum of the actual collective consciousness, particularly within the U.S.
The portion of social effort dedicated to the military could be turned toward productive purposes and alone go greatly toward solving global health, infrastructure, and education needs, and even poverty, if all could learn to culturally modify their birth rate to below replacement as necessary. But that is paradoxically blocked because the military purpose is precisely to maintain the very unequal distribution of the world's wealth. How can the understanding of emergy serve us when our society is so intent on promoting the sale and usage of automobiles, not to mention SUVs; when we will as matters now go, still be contracting expansive new highway construction even after the global Hubbert Peak is passed; when we cannot rid ourselves of tobacco because the sacredness of money sequencing is above the well being of society? What can we realistically do when growth is the way of thinking, when the inherent nature of numbers and compounding interest lead enticingly toward infinity, when even if ecologically or socially immoral, money legally acquired defines just distribution, right action, and even divine favor?
We use money and know, "I can get tea from Ceylon with this; if I have enough stashed, I can travel and live greater than kings of the past imagined." We cannot, under a mandate of aspiring to be intelligent, look at only the attractive qualities of money, but must see the totality of consequences derived from its usage, now and in the projectable future. Is there a latent dimension of human being which its usage denies us? What coincident path played out over the entirety of the biosphere does it compel us to follow? Can it be that what was principally a good, should transform with evolution into an evil which must now be surpassed? Will the declining leg of the Hubbert Curve constitute such a difference from the present that only a Great Change would be sufficient to continue carrying forward the light of embodied, becoming intelligence? Is the information of human valuation as now elaborated through the universal struggle for the separating principle of money, distorted as it is by the disparate possessions thereof and by the disproportionate seeking of only more money, so very beyond our ability to achieve by other means, in this age of computer networks? Could the tool of emergy serve us more than monetary valuation, realizing that we can maximise a system for monetary growth or for energy efficiency, but cross the two only with a contortionist's labor resulting in significant impediment to one goal or to each? Can maintenance of the status quo cease to be the intelligent course and become instead the globally devastating?
The vision of fulfillment that is now dangled before our aspiration is essentially Billy Boy's $100,000,000+ mansion, not to mention his stock valuations from monopoly leverage. Growth is posited as the someday resolution to any compassion we might feel for the misery of a distant species member, which principally by fortune of birth, is not our fate --thus, the many multiples of increased wealth the world will have to bear before the unfortunate multitude might know a joy of living rather than vanquishment.
We must try to rein in the Exponential Horse galloping toward Dollar, once again excessively fast. But we must in addition ask if it would not be better to somehow get off the unruly creature, and turn to riding a more controllable and efficient bicycle. It is nigh impossible to imagine how our world could function without money, with exception of extrapolation of a fragment here, a tendency there, or perhaps in the faint remembrance of childhood's cohesion. There are two vectors to the process of social change, beyond the sheer brutality of necessity. One is from where we are at in the present toward where we wish to be in the future; the other is to leap ahead into that future we would wish to know and embody a vision that stands beckoning unto the unhappiness of the present, the unhappiness that was thought to be happiness but becomes known to be less than the greater human potential which can be realized, and which is projected as the envisioned. One pushes while the other pulls. One is at the level of the many and the other at the level of the few.
We are so habituated to money, that we assume it impossible to transcend. We have no vision pulling us from the future toward it. We have only the more of the present which we can see threatened with the revealing of biophysical limits. Change cannot be pushed well without envisioning what toward. Reining in the Exponential Horse we should be able to somewhat do, but will it be enough? Will it be enough to expose ourselves to bodily harm at the conventions of the WTO as the corporations secretly try anew to implement the Multilateral Investment Agreement? Will it be enough to rail against corporate absolutism wherever our voice can be heard? We perceive what we are fighting against but do we have a clear enough vision of what we are fighting for?
The past is not a direction we can aspire to. Historically, religion has been preeminently the resolution of consciousness to death foreseen. We have pulled ourselves up high enough as a species that we can now contemplate a widespread religion of life, where the quantity of joy surpasses suffering, where we bear with greater awareness responsibility for our evolution and for the consequences of our ignorance. I go into a ChuckeCheese and see the children introduced to quasi-gambling with tokens that can cost a quarter, to win paper certificates entitling them to some plastic or cloth thingy made in China for which a child may have been paid some cents on the hour --but it's all right, some say, because the children here are having fun. We are so saturated with the sequencing of money since even before our earliest retention, that logic cannot easily assail its apparent indispensableness. Beyond money, we can surmise why addictive drugs and tobacco would no longer be pushed; how government bureaucracy would become conscious of its parasitism upon productive society when no longer shielded by the fact that they receive a salary; where so many efforts now done by the myriads would cease to be performed when their reason for occurring no longer derives from the fact that money passing through hands can leave a bit behind to each -- but we cannot imagine how we might do without our tea from Ceylon, or the imaging of our self through our private property, how sharing a categorically different world might be a greater wealth than that which can be enumerated without end. The Gordian knot remains intact as long as mind dares not ponder if within the seemingly inconceivable does lie the sword's cut.
My experience has brought unto me the revelation that only the goal of transcending money bears promise for humankind, for beings of consciousness becoming intelligent upon a finite planet with thusly evolved technology. That does not mean, in my declaring it a revelation, that I necessarily have grounds to a higher truth. It means only that my personal level of conviction is above the logical. No matter how I try to assail my reluctant belief from the practicality of living in a "real world"; no matter how incongruous it may be that I increasingly derive my non-stipend income from stock trading, futures speculation, interest gathering, and currency exchange; no matter how very improbable and after my lifetime the ample manifestation of such a goal may be, it returns as the point of vision from which I do manifest, not uniquely but alone, and against vast doubtings of my own ability to perceive lucidly.
The Supreme Court, in its decisions regarding conscientious objection to participation in war, essentially defines religion as that foundation which above all influences human behaviour. We bury our dead with headstones because the individual souls are going to bodily arise when the world history consummates and all the faithful march off to some other dimension leaving this expendable world of sorrows behind, or, we send the burnt flesh into the air because the Atman retains within each individual expression the many lives as it reincarnates through space and over time without end. A religion of life must be vastly different from a religion for dying. It cannot disregard the loss of other species upon the planet; it cannot accept unnecessary degradation of life quality through inability to intelligently reproduce and must choose the living over the unborn, must find a way to live within carrying capacity; it cannot justify suffering through some otherworldly dimension, or by waiting for the Godot of growth; it cannot place the sequencing of money above global well being. A religion of life can completely define itself with a single aspiration, that of transcending the usage of money --from out of times of scarcity which required the mastering yoke of money as the evolutionary harness, into the plenty of sufficiency. There is possibly no other direction which would be at the level of foundation more toward the modification of our way of living, be more religious in a novel sense, or be change potentially great enough to equal the magnitude of the problematique. The aspiration can be embraced even when the lived reality is entirely other and unchanged, when there is yet no joining together of those who aspire to the same, when it is but a candle lit upon the window sill that others might see when passing by, when it influences but a thought, a word, an action, or a decision, one by one.
The saturating of the medium until crystallization does spontaneously occur.
I would live my life that the young surround with adoration in their eyes for the works I bequeath, as I lie childless upon my deathbed.