Archive for the Environment Category

Review: Flow: For Love of Water

Posted in business, Culture, Environment, Media, Movies, Philosophy, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2009 by 99ppp

While channel surfing, we had the good fortune to stumble upon a terrific documentary on The Movie Network : Flow: For Love of Water (TMN, DVD) which highlights the importance of our potable water and challenges our preconceptions about its treatment, abundance and accessibility. This documentary also provides a robust critique of privatization and how these huge conglomerates make exorbitant profits while limiting access to the impoverished local populations. When profit reigns supreme, it is unsurprising that control by a few of this precious resource, necessary to sustain human life, jeopardizes and marginilzes the most vulnerable whose welfare depends on it. Corporate control of potable water is not solely a concern for those in the developing world as a legal battle between Michigan citizens and a Nestle bottling plant emerges. The safety of bottled water is also challenged and the perception that is somehow better than tap water.

It isn’t all bad news as the film also presents those communities who’ve applied creative solutions in a local, decentralized, and affordable manner, showing that innovation can come elsewhere than a corporate boardroom and at high infrastructure costs. I highly recommend this enlightening film, and check out this review from the New York Times on this award winning documentary.

Advertisements

A Great Re-evaluation: The Silver Lining on a Dark Economic Cloud

Posted in Culture, Environment, Media, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2008 by 99ppp

For the last couple of months I’ve been fascinated by the financial coverage on CNBC. The commentators struggling to make sense of something that is senseless to them. They declare the market is undervalued, and look for the mythical bottom where the best buying opportunities occur. They hope the promise of great riches will entice more to pick up some great bargains. The Dow numbers jump up and down frantically and the commentators become equally manic depressive. There are both the bulls (optimists) and the bears (pessimists) that give opinions ranging from an economic apocalypse not unlike the Great Depression, to a simple correction that will go away in a couple of months. They begin to speak their occult financial jargon, giving the idea of great confidence of expertise to their opinions. At first I watched with amusement, since I am no fan of the Temple of Greed, the casino Wall Street devolved into. Underneath it all though, I saw something, very human.. a slight desperation.. a deep anxiety on seeing their worldviews being dismantled piece by piece. Global corporate capitalism itself is being tested.  They are witnessing something they know is extraordinary, and terrifying. They are witnessing a Great Re-evaluation, and it transcends the golden chambers of international commerce.

What is value?

What we value is what is important to us. In this consumerist society, many ascribe the accumulation of material goods as the highest measure of  value. Many will point to family, friends and community.. yet most will acknowledge old cliches like “Money makes the world go round” and the so called “ownership society” that Bush aspired to lead his country to. However, now the values are changing. Environmental concerns are incompatible with tenets of infinite financial growth. The earth has limited resources and cannot handle a world with people with unlimited material ambitions. Many are looking towards a simpler life.. looking for the freedom to act, rather than simply freedom to possess and own. If this trend continues, the current economy, that relies on ever increasing consumption, sees this as a large threat.

A Layman’s View of the Financial Crisis

I cannot claim any expertise on much of the subject, although it has captured my attention recently. The sub prime mortgage bubble, a glut of overpriced houses that people cannot even begin to afford, is causing a great cascade of foreclosures. Banks have been exchanging exotic financial instruments where mortgages being cut up into little pieces and being transacted by it had actual value. The illusion of ever increasing home values made many homeowners get in greater debt using the equity on their houses. When the defaults and foreclosures began, homeowners couldn’t pay, the paper became toxic, and the values crumbled. Then big financial houses holding or backing large amounts of such paper like AIG and Lehman Bros and others couldn’t handle such liabilities and their stock prices plummeted. This has triggered off a cascading set of events that created the current situation. A more detailed explanation can be found HERE (MUST READ).

Bailouts: The Government Response

As these banks stop lending to everyone and one another the govt decides to hand a $700 billion (and counting) bailout to these irresponsible institutions. The system is in critical danger they exclaim, “worst since the Great Depression”. We are scared into giving them carte blanche to have the taxpayers buy into shitty investments. The dogma of the “Free Market” goes out the window, and now we have to save the system from itself. Socialize the risk, privatize the profit, and the owners of the world must keep getting their tribute since their corrupt mechanism is under extreme danger. Slogans like “too big to fail” is spouted off by politicians and the massive bailout is given the green light, a bailout which did not work on defrosting the credit freeze. The mythical free market has lost investor confidence, and many of the clerics of unregulated capitalism now decrying the government for not acting faster, to save them from themselves.

What will happen next in the short term?

Beats me, although I have some suspicions. Right now they are looking to the consumer, who supplies two thirds of the economy for guidance. You see, the stock market investors don’t want the people to do what banks are doing, hoarding money. They want people to spend so they can make greater profit. Now they are looking to the annual orgy of consumption (x-mas) to see where the trends lie. If the consumer doesn’t begin to buy more and more stuff they know they can’t make more money off of them. So I look to CNBC, not to see the nausea producing oscillations of the market (although they can be interesting indicators of the mass psychosis of the market), but the financial news of earnings, sales and layoffs.

A Great Re-evaluation

If the system works, why isn’t it working then? Who does it work for most?

It is very natural to feel overwhelmed with the incomprehensible amounts of money and the momentum of a crumbling global economy to make one feel powerless. The reality is that we all are part of it, in some way or another. We participate in an economy where the lines between needs and wants are blurred into oblivion. “Consume more to save jobs!”, “It’s OK to get into debt”, “Too big to fail!”. Those in power need us to buy into it to justify placing greater obligation on taxpayers, since without the system, they believe we are helpless. Are we?

Each of us can now reassess what we value, and why we value it. We can explore it, discuss it, and debate it. I doubt there will be only one answer, but a myriad of approaches. Some will work better than others. Yet it is better to experiment ourselves rather than rely on those perched on top of economic and political hierarchies to make these decisions for us. Even with the best of intentions, these people are often too isolated and distanced from the consequences of their decisions. We can bemoan the unfairness of it all, yet we are not powerless. I believe that recognizing and reclaiming the power we each have may be the silver lining in these difficult times.

“What Would Jesus Buy” – Trailer

Posted in Culture, Environment, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by 99ppp

From Morgan Spurlock, the producer of SuperSize Me and the terrific series 30 Days, comes a timely documentary following the theatrical antics of anti-consumerism activist Reverend Billy. Hopefully many of those who gleefully wallow in the annual orgy of over-consumption, especially in these difficult financial times, can pause and consider this message. (2Min vid)

Edit: Oops.. the DVD is already released, but decided to keep the trailer posted since Black Friday is coming, the start of the Christmas shopping season, and I thought it was fitting.

The Dangers of Global Warming Fundamentalism

Posted in Culture, Environment, Media with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2008 by 99ppp

I was appalled when I stumbled over this Wired article “Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green” The title itself attempt to redefine what is green, to encapsulate a vast field of concern that is environmentalism to a singular issue that should trump any other: global warming.

“Winning the war on global warming requires slaughtering some of environmentalism’s sacred cows. We can afford to ignore neither the carbon-free electricity supplied by nuclear energy nor the transformational potential of genetic engineering. …  The planet is already heating up, and the point of no return may be only decades away. So combating greenhouse gases must be our top priority, even if that means embracing the unthinkable.” (from link above)

I had already seen articles claiming that nuclear energy one solution to global warming  , an affliction that took over a Greenpeace founder, and Al Gore’s popular documentary has brought the alarmist level to a critical mass that has neutralized many people’s ability to discern and acknowledge other environmental problems (like the World’s Rubbish Dump mentioned in this blog).

This is one of the key problems of “Green Capitalism” which conveniently ignores consumerism, population growth, and industrial society since addressing these may hinder the ability to generate profit, which at the end of it all, appears to be the driving agenda of the aforementioned article. While I agree with some of the points mentioned, like creating greener cities rather than relying on suburbia and buying used cars rather than new hybrids, resorting to nuclear energy with the waste associated with it, and bioengineering show that no other environmental cost would be too high to appease the absolutism of those who worship at the global warming altar.

Culture: Division or Diversity?

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Environment, Philosophy, Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on May 1, 2008 by 99ppp

An interesting question was raised by commenter spaceagesage about our poem “what is culture?” (likely to the last line “do we need another word to further divide”) that prompted this post, and I hope to address it.

I feel many are too quick to embrace labels, branding themselves (and others) as full incarnations of some concept, set of cultural currents, or lifestyle. What is often overlooked, likely because its so obvious, is to first acknowledge our shared humanity. Engaging as individuals, instead of as representatives of some group or other, will more likely increase the potential of understanding, instead as seeing one another as walking sets of memeplexes.

In social situations I’ve been asked the dreaded question “What’s your background?”, usually a innocent question fueled by curiosity and as a conversational icebreaker. It’s likely because there are some visual distinctions in appearance and I appear to have come from somewhere else, despite the fact that I speak fluent english. I came here as a young child so have no great insight into “another culture”. So I pleasantly reply that I’ve lived here most of my life, and that’s that. Then I feel we can engage as individuals without the other innocently constructing bias based on some past experience of a culture or ethnicity.

The relationship between identity and culture is a deep, complex one that we hope to explore in future posts. In a crowded world with great potential for conflict, the question of culture cannot be simply dismissed as a semantic one. How we negotiate this question may be pivotal on how we deal with common challenges we’re likely to face in the near future.

A Case Against Having Any or More Children

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Environment, Love, Philosophy, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2008 by 99ppp

So, when are you gonna have kids?

Wait till you have some of your own!
Aren’t they cute?

For the longest time, I didn’t think that having children was a decision. It was just a fact of life. We are propagandized each year with Mother and Father’s day, celebrating reproduction and elevating it to the highest human endeavour. But does it have to be that way? Can someone opt out?

Early in my relationship with my lover, I thought of the romance of it. The act of shared Creation and the status reproduction is given in our society, but wondered if it was warranted. I can’t fully say that my decision was either selfish or altruistic. It was a bit of both. On a personal basis, the responsibility of having a child is one not to be entered lightly, more on that later.

Unfortunately, many who perhaps should take that into account before entering such a state, don’t. We are hardly running out of people nowadays, considering the world’s population has almost doubled in the last forty years. Life expectancy has also increased, so there are not only more people, but they live longer.

World Population
2006: 6.5 billion
1967: 3.5 billion
1915: 1.8 billion
Source: U.S. Census Department October 2006 (Link)

But who’ll take care of you when you are old?

This is a often heard objection, but I have a little bird theory on parenthood. When they leave the nest, they are on their own. After that, they should neither be burdened, or burden the parents. Children do not choose to be born. It is not their responsibility to take care of their parents, and it’s troublesome if parents see children as an investment or a safety net. If adult offspring take care of a parent, it should be out of choice, affection, and love, not out of obligation or duty. Conversely, the same goes for older parents helping out adult offspring.

“My biological clock is ticking”

I have a hard time buying this one, but it is often used. I doubt it’s a biological drive, but social pressure to have children. Other mammals do have drives, the sex drive. They likely don’t know that the consequence of sex is procreation, they are just driven by instinct to mate. So I doubt they crave having offspring. They are driven to mate, and once they reproduce, to nurture. This isn’t likely anticipated or thought of ahead of time.

Social elevation of Motherhood and Fatherhood

I don’t observe either Mother’s or Father’s Day. Apart from being a commercial device to extract money, there isn’t any need for it to exist. Even if one wishes to show affection, they can do it anytime. The “Parenthood” days are vacuous greeting card occasions like Valentine’s Day.

The Environment

There is no need to trot out statistics to infer that the more people consume in the world, the greater the environmental damage both out of extraction of resources and the resulting waste. Those in richer, Western regions might likely point on the higher fertility rates in poorer countries, yet considering how disproportional energy/resource consumption is between these regions, best not to increase population, regardless the region.

War and Peace

All wars are resource conflicts. The higher our population, the less resources there are to share, and presently, many of us humans haven’t been too inclined to share. The competition for oil is becoming fierce, now with China as an emerging industrial power and its thirst for oil everpresent. The Iraq War is another example of a conflict to maintain access to oil (the imminent threat premise was just a convenient pretext).

Some approaches worth considering:

Cultural shift to two children or less per woman

I am adamantly against any “One child” policies pushed by any state, which can create some unanticipated problems like a lobsided sex ratio and the social problems that can accompany that. I am fully for reproductive freedom, despite my social critiques in this post.

The tyranny of biology may place an unfair burden on women here, but since it is them that bear children, it may be one that they may need to carry. Two children is replacement for each woman and one other man. Less or no children, even better and population could drop down gradually.

Free vasectomies: Those with the expertise to make this minor surgery can offer their services for free. The state may be apt to subside it, but often it is in the state’s interest to breed more taxpayers.

Greater birth control options for men: I am encouraged by the development of a male birth control pill, to give more men options aside from the condom.

Making adoption easier: I wish more could give adoption greater consideration instead of artificial insemination and have the state place less legal entanglements to facilitate adoptions.

A Personal Endnote

I decided I didn’t want any children. This was not a collective decision with my lover, and at the time, I knew it could be a deal breaker. It takes two yeses and one no. It’s that simple, and I felt that I wouldn’t change my mind, and was looking into getting a vasectomy. While we hadn’t had any deep discussions on children, I had just removed the option and the subsequent discussions were heart wrenching. I didn’t close the door on parenthood, and told her we could adopt if we had a consensual desire to parent in the future, but was adamant on not bringing another into this turbulent crowded world. Another, more personal reason is that I didn’t want to share her affections and time with another, or divide mine towards her. I had seen too many instances of other couples falling into “mommy/daddy” roles and less as lovers to one another. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but felt the risk was very high.

Now, 8 years after my vasectomy I don’t regret my decision for one instance, although I occasionally needed reassurance from my wonderful lover whether I was keeping her from something she needed to be fulfilled, especially when women were getting pregnant around her. Social pressure can be powerful, but I am now convinced that she is content and shares this perspective on parenthood with me. We are a two person family, and feel no need to have children to describe ourselves as such.

Links

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement: With the motto “May we live long, and die out”, a tongue and cheek approach to a serious issue. There is mild comic misanthropy here, yet many valid points worth considering are addressed.

Overpopulation.org : Massive.. MASSIVE site on overpopulation with tons of stats for those with such interest.

The Parenthood Decision (book): This book was extremely helpful in my decision to not to have children, by weighing the pros and cons to consider. Highly recommended!

The Stork: Animation on Overpopulation

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Environment, Media, Philosophy, Relationships, Vids with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2008 by 99ppp

A brilliant animated meditation on overpopulation by Nina Paley. A little appetizer while I prepare a longer post on that topic to the post “A Case Against Having Any or More Children”. Here it is: