Friday, June 10, 2011

Unemployment too high, our economy is like a growing plant that's become pot bound

We're getting so efficient at what we do that if everyone was working full tilt, there would be be no more room on Earth for all the products, services and new developments being created. Our economy is like a growing plant that's become pot bound. There's little place to grow, without running into environmental concern.

Growth is like a journey, a narrative. It gives the economy purpose and direction. It provides an understandable focus. Building the new landscape. Without it, we're floundering.

What's America's purpose for the next 10 years? Where are we going?

A new frontier to expand into makes that question easier to answer. Without it, we have to figure out a new way to justify our endeavours.

Part of the problem is that population keeps expanding and billions of folks around the world are being lifted out of poverty. Is there enough space on Earth for every one's aspirations?

Here are some possible answers to this dilemma.

Create a focus of transitioning to a greener more sustainable economy. President Obama talks about this quite often. This includes the things people keep hearing about like green energy, green cars (which may be an oxymoron), clean coal (carbon sequestration) solar power, wind, and even nuclear power.

This could keep us busy, but it's hard to get the fires of green energy lighted, especially using the matches of free market economics. Will wind power pay when dirty coal is still cheaper?

Green energy is kind of like green wood. It's hard to get the fire lit.

This transition goes beyond just green energy. Back in the 1990s, the internet opened up a frontier of information technology. Suddenly there were new jobs in services such as Google that no one had heard of before.

New types of products and services that have lower footprints on the environment are coming from the advances of science. We are seeing the miniaturization of things. Libraries that once filled entire buildings can now be stuffed into flash memory and placed on one bookshelf. Less footprint.

Still, many of these technologies will also make us more efficient, thus eliminating jobs. For instance more "pro summer" opportunities. Instead of using a travel agent, people can book their own travels via web sites.

Big changes need to come to our culture as well. Maybe we should learn to put less emphasis on economic wealth and value other things that can bring a different kind of value to life. More free time, for instance. Possibly not striving to produce so much in terms of marketable goods and services, but other qualities in life like friendships and contemplation. Learning how to let the grass grow under our wheels.

Maybe that's what our goal should be. Learn to let grass grow under wheels. In some ways, it could be almost as important as inventing the wheel.

I don't want people to think I'm just a lazy hippie, so I can also suggest finding a new frontier. How about building more stuff in space? There's plenty of room.

As we outgrow Earth, how about building things in space that can keep us employed.

Keep us busy.

Now we have things like GPS, thanks to satellites in space. We can figure out more stuff to do using space. Large telescopes to satisfy our couriosity about the universe. More jobs for college graduates. More topics to write papers on.

Still, can the free market pay for this? We are building the James Webb Telescope, but it's still "government work" and we need a lot more of this to keep all our minds active.

With long term unemployment as high as it is, we need to think about where we are going next for the new jobs and opportunities. If we had another earth to expand into, the answer to that question would be more straight forward.

Without a new Earth, we need to think creatively. No one solution will do it all. It's a combination of things. Greening of our economy, new frontiers in science, space, but also new frontiers in culture, like learning that it's not a crime to slow down. It will take a combination of all these things. This may seem contradictory, but one size doesn't fit all 7 billion folks on Earth.

We just have to start thinking about unemployment in terms of how do we go beyond the pot bound economy.


Anonymous said...

The basis of a solution to most of these issues is so very simple:

population control.

All we have to do is reduce the population, and all those other environmental problems will be alleviated.

All people have to do is just stop breeding so much. The planet would be better if there were only millions of people, instead of billions.

And yet you're still going to suggest nuclear power as a solution to the human condition? How many times do we need a Chernobyl, a Fukushima, a Three-Mile Island, and all the other horrendous poisonous disasters? How many millions of people need to be sickened and killed by radiation, before you decide that maybe it isn't the most intelligent "solution" to any of our problems?

Perhaps when a few million more people are dead and homeless because of nuclear power plants, then maybe you'll change your mind. Or maybe not.... after all, we already have millions of people who are sickened and killed over the past six decades, due to human dalliance with nuclear energy.... and yet you still don't seem to think that is a sufficient "red flag" to warn you away from nuclear power.

So just how much of the planet needs to be destroyed and made uninhabitable by nuclear-related activities, before you decide that maybe it isn't a "safe" and "green" kind of "solution" to anything?

Theslowlane Robert Ashworth said...

Yes, Teledildonix, reducing population growth is about the greenest thing we need to promote. Even just a few billion folks on Earth, like 2 or 3 billion would be okay. We now have over 7 billion and counting. Just keeping it at 7 billion would be a step forward versus it's continued growth.

Short of a massive die off, we are kind of stuck with having too many of us.

Part of the reason why I mention nuclear power as a solution is because lots of folks do have an adverse reaction to that technology. Hidden in some of my messages is the thought, "okay folks, if we don't want nuclear power, we really have to cut back on procreation, driving, over consuming and so forth."

There's the carrot and the stick. The threat of a nuclear world is kind of the stick.

On the other hand, I still feel there's been more deaths due to automobiles than nuclear power. Chernobyl was, by far the worse accident I know of and the increase in cancer deaths over a large swath of Europe is bad. Other than that, the death toll hasn't been real bad, so far. Also the threat from burning fossil fuels is really bad.

I do still think there is some promise in things like hydrogen fusion.

Idealistically, we should be using solar, wind and other green technology. Whatcom County still has a temporary (at least) moratorium on wind power development. Property owners may be too worried about their views. Environmentalists may be too worried about bats being hit by windmill blades?

Life isn't perfect.

We really do have to take things like population growth and over dependency on automobiles seriously if we don't want things like coal and nuclear.

Sexuality should be about having fun more than being about procreation.

I've heard electric cars called coal cars since power often comes from burning coal. A while ago, I thought of the phrase, "nuclear power for the nuclear family."

Anonymous said...

Wait, wait, wait.... how can you say, "the death toll hasn't really been that bad" regarding Chernobyl and other nuclear disasters?

How bad does it have to be, before you decide that thousands of dead people is bad enough?

And mentioning other things that are bad (too many automobiles, too much coal) does nothing to address the question. It is only a diversion, not an answer, and does not actually respond to what i am asking, which is: how many millions of people need to die horrible PREVENTABLE deaths from radiation poisoning, before you decide that nuclear power is "bad enough" to be avoided?

You seem to want to cling to your fantasy that nuclear power is somehow going to someday be different, as though it will eventually be a thing which doesn't kill thousands of people, make millions sick, poisons everything that passes by, and poisons all the future babies, too.

Well, good luck clinging to your fantasies, because they are all you have if you choose not to answer my questions which are based in reality.

Perhaps you can ponder the questions further while you are living in your other fantasy world, which you refer to as "heaven".

Unknown said...

The number of deaths from car accidents far exceeds that from Nuclear Power plants but as a society we have mutually agreed that the benefit from having cars outweighs the risk they present. We demand safer cars instead of outlawing them. Perhaps the benefit of plentiful, inexpensive and non-greenhouse gas energy will persuade us to demand safer nuclear power plants instead of banning them entirely?

Anonymous said...

Steve Rusich wrote: "Perhaps the benefit of plentiful, inexpensive and non-greenhouse gas energy will persuade us to demand safer nuclear power plants instead of banning them entirely?"

No. There is no "perhaps" in this instance. Nuclear power plants deliver energy, which might be arguably "plentiful", but it is NOT inexpensive. It is subsidized by corrupt governments, benefitting power companies, but it is very costly to the public.

Nuclear power plants do not deliver energy which avoids greenhouse effects. In fact, if you look at the amount of heat which they pump into the water-supplies which "cool" these industrial monstrosities, you will find that they are damaging numerous rivers and lakes around the world with their terribly wasteful systems of heat production. Did you hear about the vast numbers of ecosystems which were damaged and destroyed in France during the summer heatwaves of the past few years? The French nuclear reactors are often designed to be cooled by the rivers and lakes where they are located, but they are so inefficient and dangerous, they managed to raise the temperature of those bodies of water until most of the fish and lifeforms were dead.

Finally, we come to the most important part of your "perhaps", namely: safety. This is the easiest and simplest part to address, because there is no such thing as "nuclear safety", this is an oxymoron.

Nuclear energy is safe when it is taking place in the Sun, millions of miles away. It is not safe (for humans, and most other life) when it takes place on Earth. You can not "safely" contain a fission reaction, any more than you could "safely" hold a piece of the sun in your hand. If that becomes possible in some far-away sci-fi future, then maybe we can reconsider all of these issues.... but until then, the notion of "safe" nuclear energy is nonsense, has always been nonsense, and the millions of SICK AND DEAD AND HOMELESS PEOPLE whose lives have been destroyed by radiation are rather upset that you are dismissing their plight so blithely.

"Perhaps" if your home had been made unliveable, if the region which you inhabit had to be evacuated, if all of your family died from preventable cancers, and if all future generations would be unable to live in the region around your home, then "perhaps" you would not be so willing to perpetuate such nonsense and non-existent things as "safe" and "clean" and "cheap" nuclear power.

How cheap does human life have to be? What would it take, in order for you to feel that these destructive practises are no longer justified? Why do millions of people have to die, have to be made ill in painful and excruciatingly horrible ways, have to be made homeless, have to find their offspring mutated, have to give up their peace and freedom for the sake of the profits of a few greedy power-company stakeholders? Why is any of this situation causing you to imagine that there is somehow something justifiable, if we could just have this pie-in-the-sky future nuclear technology which does not exist and yet you seem to be wishing for it anyway?

Given all the other viable solutions, to insist on clinging to something which is obviously, demonstrably, incontrovertibly killing people.... well,that's quite some breathtaking hubris! Willful denial is really almost criminal here, as it is precisely this type of willful denial which brought us into the current situation of Fukushimas, Chernobyls, Three-Mile-Islands, and so on and on and on ad nauseum.

Theslowlane Robert Ashworth said...

How many millions have to die from effects of nuclear power to change my mind? Maybe several million, which hasn't happened yet. I'm not a big fan of nuclear anyway. Sometimes I just bring it into the mix as a possible alternative to motivate folks who are alarmed by nuclear power to think about the big changes that will be needed if we are to cut down on fossil fuel consumption. Less population growth for sure. Also less driving. Solar energy does offer a lot of hope, but it doesn't come without real change in people's lives and our economic systems.

So far, there's a lot of disagreement as to how many have died from radiation. Wikipedia gives a wide range of estimates, the highest being in the hundreds of thousands. Some official estimates are quite low, but Greenpeace says that real number may be somewhere over 100,000.

Millions of deaths may not be factual so far, but there is legitimate worry that potential for even worse accidents could await us in the future.

We may be facing a damned if you do damned if you don't situation. Even one death could be seen as too many.

I am hoping that there does not have to be a vast die-off of people on earth due to overpopulation and economic distress. Somehow, I hope we can still find a way to a happy future.

Whether some of the solution is from nuclear, or not, may be only one of many issues. I'm not a big fan of nuclear. I am, tho somewhat of a fan of technology.

Even with things like solar and wind, the solutions to our global warming problems may be more technical than social. More efficient solar cells require science.

I would like to see more social solutions as well; like less procreation and a lot more bicycling. Electric cars are only as good as the source of electricity. If most people don't ride bicycles, we do have to, at least, trust science and invention enough to develop more solar and wind power. Also, thanks to science, we can have prosperity from electronics which use far less energy than things like automobiles. Maybe future generations will be able to tele-cummute, rather than having to drive, to work for instance.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe several million"?

Robert, i am shocked at you. As somebody who has known you personally for a number of years, i am dismayed that you would say such a thing.

I can only hope that this is somehow a mistake.

I won't even bother to go into further challenges to your misinformation (as the nuclear industry is predicated on an entire culture of lies), nor will i bother to point out that the article you linked is all about how the deaths have been underestimated by an order of magnitude..... well, none of that really matters, if your mind can not be changed without millions of preventable deaths.

Shocked, saddened, disappointed, and really just very disturbed to hear an actual friend saying such an evil thing, rather than just some plutocratic kleptocratic corporatist neofascist nutjob. I thought you were different from that.

Theslowlane Robert Ashworth said...

If it's really this bad, solar, wind and geothermal are the only alternatives. For a while, theses are expensive. They can take up lots of space, but they are the best. Whatcom County should lift it's moratorium on wind turbines. The economics would mean more people having to ride bicycles, use public transit and live in small residences that don't take much heat. Folks should rise to that challenge and see it as new opportunity.

Theslowlane Robert Ashworth said...

On the other hand, I'm afraid natural gas will be generating much of the new power that our growing world seems to demand. Gas turbines. It's okay, but still puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have several natural gas turbine generators around Bellingham area.