e Humane Future Manifesto A hot spring is a place where the life-sustaining chemistry of nature is concentrated and gives generously enough to yield new variety, new color and the hot interplay of competing approaches to living and thriving. The Hot Spring Network seeks to be that kind of place, where people committed to a more generous, humane and imaginative future gather to help make it real. Human beings do not have to be rapacious, faction-focused scavengers, fighting to take what little is available to those around them, serving a logic of fear and exclusion. The world’s great religions all recognize this, and yet history shows us that narrowness of focus, dehumanization of the other, greed and failure of imagination, routinely conspire to make individuals, institutions, even whole societies, impediments to imaginative problem solving and mutual thriving. Most people have no genuine desire to be anything so negative toward the rest of humanity, yet the momentum of history pushes people to fight over that all-important “spoonful” everyone is chasing. What makes the difference is whether we have real faith that better is possible. The Hot Spring Network is an act of faith in support of the idea that we are built to overcome greed, collapse and scarcity. Our project is a commitment to building a more vibrant, more humane, more sustainable, more democratic and just future for all people, in harmony with the Earth’s natural life-support systems. We can achieve this through science, technology, art, culture, innovation and public policy. We have a moral obligation to do so.
To add your name or to share with friends, go to: http://bit.ly/humanefuture
First Edition September 2012 Copyright ÂŠ 2012 The Hot Spring Network All collaborators, including publications sharing previously published work in these pages, retain copyright protections pertaining to those works. Read & share online The Hot Spring Quarterly is available online, at: http://bit.ly/hotspring-q Contact If you are interested in contributing to the Hot Spring Quarterly, joining the Hot Spring Network or organizing an event with featured authors on or these subjects, please direct all correspondence to the editors, via email, at: email@example.com Join the Network Visit www.TheHotSpring.net to join the network and start building a more vibrant human future, today.
Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Hot Spring Quarterly. This publication represents the work of a community of thinkers, researchers, reporters, educators, innovators and committed change-makers, focused on cultivating a broader and deeper awareness of the types of crisis that face humanity. Our purpose is to share ideas to bring solutions into being that are better, more effective and more conducive to mutual thriving, than anything within the prevailing paradigm. We take as our thematic focus, for this inaugural edition, the Hot Spring Network's slogan "hunting the paradigm shift", because in all of the pieces we have collected in these pages, that spirit of thoughtful, humane, fairnessexpanding change is at work. This project will also be the guiding philosophy of this publication, whatever thematic or disciplinary focus there may be in future editions. Visit TheHotSpring.net for more information regarding generative economics, clean energy and fuel free transport, people-focused innovations in public policy, including education, energy, media and finance, and for a leading-edge exploration of the accelerating technological phenomenon of hyper-convergence, in which media devices are integrating more and more seamlessly into our psychological, political and material lives. We are working to build a global community of interested, imaginative collaborators, hopeful about the future and committed to contributing their voice, their energy, their creativity and their leadership, to building better outcomes into the fabric of choices and influences that define our experience and determine conditions at the human scale. We hope to bring you the information you need to be part of that process. Joseph Robertson Creator / Director, The Hot Spring Network
e Hot Spring Network is founded on the view that genuinely revolutionary ideas for solving the most intractable crises come more easily when open and imaginative minds collaborate, without prejudice. e poet Linda Hogan wrote, in her book Dwellings: “What we are really searching for is a language that heals [our] relationship [with the rest of the natural order], one that takes the side of the amazing and fragile life on our life-giving earth…” Today’s human population faces emerging crises of a complexity and a scale never before confronted by humanity. Our intention is to develop the vocabulary for over-thehorizon thinking, as rich in detail as the broad fabric of humanity, so we are ﬁt and able to deal with the complexities we face.
The Hot Spring Network is committed to the idea that optimism is not a project of hoping against all probability, but rather one of accurately judging that better is possible, then striving for the optimal outcome, in any given circumstance. To spread awareness, we highlight on TheHotSpring.net specific projects, individuals, organizations and ventures that help to illustrate this principle and to carry out this project. The following articles are representative of the spirit that holds that BETTER is possible. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/betterispossible
This is not to say our communications
Why Everyone Should Be a Futurist
industries don’t show us anything about the future. But they focus on the future we must avoid rather than the future we must create. It’s likely that the apocalypse is coming right
by William S. Becker
now to a theater near you. Think of The Day After Tomorrow, The Road, An Inconvenient Truth, The 11th Hour, or 2012, to name a few movies in recent years. We’ve seen endless
This article first appeared in the May 2012 edition of the Solutions journal. In hearing rooms, hallways, and conferences where the world’s policymakers are wrestling
television shows on the frightening prophecies of Nostradamus and the Mayan calendar. The Discovery Channel has shown us in nightmarish detail Ten Ways the World
with the big issues of our day, something important is missing: Vision. By vision, I don’t mean those forwardlooking policy papers that tell us how we
Will End. Apparently thinking it’s a public service to help us prepare, the channel is airing a series called Doomsday Shelters in which families who call themselves “preppers”
might shape the future with a global Green New Deal, or the Millennium Development Goals, or a Copenhagen Accord. Those intellectual constructs are critical, but they
are building underground shelters stocked with food, weapons, and ammunition. News media are governed by the “if it bleeds, it leads” rule, showing us economic collapse,
are not enough. We’re missing visions of the right-brain variety—immersive, lifelike visual images of the future we want, conveyed with the same
homelessness, war, terrorism, natural disasters, and other symptoms of social collapse every evening at dinnertime. We revel in our fears but do not reveal our dreams.
powerful technologies that moviemakers use to entertain us and the advertising industry uses to sell us things. Think about it. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we mobilized our
For what would seem to be sound tactical reasons, environmental advocates also focus on fear as a motivator. The “fight or flight” reaction seems to be a more powerful force
visual arts and tools to change sustainable development from an abstraction into something we all can see?
for change than happy visions of security and abundance. The prominent British environmentalist Jonathon Porritt notes that there is a
In the brutal battles over public policy these days, visions of the kind I’m describing seem fluffy, as though we’re entering the arena with swords made of cotton instead of steel. However, as the late Donella Meadows
continuing lack of any compelling narrative focusing on the upside of living within environmental limits rather than on the multiple downsides of exceeding
put it, “Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great progress.”1
those limits. Many more people count themselves as environmentalists out of a desire to avoid a potential ecological apocalypse rather than out of a belief in
some “Promised Land” flowing with
unproductive style. Transfixed by an image of
organic milk and rainforest honey.
our own future decline, we could actually bring it about.”3
In the best case, problems push us to action. But to find its sense of direction, the
This lack of a compelling upside narrative exposes environmentalists to the rabble-
“push” needs help from the “pull” of positive vision. The Transition Town movement, a grassroots network that began in the United Kingdom, helps communities become more
rousing charge of being anti-progress and anti-aspiration—a charge that sounds more and more convincing as more and more environmentalists let it be known that they believe it is either “already too late” to do anything about the gathering apocalypse, or, in order to avoid it being too late, that we need to go onto an
resilient against threats such as peak oil, climate change, and economic instability. That’s a response to “push.” But the movement’s founder, permaculture expert
instantaneous “war footing” to combat accelerating climate change—whatever the consequences for democracy. For wholly understandable historical and
Rob Hopkins, also understands the power of “pull”: It is one thing to campaign against climate change and quite another to
intellectual reasons, today’s environmental discourse is still shaped far more powerfully by the language of “scarcity” and “limits” than it is by any compelling
paint a compelling and engaging vision of a post-carbon world in such a way as to enthuse others to embark on a journey toward it. We are only just
upside narrative. But fear of the future does not empower people; it debilitates and disempowers.2
beginning to scratch the surface of the power of a positive vision of an abundant future.4
We can find a corollary in international
Business has long understood the power of
negotiations, where the conversation is about which nations will sacrifice growth to cut carbon emissions, rather than who will be the first to seize the enormous opportunities in a
vision in attracting customers. General Motors illustrated it more than 70 years ago at the New York World’s Fair. In the hangover of the Great Depression, GM commissioned
global transition to sustainability.
theatrical designer Norman Bel Geddes to create Futurama, a pavilion in which an estimated 20 million visitors were conveyed through models of life 20 years in the future.
The r esulting stalemate makes us pessimistic that our international institutions can deal with this century’s global problems.
At its core, GM’s vision was a dynamic, highly mobile, car-centered society—an appealing alternative to the life many of the visitors were experiencing. A case can be made that
That pessimism can easily become a selffulfilling prophecy. Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, authors of The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the
GM’s vision built public support for the way we’ve designed cities and transportation systems ever since.
World, write, “Today as we are besieged by planetary problems, the risk is that we will deal with them in a pessimistic and
But the 1930s GM model doesn’t work
for Rio+20. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
anymore. We need a new vision.
announced it on November 22, 2011; a few months later, he embraced it as the theme for his next five-year agenda at the United Nations.
The Future We Want
As the project progressed, we found we weren’t the only organization engaged in exploring vision. My Green Dream, led by May East from the Findhorn community in
In 2009, Michael Northrop, the director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s sustainable development program, convened 30 sustainability and communications experts to explore why the public was not more engaged
Scotland, has deployed “dream catchers” around the world to collect short videos of people describing their aspirations for the future. Sustainia, a project of the Danish
in fighting for a more sustainable world. We who participated talked about “apocalypse fatigue”—the tendency for people to withdraw from solving problems that seem over -
think tank Monday Morning, has organized a competition to identify the 100 best ideas to achieve sustainable societies by 2020. Rather than awarding its annual cash prize to an
whelming and unsolvable. We also observed that today’s social media and the Internet make it possible to have a global conversation about “push” and “pull.” We decided that we
individual in 2012, TED launched City 2.0, calling for concepts on the city of the future. The Institute for Transportation and Policy Development in New York commissioned
need to help the broad and largely disengaged public understand the future we can build, based on visions that are realistic, achievable, and positive.
architects in ten cities around the world to draw what sustainable development would look like at specific blighted locations in each place.
That was the inception of a project now called The Future We Want. We are inviting people around the world to share their ideas about what they want their communities and
Corporations, who see the future in terms of markets, are entering the dialogue too. Siemens has its own exhibit of the cities of tomorrow, as does its competitor, General
lives to be like 20 years from now. We are mobilizing world-class technologists, designers, planners, and artists to show us what life would be like if we confronted
Electric. Corning has produced a video on a futuristic “day made of glass.”
today’s challenges head-on and built a world that reflected people’s hopes.
Some of the leaders in the world’s principal oil patch also are thinking about the
In 2011, we took the project to the United Nations, which was planning Rio+20—its
future—in their case, the post-petroleum world. Years ago, a Saudi Arabian oil minister warned that oil reserves would not be depleted before renewable energy takes over
Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit. With agility uncharacteristic for such a large institution, the United
the world’s energy markets. (In a quote for the ages, the minister, Sheikh Zaki Yamani, observed that the Stone Age didn’t end
Nations’ entire chain of command adopted “The Future We Want” as the official tagline
because we ran out of stones.) Today, the
climate change, every day we delay makes the
royal family in Abu Dhabi is positioning the United Arab Emirates as a global thought leader on sustainable energy, sponsoring an annual World Energy Futures Conference and
“upside narrative” less credible. But if we decide to grasp it, a future we want is still within reach. Buckminster Fuller had it right: “We are called to be architects of the future,
working on the world’s first carbon-neutral city.
not its victims.”
The contributions of these change agents and visionaries haven’t yet penetrated the
world’s policy circles. We remain in a rut of oil and coal, flirting with even worse forms of fossil energy and with technologies we don’t know how to control, like nuclear energy,
1. Meadows, D in Getting Down to Earth, Practical Applications of Ecological (Costanza, R, Segura, O & Martinez-Alier, J, eds) Envisioning a sustainable world (Island Press, Washington, DC, 1996).
geoengineering and carbon sequestration. The entrenched and well-financed fossil energy industries are so far more interested in finding ways to extend the oil age than
2. Porritt, J. Scarcity and Sustainability in Utopia. Insights Paper 4(4) (Durham University and the Institute of Advanced Study, 2011).
they are in helping us achieve a new energy economy—an economy that would sustain them, too, if they made the transition with the rest of us. Lacking a better vision, the
3. Ray, P & Anderson, SR. The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000).
developing world still considers the Western model of consumption and car-dependent cities the highest expressions of progress. But in this time in which our old
4. Hopkins, R. The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience (Green Books, 2008).
institutions and systems are failing us; in which powerful and entrenched vested interests are fighting to maintain a status quo that cannot be maintained; in which the impacts of climate change are becoming more frequent, severe, and undeniable; and in which our confidence in the old economic order has been shaken, we have reached a
Today’s Visionaries Nongovernmental Organizations
teachable moment not unlike the one that General Motors seized in 1939.
2020: Shaping the Future, a series of videos from Ericsson Worldwide with thought
It is time to envision the future we want, to get the global community talking about it,
leaders offering their ideas for the future. (www.ericsson.com/campaign/20about2020).
and to insist on the public policies that will allow us to achieve it. Given the finality of problems such as species loss, peak oil, and
Adaptive Edge, specializing in futures thinking, strategy, and innovation. It describes itself as “pathfinders for leaders on
the brink of change” (www.adaptive-
U.S. PIRG: Transportation of the Future, a
video produced by a nine-year-old, one of the entries in a U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s video contest. (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=sbX38qeVCqo).
America 2050: Journey to Detroit, a video visualization of transportation options of the future (www.america2050.org/2010/02/ journey-to-detriot.html). Produced by the America 2050 program at the Regional Plan Association, New York.
Corporate Visualizations Arnold Imaging, a Kansas City company that facilitates green development with videos and
Collective Invention, which develops experiential future scenarios to help leaders innovate for the common good (www.theworldcafecommunity.org).
animations showing how sustainable design and technologies benefit the built environment and quality of life (www.arnoldimaging.com).
Monday Morning, whose Project Green Light has published The Guidebook to Sustainia, the vision of a sustainable future (http:// greengrowthleaders.org/project-green-light).
Corning’s A Day Made of Glass (www.youtube.com/watch_popup? v=6Cf7IL_eZ38&vq=medium).
My Green Dream, a project of the UN
Enel on imagining the smart grid
Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the CIFAL Network. It has deployed “dream catchers” to 15 countries (at last count), taping short video interviews in which
(www.youtube.com/watch? v=sV6o3t_bNN4&feature=related). General Motors’ Dreams of Flight, imagining the future of air transportation (www.ge.com/
people state their aspirations for the future (http://green-dream.co.uk/dreams).
thegeshow/future-flight). Also, GM’s electric networked vehicles (www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm? id=electric-networked-vehicle-gm).
One Earth Initiative, whose objective is to “rethink the Good Life” and to transform unsustainable consumption and production (http://oneearthweb.org).
Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture’s video, Super Sustainable City—Gothenburg (www.youtube.com/watch? v=aMFnmpNsaqg&feature=related).
Our Cities/Our Selves: The Future of Transportation in Urban Life, a project of the Institute for Transportation and Policy Planning (www.ourcitiesourselves.org).
Microsoft’s vision of the future videos (www.singularityweblog.com/microsoftsvision-for-the-future-videos).
The World Café, a place where visitors gather to share experiences and explore collective action (www.theworldcafecommunity.org).
Siemens’ sustainable cities vision, including Changing Your City for the Better, a video competition to show how people are using technology to overcome humanity’s
changing-your-city-for-the-better). Also, the company’s video on how to make sustainable cities (www.usa.siemens.com/sustainablecities/?stc=usccc025107).
William S. Becker is Executive Director of the National Sustainable Communities Coalition. He serves as a senior associate at two sustainable development think tanks: Third Generation Environmentalism in London and Natural Capitalism Solutions in Colorado. He spent 15 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Energy. At DOE, he founded
Solutions Design with the Other 90%: Cities, the latest in a series of exhibits featuring design
the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development, organized expert teams to provide technical assistance to more than 130 U.S. communities on sustainable
solutions that address the 90 percent of the world’s population not traditionally served by professional designers (www.designother90.org/cities/home).
development, including “green recovery” for communities r ebuilding after natural disasters. Starting in 2007, he served as Executive Director of the Presidential Climate
Young Voices for the Planet, a film series featuring young people working on reducing the carbon footprint of their schools, homes and communities (http://
Action Project, a four-year initiative that produced nearly 200 recommendations on national climate and energy policies for the 2008 presidential candidates, the Obama
Administration, and Congress. He is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Think Climate, and several other environmental blogs. Mr. Becker is a veteran of the
Inspiration Apple’s Here’s to the Crazy Ones (www.youtube.com/watch? v=4oAB83Z1ydE&feature=related).
Vietnam War, where he won the Bronze Star medal as a combat correspondent. His latest book, The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet, was published by St. Martin’s Press in New York.
Make Your Own Visions Make a comic strip about sustainability in your community (www.pixton.com/ overview#video and www.pixton.com/ca).
VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY’S ANNUAL DAY OF SERVICE: MORE THAN 2/3 OF THE STUDENT BODY VOLUNTEER THEIR TIME TO HELP IMPROVE CONDITIONS IN SOME SMALL WAY, AT THE HUMAN SCALE, IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS PHILADELPHIA & THE SURROUNDING REGION. THE DAY IS TREATED LIKE A CELEBRATION & STUDENTS VALUE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
them to step forward with the best they have
Up to Something Big: Stories that Inspire Change
to offer. Be up to something big. We’re in this together.
by Davia Rivka
How We Live Matters
The following texts are both excerpts from the book Up to Something Big: Stories That Inspire Change. Visit daviarivka.com to learn more about the book.
A woman climbs down a steep, craggy mountain, tethered to a woman above her and a man below. Pressed against the hard rock face, several hundred feet from solid ground, all three are alert and vigilant. They are acutely aware of the rope tension, the crevices, their grip. Details are critical, attention crucial, integrity essential. Her life
Keeping Big Company People want their lives to matter. They are hungry to leave the world a better place than they found it. They passionately want to
is in their hands. Their lives are in hers.
make a difference but don’t always know where to begin, how to stay focused or what to do when challenges seem insurmountable.
The whole world is like that now, in this age of global interconnectedness. We are all tethered. We can pull one another up or we can weigh one another down. We are in it together, like it or not.
It is not easy. Stretching into challenging places takes consistent commitment. Left to ourselves we too often slip, forget, back away. But when we surround ourselves with others up to something big, we can keep each other
How we live matters. Here is my invitation to you. Look beyond your personal life. Know that your movements matter, that your actions rever-berate, that your words ripple across the globe. Be
on track, remind each other of who we are at our best. Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, said, “Never doubt that a small group of
up to something big—by tending not just to your wildest visions but to your everyday actions. Call forth the best in yourself, and in others. Massage the fate of the world as it
thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
passes through your hands. Live as though we are counting on you to hold the rope taut.
Whether “the world” we focus on is the planet or our own backyard, it is our community of “thoughtful, committed citizens” who hold us to account. They are our witnesses, reflecting back to us our
highest dreams, encouraging us to step forward with the best we have to offer. And in turn, we are their witnesses, encouraging
Citizens Climate Lobby: Participatory Democracy Resurgent
Davia specializes in working with leaders committed to social change. She has been exploring the intersection of personal growth and social change for over forty years. After
by Joseph Robertson
receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Science degree in health sciences from the University of Utah, and a Master of Arts degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University, she earned her coaching certification from Coach Training Institute and opened her coaching practice in 2001. In addition to her academic background, her approach has been informed by years of service work. For two decades she worked as a volunteer with RESULTS, an
Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers from across North America gather outside US Capitol, holding signs that say “I am a carbon tax”. July 24, 2012.
advocacy organization committed to ending poverty, where she trained volunteers to step outside their comfort zones in the name of a larger commitment. She has been trained in
“If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grand-children, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group.”
the Native American Way of Council; a process of sitting in a circle, inviting deep listening and personal story to build community, explore challenging issues and
—Dr. James Hansen: physicist, member of the National Academy of Sciences, grandpa, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA
facilitate movement. Davia was inspired to write her recently published book, Up to Something Big: Stories That Inspire Change, while listening to her
In order to ensure that our economic and environmental policies harmonize with the life-as-lived interests of ordinary human
clients’ stories, and the commitment they made to working with the challenges that come from living a life that matters.
beings, at the human scale, a grassroots movement of citizens has begun working to steer the US Congress away from corporate backers and toward people-centered solu-
Explore her projects online, at: www.daviarivka.com
tions. The American economy’s dependence on fossil fuels carries an incredible burden of hidden costs, and the American people are
increasingly aware that clean energy will
delivering materials to the rest of the House
make the nation more prosperous, more environmentally stable and more democratic.
and Senate—a feat made possible by the scheduling acrobatics of Amy Bennet and a dedicated team of interns.
Citizens Climate Lobby is a non-partisan, non-profit volunteer organization, with over
By early 2010, the organization had
60 local chapters in 26 states, and more in Canada. Founded in late 2007, by the antipoverty crusader and microfinance hero Marshall Saunders, its first national “con-
for eseen that the highly complicated regulatory strategy known as Cap and Trade —with its trading scheme ripe for derivative finance shenanigans—would not become law.
ference”, in Washington, DC, in 2009, brought Marshall, along with organizing wizard Mark Reynolds and scientist Danny Richter, to Capitol Hill to press Congress to
So, by June of that year, CCL was working to get the word out about a proposal called Carbon Fee and Dividend. The strategy is simple, streamlined, revenue-neutral, con-
end the nation’s addiction to carbon-based fuels. In June 2010, CCL’s first true volunteer conference brought 25 volunteers from across
sumer friendly, requires no new bureaucracy, is easy to harmonize internationally and will do more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and speed the arrival of a true clean-energy
the United States together for informational seminars, lobby training and Capitol Hill visits. That small group met with 52 Congressional offices and several more from
• a steadily escalating fee on carbon-based fuels, at the source (mine, well, port of entry to the United States);
economy. The plan:
the executive branch. In 2011, it was 80 volunteers, making 144 visits to Congressional offices. Since then, CCL has begun participating in the World Bank Civil Society
• a dividend (or monthly “bonus check”) to households equivalent to 100% of the revenue from the fee; • a border adjustment (WTO-compliant) to
Forum, to urge representatives from the World Bank, IMF, OECD and other international development organizations to lead in the push for a price on carbon-based fuels.
en-sure foreign businesses don’t get away without paying the fee... The 100% dividend ensures that more than 2/3 of all households will receive more in
For the first time, in 2012, the legislative solution CCL supports has already been introduced into the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives,
their bonus check than all collateral price increases resulting from the fee. As the fee escalates, so does the dividend. This clear price signal allows the true marketplace—
and members of Congress can sit with citizens to hear them call for sponsorship of pending legislation.
Main Street, USA, together with cutting edge innovation and entrepreneurship—to take over, giving renewables an edge, even without subsidies, and releasing hundreds of billions
In 2012, 175 volunteers attended, from across the United States and Canada, making more than 300 visits to Congressional offices, in just 4 days of lobbying, while personally
of dollars in private capital to go to work building a fuel free all-clean-energy economy,
suited to the global challenges of the 21st
of the House of Representatives, and by the
century. The CCL approach allows ordinary citizens to gather together, to better reach local and national media, build support among voters
world’s top climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA. Reagan chief economist Art Laffer and former House Republican Bob Inglis, a social conservative, are now calling for a
and raise the level of debate in the halls of Congress. In 2010, it was Cap and Trade or bust on the Hill; in 2011, Fee and Dividend was intriguing to both liberals and con-
revenue neutral carbon tax to break the nation’s dependence on costly fossil fuels and speed the transition to a clean economy. CCL’s successes constitute a regeneration
servatives on the Hill, but too new to catch fire and lead the debate; in late 2011, however, the Save Our Climate Act (SOCA) was intro-duced in the House Committee on Ways
of participatory democracy, with a focus on the nation’s climate and energy policy. The same model has been used with astonishing success by RESULTS to win Congressional
and Means, and was built on the Fee and Dividend model, though it devotes a portion of revenue to debt reduction. From July 2011 through July 2012, CCL’s
support for action to eliminate poverty, treat and eradicate disease, and overcome social exclusion, around the world. Tens of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty by
volunteers and staff have published three hundred articles in local and national newspapers and on major blog sites like the Huffington Post. Thanks to the tireless efforts
the work of RESULTS volunteers over the last three decades. This year’s conference recognized the importance of the Quechua-language phrase
of media director Steve Valk, and volunteers like Ellie Whitney and Mike Morton, CCL was able to release a 382-page 12-month Press File 1, in July 2012, compiling these letters
“Kachkaniraqmi”—“I am here; I still exist.” Vibrant, constructive participatory democracy requires that people dwell in this world in a conscious way, and show up where decisions
are made, to be citizens and to remind elected officials that we are here; we exist… and that, above all other considerations, that matters.
In 2012, every office on Capitol Hill has been made aware of Fee and Dividend, of its Main-Street-focused approach, and SOCA is likely to go to a 100% dividend in the new year, increasing the monthly bonus paid to households and making the bill’s economic impact into more of a virtuous feedback loop
NOTE: The author is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby, and author of the report Building a Green Economy: On the Economics
capable of building a thriving 21st century clean-energy economy.
of Carbon Pricing and the Transition to Clean, Renewable Fuels, for the Hot Spring Network and CCL. (See pg. 25 for more detail.)
The strategy is supported by mainstream economists, social and fiscal conservatives, by Reagan advisors and progressive members
You can read the CCL Press File online for free at: www.issuu.com/hotspring/docs/ccl-press_file-120728
Deep green economics entails a focus on full-spectrum sustainabilityâ€”sustainability in all aspects of our relationship to the universe: the natural environment, human neighbors, even our conscious envisioning of what exists and/or is possible. Two foundational principles underly this way of thinking green: 1. G.O.O.D.-based economic reasoning and analysis (addressing the generative organic optimization demand not previously addressed in the conventional economic and political dynamics we think of as business-as-usual); 2. Impact at the human scale (genuine inquiry into what happens to individual, family and community-level lived experience, as the result of policies that foster development, investment distribution, innovation or technological enhancement). This section explores aspects of the deep green economic revolution, already ongoing, and suggests solutions that can help point the way toward a future in which no one is disadvantaged by resource scarcity, the manipulation of commodities markets, or lethal forms of industrialscale contamination. Deep green means conducive to sustainable mutual thriving across the full spectrum of human relationships, to the advantage of human liberty.
more resources available; investment in fossil
GOOD-based Economics: To Restore Main Street & the Middle Class
fuels is not generative, because the more invested, the more rapidly the finite amount of resources are depleted. Organic economic activity is activity that is
by Joseph Robertson
woven into the fabric of what is being done throughout the marketplace in question. Organic activity is not necessarily imposed from above, but rather emerges into the
A version of the following article first appeared on The Hot Spring Network, on September 10, 2012. The central ideas will also be the focus of a roundtable event, at Villanova University, in Pennsylvania, on November 1, 2012.
currents of energy and wealth exchange that comprise the overall marketplace. This can include, but is not limited to, activity that emerges from intelligent regulation, incentives and government investment. Organic activity tends to become visible at the community level, at the human scale, and ultimately, it is the province of everyone who operates predominantly at that level. Optimization refers to a specific way of imagining the value of economic activity. This is not the old optimist/pessimist opposition, but rather a practical differentiation between the analysis of self-appointed “realists”, who shy away from market-redefining innovations dependent on imagination and quality, and fact-based optimists, who look to achieve the best possible outcome, given what is, and who are not averse to imagining past the paradigm shift. Demand is the primordial driver of economic activity. People need food and water to live, so there is demand for supermarkets, and for the entire fabric of agricultural and
Generative economic activity is activity
industrial activity that supports them. The demand for generative organic optimization of our economic environment is rooted in the very logic of human civilization: we devote our
which yields a greater range and volume of resources than it consumes. For example, investment in solar energy technology is generative, because the more invested, the
intelligence, our collaborative capacity, our resources—natural, synthetic and intellectual —to always doing better than what would naturally fall to us.
market provides opportunities for the exercise
Why a GOOD-based framework for economic analysis?
of personal character and imagination. Generative Organic Optimization Demand (GOOD) is a way of looking at the economic landscape to determine how effective our
Status quo is rooted in standardized thinking; GOOD-based thinking is how we get better. Conventional economics looks at “demand” as the extant sum total of need and
overall strategies—our leading business interests, our laws, our system of education and our fabric of community, those things we do every day—are to achieving what people
want for specific items, services, etc. If X number of Hummers are sold in a given year, while a few sit unsold, then the supply, filtered by distribution and pricing, is meeting
expect, what in fact is demanded by the everincreasing population of human beings on planet Earth: better outcomes.
the demand, but overestimating by those few that remain unsold. Some economists think pricing determines demand, and others view pricing as less important in the final analysis.
For a century, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has served as a proxy for more precise but elusive measures of progress toward better outcomes. GDP totals all exchange activity within a given set of political
Analysis of past demand is supposed to predict future demand, and so supplies are adjusted to fit such predictions, as are values, prices, investment patterns, etc. But
boundaries, so it is easy to measure whether the average exchange capacity per capita (GDP per person) is increasing or decreasing. But this does not tell us whether most people
what is not accounted for is whether the same people who generate the apparent “demand” for Hummers might be happier with equally muscular fuel free alternatives—
are making progress toward a better existence, in terms of personal liberty, economic security and socio-political empowerment.
which bad economic think-ing has kept us from building—at lower prices, and where the air, water and food consumed by their family would be safer.
If we transition to a way of thinking that allows for GOOD-based economic analysis, we will be better equipped to discuss in real terms how people are living, what they are
Conventional analyses of demand do not adequately account for the intangible, the human element involved in assessing both need and want, that drives the actual
striving for, and how we can envision and collaborate to achieve better outcomes. So, first things first...
decision-making of actual people. People tend to look for opportunities to make life more interesting, more comfortable and more worthy of respect, on some level.
What are the primordial GOOD considerations for individuals and families?
How those intangibles are calculated depends in large part on the character of individuals, so a real assessment of what might be missing in a given market, the extant
Economic cycles as they relate to resources are most often self-reinforcing: a fabric of
demand, needs to look at how well that
economic activity reliant on resource-
economic requirements: biological,
corrosive practices and depletion of generally available stores (or potential output) of goods and services will reinforce the cycle of depletion as it expands; a fabric of economic
structural, intellectual, political. Individuals and families are best able to participate in the economic, social and political constellation of influences, when there is
activity which generates added basic resources for generalized consumption will reinforce the cycle of constructive collaborative improvement as it expands.
community infrastructure allowing for substantive, character-driven interaction at the human scale.
So, a GOOD-based economic improvement strategy needs to cultivate and propagate reinforcements of the following kinds:
gather, play and compete, safely and without undue ideological pressures or quality-of-life dictation from budget processes, violent crime, resource scarcity or contamination of
This means opportunities for children to
• Biological: First of all are the life-sustaining
the environment. Some of these community assets would be: art and music in school, school sports, community-level recreational activities, extracurricular educational
compounds without which human life is not possible: clean air, clean water and foodborne solid nutrients. • Structural: Next are those structural
opportunities, and clinics, hospitals and other services that guarantee quality affordable on-time medical attention.
comforts of the built environment, without which human beings are less able to achieve long life expectancy and educational and professional excellence: shelter, plumbing
Measuring the quality, affordability (as against individual, household and community income) and accessibility of biological, structural, intellectual, political and community infrastructure reinforcements is
and heat and electricity. • Intellectual: Then come the intellectual commodities: infor mation, education, technology sufficient for erasing the digital
then necessary to understanding what is actually happening at the human scale, and what innovations, incentives and/or collaborative initiatives would build resiliency
divide. • Political: The hope, then, would be that with these come political liberties: freedom of thought, freedom of assembly, freedom of
and mutual thriving into the human experience of a given community.
worship, freedom of the press, freedom from all for ms of discrimination, and an enforceable guarantee of voting rights and the right to petition the government for
The Human Development Index (HDI) is an attempt to look at the status of people, families and communities, in relation to the above-listed reinforcements, focusing on health, education and living standards. The benefit of GOOD-based human development
redress of grievances. • Community: Individuals and families tend to be, as economic actors, expressions of Generative Organic Optimization Demand,
analysis would be to assess and determine to what degree activities related to human development are also generative, thus
specifically over and above the four preceding categories of primordial GOOD
meeting the GOOD requirements of a given
reliable real-time information about the
town, region or people.
financial and legal framework of an individual’s life landscape, was becoming ever more expensive, just as people were losing what wealth they had.)
What is GOOD for Main Street?
Coming out of the 2008-2010 financial sector collapse and restructuring, what the Main Street economy most required was a deliberate conscious focus on the part of
Once again: • “generative” means resource-reinforcing; • “organic” means generalized collaborative spontaneous economic activity;
financial institutions on the GOOD requirements of individuals, families and the fabric of surrounding community in which they live day to day. That did not happen, so
• “optimization” means improving conditions; • “demand” refers to the real-world need for such reinforcements that improve quality of life at the human scale (individual, family and community).
lending has lagged, recovery in the housing market is indecisive at best, and the rate of new hiring is, accordingly, slow.
The Main Street economy is the heart of GOOD economic analysis.
The expansion of GOOD-relative economic reinforcements for Main Street requires a comprehensive decentralization of privatesector economic power. Oversized financial institutions run up against an arithmetical
The five categories of GOOD-relative reinforcements listed above can serve as a guide for what to look for in the GOOD status of the Main Street economy. The financial collapse of 2008 was calamitous by any application of GOOD-based economic
limit in their capacity for genuinely sustainable steadily increasing regular asset growth. Eventually, there are no longer enough resources outside their grasp to feed the
analysis: after a decade of declining affordability of political and community reinforcements, biological reinforcements, and then structural, became so cost-
expansion of the value of what is within their grasp. There are specific activities financial institutions can favor that will allow for a
intensive, more than 1/6 of the total population of the United States was living in poverty.
momentum shift, toward the decentralizing of economic power, effectively devolving power to consumers, and freeing corporate interests from the requirement to measure success
Community banks, reliant on vibrant local GOOD-relative economic activity, began to collapse, and larger banks, reliant on vibrant GOOD-relative financial activity more broadly, also found themselves on the brink.
exclusively by raw numerical growth. The leading consideration for the value of an enterprise should then shift toward how it is tied into achieving GOOD-relative reinforce-
Intellectual reinforcements for the GOODrelative economic standing of Main Street interests declined in every area except online information. (Education, as well as access to
ments for quality of life at the human scale.
hiring, educational opportunity, r e-
Organic optimizing activities conducive to GOOD economic status improvement
creational quality of life and health funding; • transitioning most business tax credits to reward innovation, hiring, clean energy, energy efficiency and health funding
The organic optimizing activities required to respond to GOOD should include:
initiatives; • public-private partnerships in owning, drawing revenue from 100% clean public transit;
• health-reinforcing food production; • affordable health quality-enhancing goods and services;
• direct investment in “breathable air” initiatives;
• intellectual agility-expanding goods and services (educational and informational liberation);
• deliberate focus on tree planting, park greening, throughout urban and exurban
• community-level quality-of-life enterprises;
• human-scale banking initiatives aimed at building GOOD-relative reinforcements into local economic landscapes;
• explicit plans to halve the number of combustible fuel vehicles on a city or region’s roads within 10 years...
• crowd-funding for job creation, in mode of the Opportunity Finance Network;
In each case, these organic optimizing activities optimize the GOOD economic status of a city or region by incentivizing investment, hiring and direct funding of improvements to
• a revenue-neutral fee on carbon emitting fuels, with 100% dividend to households;
quality of life and to resource-generative activities. They become organic by feeding directly into the fabric of generalized everyday economic activity. By becoming an organic
• distributed 100% clean-energy infrastructure, training and services; • cost-effective mass-market quick-charge electric vehicles;
part of the wider fabric of economic activity, everyone across the economic landscape is empowered to contribute to the improvement of their own circumstances, simply by
• municipal, state and federal policy priorities, rooted in full-spectrum sustainability; • urban development innovations that provide
participating in generalized everyday economic activity.
for pollution-free affordable public transport... Extreme examples might include:
Where GOOD is missing from our economic calculus
• business solutions like crowd-funding of foreclosure avoidance plans; • 100% transparency in major conglomerate banking or transnational financial enterprise;
Travel from Bayside, Queens, to Long Island City, or to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, using 100% electric green tramways, and/or a gleaming new monorail system, and you are
• chartered partnerships between municipalities and local businesses, aimed at
helping to pay for new employment, new
participate in and profit from the building in
construction, immediate palpable improvements to the aesthetics of the built environment, and for enhanced mobility and economic opportunity across at least two
their own communities; • Put at the center of this new human-scale construction initiative new schools and health clinics;
• Build into the new structural reinforcements 100% smart-grid-based clean energy technologies, which would generate jobs and new wealth in the communities
Build such a system into the wider fabric of New York City and the region, and the benefit to commuters, to commuter -dependent enterprises, to the housing market, and to the funding of schools, community recreational activities, public safety and health treatment options supported by the public or
These are examples, and enacting such policies will require significant changes in the way funds are disbursed. The World Bank
private sector, is still more noticeable. The same sort of organic optimization can generate new resources and better quality of life in non-urban settings as well, as small
and IMF could be what they are supposed to be—forces for good—by being forces for GOOD-based generative reinforcements of an economic sea change motivated by an
communities become 100% energy independent, and build in smart, innovative enterprises, better quality of life, more efficient transport and educational options,
awareness of the benefits of real mutual thriving. Without an aim to build GOODbased thinking into wider economic planning, we will not overcome the corrosive tendencies
each of these inducing new hiring and new investment, at the local level. In a city like Barcelona, Spain, refurbishing central markets in every barrio of the city,
of exploitative hyper-consumption, and so we will not do enough to eliminate poverty and build a permanent democratically empowered middle class.
and adding 100% clean-energy-based new construction and training programs, would vastly enhance the amount of GOOD-relative investment, cycling new wealth through the
GOOD-based economics is just a start, but it is integral to understanding how we, as a civilization, move forward in this increasingly connected, personality-driven 21st century
generalized economy of middle class and working families. It would also afford young people with new routes into the labor market, something Spain desperately needs.
where we hope that all people everywhere will be free to live, work, dream and achieve, with dignity, security and socio-political empowerment to back them up and to reinforce and
In cities like Jakarta, Indonesia, Maputo, Mozambique, or Mokha, Yemen, doing three things would vastly improve the GOODrelative standing of millions of people:
propagate the best outcomes of their best intentions, talents and relationships.
• Incentivize investment by businesses and municipalities in more permanent structural reinforcements, allowing people to
Note on related topics
The Author Joseph Robertson is the creator and director of the Hot Spring Network, and the editor-in-
There is mounting evidence, as the fallout from the Great Recession runs its course, that the real-world value of what we call economic activity can be best identified and discussed as relating to an economic eco-
chief of the Hot Spring Quarterly. He is a volunteer for the non-partisan, non-profit organization Citizens Climate Lobby, and is the author of the Sept. 2010 report Building a
system’s ability to provide the intangible values we tend to associate with “quality of life”, with unique personal tastes and talents, or with recognition of basic human dignity: in
Green Economy: on the Economics of Carbon Pricing and the Transition to Clean, Renewable Fuels, which is distributed free of charge to elected officials on Capitol Hill. He directs the
early education, in higher education, in the opportunities available for employment, and in the manner in which life-support services of the built environment—such as life-saving
publications ProjectQuipu.net, FuelFree.me, Protect El Yunque and Futurismo Verde. He is a visiting instructor at Villanova University, where he now serves as chair of the
health treatments, clean drinking water—are provided. Detailing the manner in which policy affects the availability of intangible and transcendent value, at the human scale, is
Environmental Sustainability Committee’s subcommittee on Operations and Energy Use, directs the ClimateTalks.info series of interdisciplinary roundtables and lectures, and
and will be one of the main areas of focus of the entire Hot Spring Network project.
leads the GreenNOVA.org community for coordinating sustainability activities and information on campus and beyond. All of his projects can be found through the website
Future issues of The HotSpring Quarterly will examine issues of education, economic development, food supply security, energy acquisition and distribution, environmental sustainability, health services, community life and market fairness, through the lens of
GOOD-based economic analysis.
Learn More Learn more about Generative Economics and follow the Hot Spring Network’s ongoing process of formulating measurements and analyses rooted in GOOD-based economic thinking, at: bit.ly/goodecon-ideas
credit-scarce economy where no one is as
Saturation vs. Scalability:
rich as the oil interests, even moreso.
Old & Costly vs. Clean & Eﬃcient
The ability to rapidly scale up production, and to create a potent and escalating visible return on investment for consumers, is
by Joseph Robertson
hampered by justifiable skepticism about where this globalized, saturated and entrenched market sector can hope to go. Add to that this problem of a business model
A version of the following article first appeared on The Hot Spring Network, on September 13, 2011.
whereby one consumes a finite fossil resource that cannot be reproduced, burning one’s assets as one goes, and you have a model that does not shape up favorably for the 21st
Saturation means more of a given ingredient cannot be added to a given volume or fabric of activity, without spilling over, and being wasted. The fossil fuels market is saturated, in the sense that it cannot effectively capitalize on major new production invest-
century. The S&P 500 are now sitting on over $1 trillion in accumulated cash reserves. This money could, and normally would, be
ment without major new construction of productive facilities. The industry has effectively pushed prices higher and cannot reduce them without seeing a dropoff in
invested in future economic development. But sclerosis in the top-heavy oil sector, a serious lack of capital in the hands of consumers, and the real vulnerability of banks and even
profits. Most people can no longer afford the fuel they used to consume.
governments, are all conspiring to hold that money back. Wise investors understand that when the marketplace for risk and investment fails, a rainy-day fund is the best
This raises the question of scalability. Scalability refers to the notion that as activity of a given kind expands, as the benefits and efficiencies of size, reinforced by growing market share, which means a greater ability to determine outcomes, an economy of scale
option. In stark contrast to the fossil fuels sector, the clean renewables sector:
arises: a thing begins to cost less per unit or per usage, because a scalable activity has made the unit or the usage cost less without reducing overall revenues.
• is far from saturated, • produces an ever-increasing rate of return for investors,
Scalability depends on many other features of the marketplace, however. One of these is the value of investment. Another is the availability of that investment. When a market has
• is primed to produce economies of scale, • can offer more jobs at better wages over a longer term, and • lends itself to accelerating efficiency gains.
already gone global, and is controlled by a handful of mega-conglomerates and governments, and is saturated, and is pricing reliant consumers out, investment slows down. In a
So, why are so many smart people still saying they favor the economics of oil? Two reasons:
1. They are invested in the fossil-burning-
can build in drivers of more generalized
for-profits model and so don’t accurately perceive the saturation problem;
prosperity, i.e. a restored and strengthened middle class, and accelerating returns in productive capacity.
2. They don’t understand the paradigm shift and so view clean energy not as a rapidly
The only way to achieve that is by building
expanding market but as a feeble one.
a smart-grid-based distributed clean renewable-energy market.
It’s not presumptuous to make these assertions about the anti-clean-energy crowd; it’s giving the benefit of the doubt to people who are not seeing the lay of the land as it is, but rather as they are accustomed to hoping it is. It is wishful thinking to hold that oil will always be king and no better option will replace it, wishful, that is, if you profit from oil’s dominance. The same with coal. We are running out of ways to extract coal cheaply without literally blowing mountains apart, wiping them off them map, which carries very significant costs. Coal is an 18thcentury technology not optimized for our 21st century needs. While employment from coal steadily declines, the risks and costs of its production mount, and coal-rich communities continue to experience chronic endemic poverty which the industry has been unable to solve. We are running out of easy access to oil; the remaining reserves are trapped in undeveloped remote wilderness, behind highrisk, low-yield extraction processes that require major new dirty energy infrastructure to be built. Their development will impede investment in and development of better, cleaner, more efficient alternatives. We can do much better. The fossil fuel saturation problem, known to states like Texas as an ongoing “energy emergency”, means we need to be actively searching not only for alternative fuels, but also for investment opportunities where we
appropriate price signal on the emissions of
The Case for a Carbon Tax: Getting Past Our Hang-ups to Eﬀective Climate Policy
greenhouse gases will unleash a competition among innovators to come up with the best and cheapest technologies to reduce emissions.
by Shi-Ling Hsu
Two: Economic efficiency. Not only do we want a competition among innovators and entrepreneurs finding ways to reduce emissions, economic efficiency demands that
The following is an author’s précis for the book, The Case for a Carbon Tax: Getting Past
there be a fair competition. Without a "fair" competition, it is not assured that the lowest cost reductions will prevail. For example, regulating under the Clean Air Act does not
Our Hang-ups to Effective Climate Policy, published by Island Press. The Case for a Carbon Tax sets out ten
set up a fair competition because in general, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been politically forced to regulate under the Clean Air Act mostly by making
reasons to favor a carbon tax over the alter native policies of (1) gover nment subsidies, (2) "command-and-control" style environmental regulation under the older
industries just do their best to reduce pollution. There is nothing fair about letting coal-fired power plants pollute just because they tried their putative “best” to reduce their
parts of the Clean Air Act, and (3) cap-andtrade. One: "Government is bad at picking winners, and losers are good at picking govern-
pollution. For years, the default regulatory option was to require that coal-fired power plants install scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Alternative means of
ments." The source of this famous saying is surprisingly hard to pinpoint. Its relevance to climate policy is hard to miss. When faced with a problem as large and daunting as
reducing emissions have emerged that suggest scrubbers are not particularly costeffective. Economic efficiency demands that the ultimate arbiter of environmental
climate change, there is a temptation to expect too much from governments. We demand that governments actually solve the problem, rather than create the conditions
performance be the market, and not the E.P.A.
under which a solution is found. In an era of endless political campaigns and promises, voters in democratic countries have gotten accustomed to the idea that government
Fundamentally, an economy facing 21st century challenges must sort industries, top to bottom, by carbon dioxide emissions. A carbon tax does this. Especially in an era of falling natural gas prices, many older, less efficient coal-fired power plants cannot
should play the role of "fixer." This is mistaken thinking. Innovation in technology to reduce green-house gas emissions is going to have to come from the private sector. Above
survive a competition in which carbon dioxide emissions are priced. This is precisely the kind of sorting that cannot be done efficiently by the Clean Air Act which, by commanding
all, innovation requires a price signal. The whole point of a price signal is that it does not pick a winner; it lets markets do that. An
and controlling, basically asks each industry
creates a broad, economy-wide price signal.
to try its best, with EPA's lenience and attentiveness doled out in rough proportion to each industry's political power. The simple genius of a carbon tax is that it aggregates
Greenhouse gas reduction opportunities are diverse, and the only way to tap into all of them is to have a broad price signal. Pricing greenhouse gas emissions into energy prices
disparate pieces of information throughout the economy, transmitting a price signal at every stage in which there is fossil fuel usage, and transmitting it in proportion to the
sends a price signal that ripples throughout the entire economy, scrambling every single business in a search for a lower carbon footprint in the hopes that it can gain a price
carbon emissions of the production process.
advantage over competitors.
Three: broader incentives to innovate. The Canadian province of British Columbia has in place a carbon tax of $30 per ton of carbon
Furthermore, because of the nature of regulating point sources of emissions, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under
dioxide. I was a resident of British Columbia during the five-year phase-in period for the B.C. carbon tax. In 2009, with the B.C. carbon tax barely a year old, I undertook a
the Clean Air Act can only be applied to a handful of facilities. Although this handful of facilities accounts for most of the greenhouse gas emissions, they are a small fraction of the
large home renovation to increase living space. What surprised me was that my contractor was very aware of the carbon tax, and was able to tell me in very specific dollar
number of facilities that emit. By regulating under the Clean Air Act, we miss the opportunity to tap into the entrepreneurial energies of that vast majority of emitting
terms what the carbon tax meant for my renovation project. He was thus able to explain how much shorter the payback periods were for energy-efficient options such
as high-efficiency furnaces and windows and doors, solar water heating, and combined water and space heating equipment. How did a construction contractor become such an
tion is inefficient and ineffective. The most fundamental flaw of regulating greenhouse gas emissions command-and-control style under the Clean Air Act is that the price
Four: Deeper and steadier incentives to innovate. Many have already made the argument that command-and-control regula-
expert on the effects of the carbon tax? He had become an expert on the carbon tax was that he already had clients like me who had inquired and demanded that he do the
signal favoring low-carbon or non-carbon alternatives is one generated by an administrative process, rather than a market process. I do not revisit those arguments. The
analysis. This would have been unlikely under other systems with a less clear price signal.
economists have won the debate, and almost everyone accepts that a price on carbon dioxide emissions is needed.
Incentivizing innovation will require a
While very limited government subsid-
broad price signal that ripples throughout the economy in order to take advantage of as many greenhouse gas reduction opportunities as possible. The strength of a carbon tax is it
ization of some research and development of renewable and alternative technologies may be warranted. But the most relevant choice is
between cap-and-trade and a carbon tax.
Five: carbon taxes do not subsidize the
Cap-and-trade is an instrument whereby an overall limit, or "cap," is set on total national emissions, and emitters can trade amongst themselves in mostly un-regulated market
formation of capital. People seem to think that capital in the form of buildings, facilities, and structures is an unambiguously good thing. Most economists believe that capital
transactions to allocate those emissions. Although cap-and-trade and carbon taxes both encourage innovation to r educe emissions, the two are not equal in their
accounts for the difference in wealth between developed countries and under-developed countries. But capital has a downside: when we discover that there is something harmful
ability to induce innovation. There are at least three ways in which a carbon tax will better encourage innovation than a cap-andtrade program. First, a carbon tax introduces
or inefficient about the expensive capital we have acquired, it can be very difficult to get rid of that capital.
a steadier price signal than cap-and-trade. Cap-and-trade sets the quantity of emissions, but lets the price fluctuate according to market demand. Investors interested in
should have clued us in to this problem with capital. One reason that addressing climate change is so difficult is because the world has trillions of dollars' worth of coal-fired power
The whole problem of climate change
lower -carbon or non-carbon alternatives would rather not have price volatility. Second, if a cap-and-trade program is successful in encouraging innovation in greenhouse gas-
plants that cannot be simply unplugged overnight and replaced with other energy sources. How did this happen? The line of thinking that led to the accumulation of
reducing technologies, the ironic effect is that this innovation will reduce the price of emissions permits and thereby reduce the price incentive to innovate. A carbon tax, by
excess capital went something like this: cheap electricity is an unambiguously good thing, because it lowers production costs and generally makes life better for the general
contrast, represents a continuing price signal to find lower-carbon alternatives. Finally, if a cap-and-trade program gives away emissions permits instead of auctioning themâ€”which
populace. But cheap electricity requires expensive capital, and so government assistance to help form this capital must be a good thing, too. Coal for electricity generation
history suggests politicians would much preferâ€”then emitters with these free permits will have less incentive to innovate because in-novation would reduce the value of those
has thus always been heavily subsidized, enjoying numerous tax benefits. The sale of coal itself can be eligible for taxation at a lower rate or may be deducted from income
emission permits. The free allocation of allowances creates an asset in the hands of emitters, something that does not happen under a tax regime. The fact that innovation
under a favorable "percentage depletion" method, which allows a deduction that exceeds the value of the coal itself. This has all been in the name of cheap electricity, but
could reduce the value of that asset is a disincentive for those emitters to find costsaving innovations.
now we are stuck with all of this capital, and the owners of this capital will vigorously resist change that devalues their capital.
This specious line of thinking continues to
ministratively difficult. It turns out that cap-
haunt energy policy today, as we dream up even more ways to help the "right" technologies flourish, even those that maintain our coal-related physical capital. Un-
and-trade is also a headache. Whereas a carbon tax draws on existing tax collection procedures – such as those that already exist at the gasoline pump – cap-and-trade will
believably, the Internal Revenue Code even considers "refined coal"—coal that is treated to have lower emissions—eligible for the renewable energy production tax credit! Only
require the development of a new agency group to monitor emissions permit trades. In the United States, which has already enjoyed, at least by Washington standards, a fairly
a lawyer could find such an audacious interpretation of "renewable energy" plausible. A carbon tax is the only climate policy that does not subsidize the formation of
smooth set-up and execution of the sulfur dioxide cap-and-trade program, the costs of setting up a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program would be manageable, but non-
trivial. A Congressional Budget Office report estimated that a 2007 cap-and-trade bill that passed the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works would cost about
Six: Respect for federalism. A carbon tax is the one climate instrument that allows individual states to truly pursue climate policy without interference government. There was a Congress and a handful of those that were part of the
$1.7 billion from 2009 to 2013 to implement, including the cost of hiring up to 400 new employees. This is not a lot of money for the federal government, but the United States is a
from the federal time when both Western states— "Western Climate
wealthy country with an agency with experience in conducting cap-and-trade programs. Not only would some countries find a billion-dollar-plus price tag more
Initiative"—were pursuing cap-and-trade programs in parallel. Cap-and-trade legislation died on Capitol Hill, and all of the states except California dropped out of the
challenging, some would find the set-up considerably more complicated. Several cases of online thievery have cast some doubt on the ability of even developed countries to
Western Climate Initiative. But for a time, there was some talk of how the two cap-andtrade programs were going to be reconciled. Why bother? Why not let states determine
maintain market integrity for emissions permits. By contrast, a carbon tax looks administratively very much like the kinds of sales taxes that even under -developed
for themselves if and how zealously they wish to pursue climate policy? A carbon tax is the one instrument that can be applied at the state or federal level, or at both levels.
countries are able to implement. A program which has fewer administrative problems can be implemented more quickly, thereby addressing the problem of climate change
Furthermore, a properly-designed carbon tax is compatible with other methods of greenhouse gas control. Seven: Carbon taxes are administratively
simpler. We have already dismissed Clean Air Act regulation as poor climate policy. Command-and-control regulation is ad-
Eight: revenue raising. Even smallgovernment libertarians would have to concede that if the revenues from a carbon
tax were truly returned to taxpayers, taxing
a global carbon tax, insofar as it really looks
greenhouse gas emissions is better than taxing labor. In the United States, a carbon tax of $30 per ton would generate $145 billion in annual revenue, which could
more like international treaties that have been successfully negotiated in the pastâ€”in which signatories all agree to do the same thingâ€”is a policy that is more likely than
finance a ten percent cut in personal and corporate income taxes, and then some. How does an income tax cut sound to conservatives? Even if this is not pursued, cash-
Kyoto to gain the kind of international agreement that will be needed to actually solve the climate policy problem. No one disputes that in order for greenhouse gas
strapped governments at many levels could no doubt usefully restore funding to primary education, health care, policing, infrastructure, and other pressing needs that have
emissions to be reduced, global cooperation is required. A carbon tax stands a better chance of achieving this than the alternatives.
been deferred, or redistribute carbon tax revenues only to the poorest individuals and households, thereby preventing the carbon tax from being regressive.
world's most vibrant economies are fossil fuel-powered. So fundamental is fossil fuel combustion to economic health that it will take a long time, and much willpower, to
Nine: international coordination. Almost every international treaty has sought to oblige signatories to abide in a certain common code of behavior. The Kyoto Protocol is an
sufficiently wean economies off of fossil fuels. A widespread and sustained effort to accomplish this is like dieting: as anyone who has ever been on a diet could tell you, it will
exception. By acknowledging "common but differentiated responsibilities," the Kyoto Protocol sets out a schedule by which developed countries must reduce their
take long-term resolution and commitment. Dieters will also be able to tell you that some days are better than others, but long-term habits are more important. A consistent
emissions but developing countries do not. The hope was that if the developed countries took the first step, developing countries would follow. This hope has failed spec-
carbon tax, annually adjusted for inflation, represents a long-term commitment. It is superior to cap-and-trade because a cap remains fixed no matter what happens in a
given year (cap-and-trade programs may allow permit "banking" and "borrowing" across years, but that would only imperfectly simulate the flexibility offered by a carbon
Ten: Economic efficiency, again. The
The plain reality is that China and India will not, in any time frame that could avoid climate change, consider quantitative limits
tax). In economic downtimes, carbon dioxide emissions fall; in those years having a "loose" cap is a missed opportunity to reduce emissions even more, and perhaps develop
on emissions as required by the cap-andtrade programs that the Kyoto Protocol seemed to contemplate. China and India are likely to be more open, however, to a global
some lower-carbon "habits." Carbon dioxide emissions in Europe and in the United States dropped precipitously in 2009, enough to push these Kyoto signatories startlingly far
carbon tax. For one thing, governments get to keep the proceeds from a carbon tax, so that it does not smack of an externally imposed mandate that intrudes onto sovereignty. Also,
towards meeting their Kyoto commitments.
ventional wisdom we must debunk is that we
Such a time of depressed asset prices would have been an excellent time to invest in emissions reductions, but only a carbon tax would have incentivized those investments,
can get something for nothing. This is the hidden strategy for politicians that advocate for broad government subsidies, commandand-control regulation ("punishing the pol-
luter," eliding the fact that energy costs often get passed on to consumers), and to some extent cap-and-trade. There must be honest and realistic talk about the increased energy
What a carbon tax does, which cap-andtrade and other alternatives do not, is to keep up a consistent and persistent price signal. In a year like 2009, the economic slowdown would have destroyed all price incentives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That would have been a year of missed opportunities to
prices that everyone must pay, as well as the economic and social consequences of failure to act. The case must be also laid out for how a carbon tax is the instrument that minimizes
lock in some progress. Economic efficiency demands that the opportunities to reduce emissions be taken not just at the places where emissions reductions are the cheapest,
that cost and minimizes governmental interference. Some are also concerned that carbon taxes are regressive, because raising energy
but also when they are cheapest. A carbon tax allows that to happen, whereas a capand-trade program robotically demands the same amount of emissions reduction, year
and transportation costs would disproportionately hurt poorer households, for whom energy and transportation costs are a larger fraction of their budget. But recycling
after year, no matter what the economic circumstances. This is not economically efficient.
the revenues from a carbon tax can fix this. A redistribution of just a fraction of carbon tax revenues can make poor households whole. Moreover, even without such a revenue
Those are ten reasons for conservatives to
distribution targeting poor households, a carbon tax would be, on the grand scale of things, one of the smallest insults visited upon the poorest Americans.
favor a carbon tax. So why are carbon taxes so politically unpopular? One reason is that we seem to have a political allergy to anything with the
Reducing greenhouse gases will require significant changes in the way that we generate and consume electricity. Governments are not very good at orchestrating
word "tax" in it. In fact, some research suggests that if we were to label this policy a "fee," people might be less likely to oppose it. But euphemizing is not the answer. The
these kinds of changes. Private enterprises like Microsoft, Google, and Apple Computer are very good at changing large-scale behavior very quickly. Given that some very
answer is to persist in making the plainspoken argument that if emissions reductions are required, it will cost money. Carbon taxes are the least costly way of achieving
quick and large-scale ramp-up in renewable energy technologies is needed, the way to support renewable energy is to tax all things carbon, not try to subsidize things non-
emissions reductions. Politicians talking down to the electorate only reinforce dumb conventional "wisdoms." The dumb con-
carbon. Ultimately, trying to subsidize,
mandate, or otherwise prop up all things non-carbon has this pushing-on-a-string futility.
Shi-Ling Hsu is Professor at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law. He has served as Associate Professor at the George Washington University Law School, Senior
Fortunately, opposition to carbon taxes is a mile wide but an inch deep. Resistance to carbon taxes are based on broad but superficial misperceptions which can be broken down with persistent, simple, plain-
Attorney and Economist for the Environmental Law Institute and Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco.
spoken messaging. The message that needs to be conveyed is that all plans for reducing emissions will cost money. Even if some policies to reduce emissions do not obviously cost money, ultimately people pay, be it as taxpayer, automobile owner, electricity user, or just a consumer of goods in a fossil-fuelpowered economy. A "tax" only sounds worse than everything else. In reality, a carbon tax is the least costly way of reducing emissions, especially when the revenues are recycled back into the economy. A carbon tax offers the most opportunities to reduce emissions, giving society the chance to choose from the widest variety of ways to reduce emissions, and to choose the least costly ones. Finally, a carbon tax is something that can be easily and quickly deployed, because it can be implemented much like a sales tax, making it feasible for almost any country or any state or province. A carbon tax is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
country.” My grassy lawn with well-attended
How Driving an Electric Car Freed Me
bird-feeders seemed a wilderness, and an unimproved lot next door, overgrown with pine trees, looked like a virgin forest.
by Ellie Whitney
Not until I was 50, with my children launched on their own lives, did I take a real vacation: I made a trip to a Costa Rican rainforest with a team of adventurous biologists. For two weeks we spent our days
Electric cars have changed radically since 1995, when I began driving my “E-car.” This article is not intended to show the features of electric cars today, but to illustrate the attitudes of mind and spirit that lead people to make major lifestyle changes for the benefit of
out-of-doors, walking steep trails among towering, vine-clad trees amongst the sounds and signs of thousands of species of plants and animals. By the time we returned to the
the environment. - E.W.
United States after only a little more than two weeks, I had a new, deep appreciation of the truly natural world and a desire to help preserve it.
During the decade prior to the year 2000, I became eager to change my way of life. I had been a typical American consumer, with all the luxuries that middle-class citizens enjoyed. A single, working mom, I hadn’t taken time to learn much about the effects
The awareness that arose from that trip has never left me. L a t e r, I a t t e n d e d a n i n t e r n a t i o n a l conference on rainforest ecosystems and had
my purchasing, using, and disposal habits might be exerting on the world around me. My three children and full-time job teaching at Florida State had occupied all of my
the opportunity to put my question to an expert. “I’m just a mom, not an expert,” I told him. What can I do to help preserve the world’s rainforests?”
My disappointment in his response was almost comical. Hoping to be told I should live in a tent in a beautiful wilderness, and follow some exotic bird around to learn its habits, I was thrown on my heels when he replied, “Help teach American consumers to change their lifestyles.” But I could see his point. We Americans are the most gobbly consumers in the world: we use so much energy and emit such volumes of heattrapping gases that we are accelerating the disruption of the climate and inflicting
Power for the car came from 24 deep-cycle batteries: 8 under the hood, 8 under the rear seat, 8 under the trunk.
I had lived in cities for most of my life— New York, Boston, Tokyo, St. Louis—and when in 1974 I moved to a suburb outside
consequences on all civilizations and ecosystems of the world. That needs to change.
Tallahassee, Florida, I thought of it as “the
So I resolved to help in the way this expert
coal, but it still emits carbon dioxide when
recommended, whatever it might cost me in effort and personal energy. I decided to leap into the 21st century as an all-green citizen, with a solar home, an electric car, and zero
burned.) I intended to demonstrate, if true, that the time for this kind of change had arrived—that ordinary people like me could make this choice without paying too high a
trash, only recycling.
To this end, I began conducting a sort of lifestyle experiment. My object was twofold: to see how lightly I could live on the earth, and
I found such a car, custom-made, through my friend Al Simpler, of Shelby Motors in Tallahassee. The maker, Wilde EVolutions of
to try to attract other consumers into the same ways of life by showing that they were not burdensome but exciting and fun. I asked for the privilege of writing weekly columns in
Arizona, bought a Taurus body, installed the necessary electric innards, and delivered it to me within eight weeks.
the local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. The paper was happy to take me on, and promptly named me “The Everyday Environmentalist.” My columns began to appear on the 20th birthday of Earth Day, in April, 1994 and ran for six years. From the start, I promised readers that I would try to make changes in every aspect of my life from the ways I bought things to the ways I used and disposed of them. I pledged that I would report only on changes I, myself, had made—a project in
The E-car looked like any other car.
The price was higher that I’d ever paid for a car—$25,000, but there was no 7-percent sales tax on the car and I got a 10-percent rebate on my income tax. The net price of the
which my bemused husband cooperated fully. It did turn out to be fun, doing all this. And nothing was more exciting than my purchase and use of an electric car.
car, then, was $25,000 minus $1,750 minus $2,500, or $20,250 total, plus $1,000 shipping. I thought such a price might be acceptable to other drivers who, like me,
I did some research to find a car that would be affordable, practical and safe. It had to be reliable and repairable by ordinary nearby garages at a reasonable price and I
wanted to make their life choices more green. Tongue in cheek, I told readers: I stopped for gas last week for the last time. Nostalgically, I bent over the gas cap and inhaled deeply.
had to be comfortable and confident driving it. In return for those features, I vowed I would be willing to face some obstacles, if necessary. My reward would be the privilege
“I’ll miss this,” I thought wistfully. “No more stops at gas stations. No more exhaust fumes. No more rumbling engine, no spark plugs, no muffler, no carburetor—how will I live without these things?”
of driving more freely while producing less global-warming gas than I had ever done before. (Our city electricity was generated from natural gas, which is less polluting than
Nonsense. I thought nothing of the kind.
Soon Al pronounced me fit to drive and left me with my new vehicle plugged in and charging in the carport.
My friend Al delivered the car on July 7. It looked like a big monster to me after the little Geo I’ve been driving for five years. I told readers:
The change already felt momentous. I had both large thoughts (“Is this the beginning of a new millennium for everyone?”) and small ones (“I wonder how fast it will charge?”).
It’s a four-door, gleaming white Taurus with air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, electric windows—the works.
Change, even beneficial change, is stressful.
This car is serious. It wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with the standard Detroit cars. It wants to take its place in the Big Time.
I told readers: In the morning, the meter on the dashboard reported that the battery was full. Still, I hesitated long before heading for the store. I feared that something wouldn’t work, and that I wouldn’t know what to do about it.
“Do I really need all this?” I wondered. Vice President Al Gore’s comment echoed somewhere inside me, “Isn’t it ridiculous that each person must go from place to place surrounded by 3,000 pounds of steel?”
Finally I told myself, “Well, you can always get it towed. You’ve done that with gaspowered cars, remember?” I desperately wanted nothing to go wrong.
Another voice answered, “Yes, but that’s what our society demands we do. We have to travel major roads, even to get to our food.” Given that reality, maybe this was a good thing.
Nothing did. I drove to the store and parked as I always have. Then as I walked the aisles picking out cereals, breads and juices, I found myself holding my breath. “Nobody’s looking at me!” I thought. “You’d think they’d notice this creature from another planet (century?) shopping in this store.” But what was there to see? Nor did the bagger notice when he put the bags in the truck. I breathed a little easier. I’m home again. The car is charging again. I can do this. It isn’t all that different. Yet something big has happened and my world is not the same.
The E-car was powered by a small, very efficient and powerful airplane engine.
I drove the E-car exclusively for more than
My first drive, taken with Al, was a surprise:
five years. I learned that its range on a full charge was about 50 miles, exactly the distance to a house at the coast where I stayed on weekends. To make sure not to run
Al instructed me, “Just turn the key, as in a regular car.” I did. Nothing happened. “It’s on,” he said. I found it unnerving, not to know when the car was “on.”
out of “juice,” I stopped halfway there at Posey’s Restaurant to eat. They freely let me use their outside outlet so that I could gain 10 extra amp-hours in case of need. I paid 25
“Now turn on the air conditioner,” said Simpler. I did, and cool air flowed over me immediately, together with the sound of the fan. That was nice.
cents for this, which more than covered their cost.
Then we glided away, shifting gears, accelerating and braking as in a “regular” car.
Elsewhere, if I was running low on energy, I asked grocery stores or convenience stores to let me plug in for a while. Everyone was delighted to help me, and fascinated by the car. The only place I was ever refused a charge was at a gas station. “We don’t do that,” they said.
change can take place without hurting American wallets if Congress puts in place a carbon fee-and-dividend system such as the “Save Our Climate Act,” H.R. 3242, which is now awaiting action in the U.S. House of Representatives. We would benefit militarily, economically, environmentally, and especially because we would have a planetary future to look forward to.
But I seldom ran low enough on power to need a charge away from home. And since I charged the car at night when electricity rates were lowest, I figured that I was paying an amazingly low rate for my “gas”—about 3 cents a mile for city driving; 2 cents for driving on the highway. Five years after I bought the E-car, many changes took place in my personal life. First my parents, then my husband died, and I no longer wanted to live in solitude in a country home. I took a small apartment in the city where I could not house the car, so I donated it to a department at Florida A&M University where students were studying alternative transportation. I resumed driving a gaspowered, fuel-efficient car, a Toyota Camry.
On finding the electrical outlet under the gas cap, admirers would almost invariably say, “Cool!”
What a come-down. Within two weeks after buying the Camry, I ran out of gas on the road. I’d forgotten about having to refill the tank. Later, in gas stations, I had to learn to operate the fuel pumps, which were equipped with charge-card slots I had never seen before.
The Author Ellie Whitney grew up in New York City and earned her bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and her doctorate in biology at Washington University, St. Louis. She lived in Tallahassee, Florida for 35 years until retirement, living in a solar home and driving an all-electric car. Besides writing many college textbooks on nutrition, health, and the environment, she wrote weekly columns as the Tallahassee Democrat’s “Everyday Environmentalist,” helping citizens learn to live lightly on the Earth. She has followed climate change trends for more than 30 years and now volunteers for the Citizens Climate Lobby.
Later still, I retired. I have moved to New Jersey to be near my daughter’s family, and I drive a Toyota Prius, which averages 50 miles to the gallon of gas. But I still dream of having an all-electric car in a world where there will be charging meters everywhere—in supermarkets, malls, restaurants and workplaces will have charging meters. I also hope that gasoline prices will rise steeply—in concert with a rapid decline in the prices of clean energy resources. Such a
It is not the policy of the Hot Spring Network or the Hot Spring î śuarterly to endorse political candidates. Neither project has a partisan or ideological bias. But we would like to highlight the following message, by the following independent candidate for US Senate, because his project is so much like ours: he not only seeks to promote signiďŹ cant change, through the legislation and the public service he commits himself to; he seeks to promote change through citizenship and personal engagement. î‚Šese are part of what it means to be involved in Deep Green economics: promoting mutual thriving sustainably, through all of our actions, policies and pursuits.
A MESSAGE FROM INDEPENDENT SENATE CANDIDATE BILL BARRON
My name is Bill Barron. I am an unaﬃliated candidate seeking to represent Utah in the United States Senate. I am focused on the most urgent issue of our time, human-caused climate change. We face a critical moment in our history, where our action or inaction will dictate what our children and future generations after them will face. It is time to unite as human beings and acknowledge the implications on our natural world if we continue burning fossil fuels at the rate we are today. There is a direct and transparent solution to this issue, which would provide benefits to our air and water quality, human health, our economy and the creation of much needed jobs. It is called carbon fee and dividend. This legislative proposal would place a steadily increasing fee on carbon emissions at the source -at the mine, well or port of entry - with 100% of the revenue returned to households. This fee on carbon would account for the externalized costs of burning fossil fuels, with the revenue returned equitably to American households as a dividend check. This type of legislation would drive a smooth, nationwide transition to clean and renewable energy. It would: accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels, improve our air and water quality, while reducing health care costs, provide the incentive for our economy to grow toward innovation, ingenuity, and eﬃciency, and would not increase the size of the government. I am compelled to run for US Senate because the time to be eﬀective is now! Climate change is happening and scientists confirm that we are a major cause. We can address this issue with a federal legislative solution that matches the scale of the problem. I ask you to engage in the political process as individuals and let’s create the political will for a future that aﬃrms the best interests of our children and coming generations. This is a moral and ethical issue, not a political one. Our country is facing many challenges, but when it comes right down to it, if we don’t address human-caused climate change, all other issues will pale in comparison. Bill Barron is running as an independent for U.S. Senate in 2012. Bill is forty-five years old and proud father of a 9 year old daughter; a carpenter and ski patroller at Alta who believes that there needs to be a political revolution dedicated to the urgency to address climate change on behalf of the earth and for the sake of future generations. To learn more about Bill Barron, visit BarronforUSSenate.com
A paradigm is the predominant way of dealing with the shape and the nature of reality, and represents the consensus of human consciousness within a given scope of thought, skill or inquiry. A paradigm shift is a moment in which the entire edifice of presumed meaning is altered, simultaneously, because the shape of the universe itself, with respect to the point in question, has been discovered to be different. New insights flow from a paradigm shift instantaneously, and what was previously not understood to be possible becomes not only possible, but the focus of inquiry. The Internet constitutes a paradigm-shift in human communication, for instance. How we envision our relationship to people around the world is, with the Internet, fundamentally altered. The paradigm shift allows us to solve problems we could not otherwise envision a way to solve. The Hot Spring Network is committed to â€œhunting the paradigm shiftâ€? through collaborative inquiry, creative critical thinking and technological invention.
Cnut the Great & a Vision for Mitigating Climate Change: What About Tomorrow?
throne by the sea shore and commanded the
by Jan Dash, PhD
backwards, saying: 'Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal
tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. Yet continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt
This essay was originally prepared as a talk to be given by Dr. Dash, in an effort to educate the public and policy-makers about the truth, regarding the ongoing process of global climate destabilization, and how our use of energy relates to the crisis, and to the solutions. This version was produced by the author in August, 2012.
laws.' “ If Cnut were alive today I believe that he would be working to achieve Positive Vision #1. One thousand years later in 2012, ignoring Cnut and the laws of climate science physics, the legislature of North Carolina passed a law forbidding consideration of scientifically projected sea level rise. In contrast, the U.S.
Here are two contrasting future climate visions. Imagine this. In Positive Vision #1 we act vigorously to mitigate climate change. Our country is thriving on renewable, clean
Navy runs scenarios for a rise of 3 to 6 feet in sea level by 2100. If future higher sea levels accompanied by extreme weather events devastate the North Carolina coast, the folly
energy while everyone’s life and health is improved in a sustainable economy. On the other hand, in Business as Usual Vision #2 we do not act vigorously to mitigate climate
of its legislators will be apparent.
change. We are dependent on fossil fuels increasing global warming, and which are moreover increasingly difficult to extract, blowing up mountaintops and building
But North Carolina is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the Republican Party, in lockstep, now ignores the best mainstream scientific evidence on climate. This includes John McCain, who once sponsored climate legislation. Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, right-wing commentators and
dangerous pipelines. What are the consequences of these two visions for climate and why should we care? I like to use this metaphor: The world is like a car stalled on
politicians bark an incessant and unprecedented attack on climate science, distorting or denying the science and misinforming the public. Consumers of this
the train track, and the climate train is barreling down on us. It is close and it is fast. Business As Usual Vision #2 says let’s deny there is a problem at all. Let’s just sit there.
disinformation can repeat fallacious contrarian talking points without even being aware of the facts of mainstream climate science. Even some brilliant people are
Instead, I say: let’s follow Positive Vision #1 and move the car. Cnut the Great was once king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of
Sweden. Cnut was reported “to have set his
Some climate scientists are attacked by the
We need Positive Vision #1, acting to
right wing and subjected to investigations. Some scientists have received emails from people inflamed by right wing disinformation containing thinly veiled death threats.
mitigate the climate problem.
Efforts to deal with the change, from renewable servation efforts, are also right wing. Subsidies for
exists. It is scientifically clear that this global warming is mostly due to humans consuming fossil fuels. It is scientifically clear that the impacts of global warming and climate
So what is the climate problem? It is scientifically clear that the global warming trend of climate change since 1975
risks of climate energy to conattacked by the fossil fuels are
welcomed. While direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels (including public roads) are huge, any subsidies for renewable energy are attacked.
change are starting to be observed now, will be increasingly serious if we do not act sufficiently, and will be overwhelmingly negative.
These attacks are backed by the fossil fuel industry, whose profits are threatened and who I believe are afraid of being accused of climate change liability, plus libertarian think
Climate change is the biggest ethical and moral problem of our times. It is also the biggest survivability problem of our times. The climate problem is humanity's problem.
tanks that dislike government action. One of the worst of these is the Heartland Institute, which defends smoking. This is actually not surprising, since the same tactics and some
Letâ€™s start with the Business as Usual Vision #2, where we do not take action. In the metaphor, these people deny the climate train even exists. Their denial and hostility leaves
of the same people railing against climate science previously tried to cast doubt on the science that exposed harmful effects of smoking.
the car on the train tracks. What are the consequences as described by mainstream research? The poorest and weakest, those who did
These people oppose Positive Vision #1. They deny the climate problem exists. They deny the findings of mainstream climate science. They cling to Vision #2, Business as
the least to cause the climate problem, will be those who will suffer the most. However we all will be severely affected, including right here in the United States. There will be no
safe haven and no place to hide.
Five years ago the International Panel on Climate Change or IPCC and Al Gore shared a Nobel Prize for work on climate change. The
Our grandchildren and other future generations not yet born, who did nothing to cause the climate problem, will be those who
discussion then was on actionâ€”attempts to mitigate and when necessary adapt to climate change. That is where the discussion should be now. We cannot allow the disinformation
will suffer the most. Is saying this, as the right wing puts it, being alarmist? I certainly hope so. I want people to be alarmed. There is good reason to
campaign to derail us.
be alarmed. As a former physics professor
• Crops will increasingly wither and die under
and a current risk manager, I feel responsible for telling as many people who will listen about the dangers and risks of climate change, and urge people to stand up and act
the expected increasing drought and heat, plus insects—responding to warmer temperatures—invading from the south. Ocean acidification resulting from absorbed carbon
on climate change.
dioxide will increasingly threaten the ocean food chain from algae to fish. Food shortages will become common worldwide.
The U.S. Defense Department certainly seems alarmed, deeming climate change a US national security threat in its 2010
• Most glaciers and snow packs, along with
Quadrennial Defense Review. Reports from reputable sources—laboratories and universities—come in every week regarding some alarming aspect of the impacts of climate
many aquifers and fresh water sources, on which billions depend, will decrease, implying massive water shortages.
• Wars over food and water will increase,
change that will increasingly affect us and our children and our grandchildren.
• From the medical journal Lancet: "Climate
In fact I am here speaking to you today because of my grandson. What will climate
change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects of climate change
change bring for him and for his children and grandchildren who will see the year 2100, if not enough mitigation action occurs? What about children you know and their children?
on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk."
I am alarmed at the prospects. Will they be hungry? Thirsty? Safe? Will unmitigated climate change bring disasters that will hurt them?
• Most cities near the sea will suf fer infrastructure damage, and mass climate migrations in the millions are expected to occur from those displaced, destabilizing
Of course there have always been disasters due to natural causes. But global warming and climate change make natural problems worse. The effects of global warming and
• Animal and plant extinctions will be unprecedented since the asteroid killed off the dinosaurs, threatening the balance of
climate change are being observed now. However, today’s impacts due to climate change are only a faint rumbling of the alarming impacts expected in the future.
nature and the interdependent web, on which we all depend.
• Extreme weather events will increase in impact. Hurricanes will become more
Climate disinformers minimize or ignore climate risk. But here is what reliable sources say that climate change will increasingly do if we do not mitigate sufficiently:
intense. Extreme fires will become more common. Extreme heat waves will become more common. Extreme droughts will become more common. Today’s extreme
weather event will be tomorrow’s average
The consequences of not performing
robust risk management are much more serious for climate than for finance, but the basic idea is the same.
• Some governments will face destabilization with likely losses of civil liberties. Terrorism will increase.
Dealing with risk, the analog of buying insurance, costs money. Not dealing with risk but being hit with the consequences is short sighted and can cost much more money. Ignoring the eventual costs of climate change
• One more thing. I have been doing finance risk management professionally for 25 years. It is my opinion that the inherent fragility of economic and financial systems
is unwise. Not dealing with risk will increase human suffering.
with the added pressure from impacts of climate change may collapse these systems worldwide and completely.
It is important to know that there is no silver bullet to resolve the climate problem.
What about Positive Vision #1, where we act
We will need a portfolio of risk management actions in mitigation and adaptation. Climate deniers maximize climate mitigation cost estimates. However a lot of ef fective
vigorously to mitigate climate change and adapt to it when necessary? In this vision we move the car out of the way of the speeding climate train. In Positive Vision #1 the worst
mitigation can be done without much economic hardship, and opportunities will abound for new paradigms in energy and efficiency, provided we start seriously doing
dangers of climate change are alleviated. In this vision the goals we care about and the principles we have become possible to achieve. This is the vision we want.
mitigation now. Action to develop renewable energy provides jobs and could help improve the economy besides eventually replace fossil fuels, pr oviding a power ful for ce for
The best framework for acting on climate change is risk management. We deal with a variety of risks every day and we hedge against risk, using insurance for example.
mitigating global warming. Some positive action is now underway. This is good. It is not enough.
Positive Vision #1 is a risk management vision. The Business as Usual Vision #2 does not want to understand climate risk management.
What part can we play to help achieve Positive Vision #1? Many of us are concerned with social justice issues. But no issue can have a long-term solution without parallel consideration of a solution to climate change.
As a finance risk manager, I am very familiar with people who follow Business as Usual Vision #2. These include shortsighted traders who scorn serious risk management
• Consider immigration. Studies show that
and who regularly blow up. The last one to receive notoriety was the London Whale at JP Morgan who recently lost billions of dollars; the exact amount is not known.
Mexico and South America will be devastatingly impacted by climate change, implying millions more immigrants coming into the US.
• If your issue is water rights, think of the
Support research on new energies, including
effect of a bad drought, prolonged by climate change, on thirsty people, on a thirsty child.
advanced biofuels (not ethanol), and including fusion energy. Support the Environmental Protection Agency EPA in its carbon regulation efforts under the Clean Air
• If you are working on women's rights,
Act. Support politicians who act on climate. Support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. Support technology transfer to other countries for renewable
consider that climate change is expected to impact women and children the hardest.
• If you are working with hungry people, imagine the increase in distress when food
energy so all can develop in a sustainable fashion. Support the process to develop and ratify a long-term fair and binding international climate treaty. Help create the
prices go through the roof as climatechange-enhanced drought decimates crops in the US Midwest. Climate change should be on everybody’s
political will for a livable climate.
Financial support of institutions active in mitigating climate and financial support of climate action projects would be a powerful
Here are some concrete suggestions from which to choose to increase your participation. Form Climate Action Teams.
Plan climate related events. Leverage from a letter to the editor on climate is large. Join with other groups active in climate, whether religious or social or political.
For those doing good work on other issues, think of integrating climate change into that work. Look through a climate lens. Understand how climate change affects your issue.
For example, the Citizen’s Climate Lobby is a focused group that is actively promoting a revenue-neutral carbon tax with refunds or dividends paid back to people, who come out
Some information sources are the UU-UNO Climate Portal (see flier), Skeptical Science.com (with one-liner responses to contrarian fallacies), and the Citizen’s Climate Lobby; the web addresses are in the hard copy of this talk, along with an appendix
ahead if they use less energy. Scientists (and there are many of you already infor med) can become better infor med on climate science and the
with information about contrarians. Prof. Michael Mann's great new book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” has details.
distracting pseudo-science disinformation campaign (for more details, see the appendix). You could be leaders in helping others to understand the climate issues.
An excellent resource is the Climate Science Rapid Response Team that has contacts with over 100 real climate scientists to provide reliable scientific information to media inquiries by journalists.
Here are more suggestions. Some cities have Green Teams; sign up. Support renewable energy projects. Support conservation projects. Support energy efficiency projects.
Whatâ€™s the bottom line? The dangers of
With few exceptions, climate deniers and
global warming and climate change are becoming more visible. We need to act on climate now with Positive Vision #1. It is late but itâ€™s not too late. We need to be optimistic.
right-wing denier media use pseudo scientific tricks, rather like prosecuting attorneys, grasping at straws. Many deniers practice the pseudoscience of scientific form without real
There is no alternative. In acting to mitigate climate change, we can make the world a better and safer place for us, for our fellow human beings, and for our descendants. We
content, what the famous physicist Richard Feynman called Cargo Cult Science. Common violations of scientific practice and scientific ethics by contrarians include unrepre-
all can help.
sentative cherry picking of data, demands of unattainable precision from mainstream science, advancing alternate conjectures for which the evidence is at best flimsy, pushing
YOU can help. Thank you.
irrelevant red herring assertions, falsely generalizing from isolated unrepresentative cases, ignoring contrary evidence, making bumbling mathematical errors, and
Appendix The climate contrarians / deniers / faux skeptics: What you need to know
misquoting mainstream science. One particularly ludicrous claim by contrarians is identifying themselves with Galileo. Contrarians generally do not admit mistakes. The
A few maverick climatologists, some scientists speaking out of their fields of expertise, and others with no credentials have politicized climate science, providing fodder for the
contrarian media concocts false accusations of climate science, of which contrarians themselves are guilty. The untrained public cannot tell the difference.
climate disinformation media machine. The fossil fuel industry, right-wing media, and libertarian think tanks often pay these people. One of the most colorful is
Selected stolen emails of climate scientists with no significance were quoted out of context and made into an industry of propaganda about the so-called and dis-
Christopher Monckton, who has a British accent but no scientific credentials at all, who gives talks for right-wing groups grotesquely distorting climate science, and who was an
credited "Climate gate"; numerous investigations concluded there was nothing actually wrong.
"expert witness" on climate for Congressional Republicans. Usually contrarian papers are low quality and are not published, or are published in obscure jour nals. Some
An error on one obscure page in the middle of 3,000 pages of three 2007 IPCC scientific reports was blown out of proportion and used to attack the whole IPCC institution and climate science itself.
published contrarian papers left a trail littered with abuse of peer review, editor resignations, and even plagiarism.
What about proof, uncertainty, and action? Climate deniers mischaracterize science by
demanding “proof". Actually, science never
Citizens Climate Lobby
“proves” anything. Science uses mathematics but science deals with the real world. There will always be some uncertainty about something. However uncertainty must not
imply inaction. We generally never demand "proof" before acting; otherwise we would never do anything. Indeed uncertainty implies risk. Risk management deals with un-
Jan Dash has a PhD in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley, and published over 50 papers in scientific jour nals. He was Directeur de Recherche at the Centre de Physique Théorique CNRS in Marseille, France. He is currently Visiting Research
certainty. After all, things can, and often do, turn out much worse than expected. Climate deniers minimize climate risk and in the same breath overemphasize uncertainty. The
Scholar at Fordham University and Adjunct Professor at the Courant Institute NYU. Jan is the UU-UNO Climate Initiative Chair and Managing Editor of their Climate Portal at
actual uncertainty is whether future climate impacts will be really bad or a disaster for civilization.
http://climate.uu-uno.org/. He is a Matchmaker for the Climate Science Rapid Response Team whose goal is to provide authoritative scientific answers to media
What about statistics and action? Technically, some attributions of climate impacts, to extreme weather for example, can only be statistically estimated. This does not mean the absence of danger and it does not
questions. Jan is the author of the popular “one-liner” responses to climate contrarian/ denier/faux-skeptic fallacies. He was the Editor of the Climate Statement Summary
mean we should not act. After all, negative effects of smoking are also statistically estimated, and we act against smoking. We can say more. Global warming increases the
and Recommendations to Governments of the UN Committee on Sustainable Development (Co-NGO, NY), delivered to leaders at the Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban Climate
probability for extreme weather generally for the simple reason that warming puts more energy into the weather system, making weather act like it’s on steroids.
Conferences. Relevant to the economic impacts of global warming, Jan has worked for 25 years in quantitative risk management at various financial institutions, and wrote a
book on the subject. UU-UNO Climate Portal www.climate.uu-uno.org
Note: The ideas expressed in this essay are those of the author, without implication of endorsement by any of the above institutions. I thank the many people who have helped me understand climate change and how to communicate the issues.
Skeptical Science http://www.skepticalscience.com/ argument.php
of the Secretary of Defense and the Center for
The Last Pack of Cigarettes
Naval Analysis on a “road show” in northern Europe to discuss issues of environmental and energy security with interested political, military and academic groups. Our meetings
by Capt. Wayne Porter, USN * * The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the official views or policy of the Department of Defense or the Naval Postgraduate School.
included discussions with German and European Union Parliamentarians and think tank representatives in Berlin, with civilian and military NATO and EU representatives in
At the beginning of this century, we Americans find ourselves at an inflection point in history, facing a complex and
Brussels, and with high-level, international participants in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Of fice-hosted “Climate Security in the 21st Century” conference at
uncertain strategic environment characterized by increasing market and cultural interdependence and competition for finite resources—energy, minerals, food, and water.
Lancaster House in London. More recently, I moderated the Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and Security in Boston at the University of Massachusetts. Secretary of the
This is a point Michael Klare stresses in his new book, The Race for What’s Left. But perhaps more significantly, I believe we are at a Darwinian moment for civilization, one that
Navy, Ray Mabus, accepted an award and delivered an inspiring address at this event. I found these events both encouraging and distressing.
is full of opportunity if we have the wherewithal and determination to seize it by adapting to our changing environment. In essence, we are outliving the usefulness of
In both the meetings in Europe and the discussions in Boston, I was encouraged by the level of concern expressed in the need to address the phenomena of environmental and
carbon-based fuels as an engine for the global economy, and we need to seek a more sustainable model of economic growth. It is as if we are breathlessly racing the rest of the
meteorological changes that are impacting our planet—perhaps not an unexpected perspective from this select group of participants. But I was also struck by the
world for the last pack of cigarettes, with little regard for the longer term consequences of t h a t a d d i c t i o n . A m e r i c a ’ s c o n t i n u e d credibility as a global leader hinges on our
apparent lack of awareness that climatological change and diminishing resources— through increasing fuel prices, failing agricultural policies, and water scarcity—
willingness to accept the challenge of creating a new model of prosperity and security in an interconnected world.
have already manifested themselves in virtually every aspect of our strategic environment, and that “climate change,” or perhaps more accurately, anthropogenic
A few months ago I was invited by the environmental group, E3G, in London, to accompany a small delegation from the Office
atmospheric and environmental change, is
only an effect of a larger problem, rather than
With strong and visionary leadership,
the cause of these manifestations.
Americans can prove the efficacy of the values and free market ideology upon which our nation was founded. I am proud of the supporting role the Department of Defense is
Finally, I was distressed by the apparent hyper-focus on security concerns and the threat they represent. Little regard was given,
playing in the pursuit of cleaner, sustainable sources of energy and energy efficiency. But this transformation cannot, and should not be, a military-led effort. The reinvigoration of
for example, to opportunities to address what many consider to be the underlying cause of these conditions and manifestations. Throughout the course of our history,
our economy and manufacturing base—as well as the awareness that fair competition can result in multiple winners, rather than a single winner and multiple losers—must
Americans have excelled across the spectrum of human endeavor through fair competition, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. But we should not lose sight that the key
confidently begin within our free system. We need to engage American in an honest dialogue that focuses challenges and opportunities of
ingredients of this legacy were hard work and self-confidence. In a world whose population may reach nine billion by 2050, we must demonstrate our exceptionalism by forging a
market citizens on the today’s
strategic environment and encourage them to generate a new, sustainable legacy of greatness.
path to sustainable economic growth and security. It’s time we retool the education and job training needed to create a new model of growth, one based on clean and
renewable (and reusable) resources: energy in addition to food, water and minerals. Darwin stressed the importance of adaptation and strength gained through competition. As a
Captain Wayne Porter, USN, was previously assigned to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, serving as a Special Assistant to ADM Mullen for Strategy and is currently serving as the Chair for Systemic Strategy and Comdplexity at Naval Postgraduate
species we need to evolve along with our environment. For those with vision, this represents an opportunity rather than a threat. For instance, why not explore the
School. CAPT Porter and Col Mark Mykleby, USMC (ret) are co-authors of “A National Strategic Narrative” released by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
development of industrial clusters in the United States to serve as centers for international investment and cooperation in leading edge technologies and manufacturing
For more information on the National Strategic Narrative, visit: www.nationalstrategicnarrative.org
associated with clean, renewable energy, sustainable agricultural and aquaculture development, scrap metal recycling, and water treatment and management? I am currently involved with a project in Salinas, California that is attempting to do just that.
The Future is Not Simplicity, but Complexity, Better Understood & Managed
“circuitry”, though it processes information
by Joseph Robertson
part of this, or is the result of this, but we can say almost nothing with certainty about how consciousness itself arises. We can describe what we witness, or what we think
through chemical processes that allow it to achieve many millions of times more computational capacity than even the most advanced neural networks. Consciousness is
A version of the following article first appeared on The Hot Spring Network, on November 12, 2008. It appears in this inaugural edition of The Hot Spring Quarterly to illustrate the essential idea that we can do better if we
we are witnessing, but we cannot replicate the process by which the conscious mind arises from the background noise of material, chemical and energetic interrelationship.
acknowledge the complex nature of lived experience, and then work together within the truth of our world to improve the outcomes most likely to occur at the human scale.
For many, the mystical or spiritual approach still yields the best explanation: a force more powerful than the sum of all things, a conscious creator, a God, an energy
Complexity is not an outlandish tendency of troubled souls and pretentious intellects, as so many who run from it like to make believe; it is the basic state of nature as we know it.
field that pervades and unites all other phenomena. Jean-Luc Marion calls it the saturated phenomenon: that reality so vast it could never be approached by human
The more we discover, the more certain we can be of this: even elemental particles are less solid than they seem, behaving like tightly bound arrangements of impenetrable,
understanding. That infinite vastness means the human intellect is quickly saturated and overwhelmed by all the lesser component phenomena. The human intellect is, then,
irreducible spherical bodies, they apparently achieve this physics by behaving like something they are not (now widely accepted in particle physics, “string theory” proposes
limited by time and mortality, by the laws of physics, which prevent simultaneous multifocal conscious presence—being in two places at once—and so cannot possibly acquire
that elemental particles are actually 2dimensional vibrating “strings” whose vibration causes them to interact as if they were not strings at all).
enough information to even initiate a viable definition of what lies beyond saturation. The mystical road to understanding complexity takes us, eventually, if we are
The human body is an astonishingly complex organism, programming with viral code (DNA) the arrangement, development and physical or chemical task assigned to
honest, to Marion’s problem of saturation. That said, we now understand that simple complexities abound, even within reach of our limited phenomenological potential: five
each cell, organ and extremity. The brain is so complex, we can only begin to grasp it as
senses feed into one consciousness, which also in optimal conditions absorbs infor-
mation through language, through text, by
moment’s straightjacket, that we evolve, not
way of human gestures, by fearing and desiring, getting distance from attention, by creating,
settings, emotions, by approaching or an object of its by dissecting, by
just as a species, but as individual spirits, to consume and to make contact with an everbroader range of information, not so we can be corrupted and post-modernized, but so we
appreciating or by competing with other realities. The depth of that “other reality”, the reality of the vast multiplicity of otherness, existing “out there”, but also deep within the
can better adapt to environmental factors, carry out the natural imperative of survival and procreation, and devote the power of our conscious attention to the vitally important
basic structure of our body, our physical existence, our chemical awareness of self, that complexity is the lifeblood of what makes being human more interesting to us than
human work of forestalling unnecessary depletion and unraveling of prized stabilities within a hotbed of relentless self-overturning.
being a mass of granite. In this light, complexity is really a fundamental truth for us all, and as such is increasingly a right of every conscious
wildering degree of complexity to remain dynamic, adaptable, resilient. The degree of elasticity in an ecosystem—its ability to absorb harmful interactions or infusions of
individual. We are entitled to experience, to seek to know, to indulge in and to express complexity, entitled because complexity is what the human life is made of. Simplicity, or
matter or energy—determines its “fitness” for survival in the wilds of geological changes over time. Climate variations and intrusive organisms can upend a seemingly balanced
the “simple life” as it is often called, a life away from the chaos of big cities, even the aesthetics of “clean edges” or a so-called minimalist style, are all complexities designed
and harmonious ecosystem suddenly, leading to disaster for its most habitat-dependent species; the degree of biodiversity, of foodweb complexity, of climate-elastic charac-
by the individual or by human surroundings, to indulge an aspect of our humanity that we prize above others. In the complex and intertwined human
teristics, determines the long-term viability of an ecosystem, and by extension the possibility for relative homeostasis in surrounding ecosystems or the broader
relationships that comprise today’s global village, in friendships that exist across far borders, as with diplomatic negotiations, we can find there is something deeper and more
natural environment. The degree of elasticity available in a given context also affects directly how human civilization is able to interact with the natural
true, more accurately applicable to the human element in that connection, in the contradictions, in the vast terrain of “gray area”, in the relational vortex that is neither
environment. Where exists—meaning only species of plant is agricultural economy
black-and-white nor non-negotiable. We find that one moment’s staple truth is another
sudden collapse, as happened in Ireland in the 19th century, due to its dependence on a
Natural ecosystems depend upon a be-
monoculture cropping one variety of a given cultivated—an entire can be in danger of
single variety of potato. All human activities
really is the truth of the physical universe
depend on the persistence of natural “services” that emerge from complex webs of relational phenomena—basically, for example: what happens to rainwater after it
than is simplicity.
hits the ground, how much is absorbed into the soil? or runs to the sea? what force does this give to river currents across a given region?
complexity and the work of living within it, or ignore it, build up superstitious complaints against its effects, and hope for the best. Technology has reached a level of complexity
Our choice is to understand that we must never stop inquiring, we must never claim there is nothing more to learn, and embrace
We cannot say that poverty is caused by ignorance or by negligence or by laziness. We cannot say that wealth is caused by knowledge or by perseverance or by merit.
such that most people could not fashion from scratch most of the basic tools they use to get through their everyday existence: this is a demonstration of complexity, both the virtue
There is no clear answer to such questions, because the relational data is so multifaceted, so layered, so many-threaded and intertwined, it is effectively impossible to make
of its vast efficacy and the difficulty of its dominion over us. The right approach to complexity is the thing we must pursue, not the means by which to erase it from our
singular declarative statements of universal truth that ably define all related circumstances. So we must travel to the frontiers of our awareness, and seek out the best and
newest information, the closest thing we can get to the actual experience of another point of view, and we must shape composite ideas, that play well in our own and in others’
scientist, the mystic, the politician or the poet, learns, if she is honest about what she is doing, is that there is no room for the false claim that reality abhors complicated or
The right approach is the one which allows us to deal, sustainably, with the actual fabric of aspiration and incident. What the
narratives, so that we can speak differently and imaginatively, without sacrificing precision or stumbling into untruth. Without this ability to work through the
complicating considerations: reality is made of complicated and complicating considerations. What the honest thinker, explorer, seeker of true and relevant ideas about the
complexities of plural-interest relationships, we cannot ably locate or respect the freedom of the other, which means in a world now globally interconnected, we cannot guarantee
shape of the universe must acknowledge is that to consider complexity is to begin to ask the right questions. From there, we can explore what otherwise appears to be, or to
our own. Science is demonstrating that, while elegant theories can be crafted to make universal statements of fact—E=mc2, for instance, or the idea that all matter is really
ask for, the very simple.
just astonishingly minuscule vibrating strings —complexity is better able to explain what
The Hubble Space Telescope’s Ultra Deep
Field survey—until this month the deepest observation into the far reaches of the universe (learn about the HXDF image at bit.ly/hubblexdf)—captured the light of
The Untiring Web of Influences Consciousness seeks to know the shape of the universe; reasoning is inherently
10,000 galaxies. The HUDF project was able to go deep enough to identify 10,000 galaxies by focusing on just a tiny sliver of the night sky. There is 12.7 million times more sky to
cosmological. Whether we approach the problem of all that we don’t know by way of Descartes’ admonition to first doubt of all things, insofar as is reasonable, or by way of
explore. This means the Hubble Ultra Deep Field survey revealed to us that there are over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. It would take over 1 million years,
Hume’s contiguity principle—that we can know what is beyond our experience by intuiting its relationship to something specific within our experience, we labor, sometimes
however, to observe them all, using the technology that got us this one astonishing image.
heroically, to form viable pictures of the universe as it must be.
The HUDF marked a paradigm shift in our understanding of the observable universe. It confirmed theories that had not yet been proven by observational data, and it revealed to us the unimaginable vastness, the crisis of experiential saturation that we face, when we seek to do that very thing which is most inherent to our conscious activity—seeking to know the shape of the universe, the nature of things, the truth behind what appears to be. The HUDF revealed not only galaxies and galaxy clusters, but vast star -forming regions, some bigger than galaxy clusters and thought to be concentrations of matter and energy that might differ greatly from the physics we know and experience here on Earth. It is difficult to know what piece of information from the HUDF, HXDF and future intergalactic observations, will provide the catalyst for world-changing scientific breakthroughs. The web of influences going to work, all the time, on the universe we inhabit is untiring and unswayed by factional
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field image (detail). For more information, go to bit.ly/hubbledeep
interest. We cannot urge it or believe it into
make much of the world favorable to human
being what we require. Natural systems seek stability, without giving evidence of a conscious plan to acquire it. Human systems give that evidence, but still contain flaws that
allow for unraveling. The stability of all that we plan and do and love depends remorselessly on the resiliency of natural life-support systems. We
relationship to the natural world, which includes the worst of our vices and inefficiencies. The coming paradigm shift relating to climate is not that global climate patterns can
are now challenging those life-support systems to survive our unknowing campaign of hyper-exploitation and flawed vision. We want what they offer, but we are not aware of
be destabilized; that one has come and gone, for most astute observers—those who define a paradigm. It is not that we must “do more with less”; efficiency of consumption, resilien-
its true value. Just this week, the Climate Vulnerable Forum, made up of 20 national governments, released a study it commissioned from the humanitarian organi-
cy and resource retention are also well understood. The paradigm shift that is coming is the double awareness that we have no choice—we must make sweeping changes
zation DARA. The DARA study found that by 2030, climate destabilization could kill 100 million people around the globe. While skeptics say climate predictions are “alar-
to the industrial infrastructure of the built environment—and that we are already fully equipped to make the transition affordably.
mist”, the DARA study deals simply with existing facts in evidence, and then looks at what they indicate about a future in which no action is taken.
paradigm shift, because—most importantly— we don’t know exactly what lies on the other side: as we come to understand the immense complexity of everything we touch, we will be
The findings reveal something we need to know in order to understand the paradigm shift that is coming: we are already living with the impact; our climate is destabilized in
better able to envision the solutions to the immensely complex problems that arise from our fumbling through complexity. When that moment comes, we will see new uses for old
dangerous ways, and we are paying a price. According to the study, global economic output—collective GDP—has already declined by 1.6%, or $1.2 trillion. That is real wealth
technologies, new technologies that emerge from simple variations in perspective and practical application, and we will recognize that complexity was, all along, the best
that real people do not have the chance to have contact with, because a destabilized climate is undermining ecosystem services, agricultural integrity, access to resources and
source of the solutions to the problems complexity demands that we confront.
There is untiring complexity in the biochemical infrastructure of sustainable life, and there is unrelenting complexity in our
This double awareness can be called a
The difference will be our understanding, and we will get there together or not at all.
the reliably temperate climate patterns that
Buckminster Fuller described the human brain as â€œnatureâ€™s most powerful anti-entropy engineâ€?. The significance of that observation lies in the fact that we often perceive ineluctable entropy as the only true fate of any system that, for however short a time, pretends order. In fact, Fuller argued, the human brain is specifically designed to interfere with the process of unraveling inherent in all systems, and to build order sustainably into the fabric of anything it comes in contact with. We recognize that this is the driving force behind science, politics, anthropology and economics, and we hope to use these pages as an opportunity to show how insight, the quest for knowledge, real human learning and ingenuity, can help us to transcend the unforgiving limitations of the physical universe and achieve something better, something more valuable, and more conducive to mutual thriving, than what would occur had we never sought or discovered that insight.
project of being an omniscient being who
Wika Iritama: "Power to the people!"
understands the “other”, yet knows better). For this reason, I offer first hand oral testimony, through interviews conducted in the field, along with my personal assessment
by Cynthia Paniagua
of practice and theory. Inspired by the methodological approach of Brenda Dixon Gottschild, I am committed to “working through”, and not around, the complexities
Dancing Resistance & Tradition for Los Boraa & Kukama-Kukamiria in the Peruvian Amazon This is previous political with the
surrounding the body politic of traditional dance—including issues of race and class. The following account is a beginning, an attempt to translate my fieldwork (otherwise
a deeply personal account of my and recent spiritual, cultural and life experiences and engagements Boraa and Kukama-Kukamiria com-
known to me as my life) as a performance artist and activist to and through writing. I hold on dearly to transparency as my flotation device. This is step one.
munities and their struggle for human rights and territorial sovereignty in the Peruvian Amazon. I highlight traditional and newly emerging dances as cultural and political discourses for both of these native communities. The dance is a vehicle which explores conflicting and contradictory aspects of its usage by and for the state of Peru, while
The Language of “NO!” (Boraa, 2002 video) The specific event which motivates my research was my encounter with a video shown to me in 2005 in the Upper Amazonian city of Iquitos, Peru. As I desperately
simultaneously being performed by the communities as a voice of political resistance (against the state). My commitment to the struggle and to those I consider family further
searched for video of Boraa traditional dance (in vain) at a regional cultural center, Lalo Reategui, a member of the center began speaking of another video that I may want to
encourages the use of narrative writing—a proposed weaving of personal perspective and theoretical opinion. The notion of ethnography-through-writing as a tool for political
see. A video filmed in 2002 was presented to me.
change becomes an increasingly inspiring endeavor—one previously clouded by very early archival works claiming unrealistic access to “objectivity”. I believe dance
The video revealed a negotiation forum held between foreign corporate investors
ethnography, as an effective tool for political change, is contingent on discarding this overly used ideologically loaded term. (To claim such a thing is to become overtly
representing pharmaceutical companies and members of several native communities accompanied by their Apus (leaders). It was a forum held at Caballococha, a small rural
subjective, absorbed in the self-imaging
town at least 20 hours (by river and land)
from the city of Iquitos, bordering Peru,
song and dance, positioning themselves to
Colombia and Ecuador. Within the simple open-ended space the aesthetic distinctions between the groups in the video were clear; local indigenous communities were partly in
face the investors. It wasn’t too clear what the initial reactions were, as the lens focused on the dancing Boraa, but what was clear was the sudden change in tone. Once the Boraa
traditional dress, faces marked with colorful traditional designs. The investors were European, semi-casually dressed unmarked by paint, but marked by their physical
completely filled the space they began chanting aggressively in Boraa (language) accompanied by several ‘gestural’ movements. Some Boraa entered wearing ties around
distance and seemingly uneasiness. Present were also translators from the capital of Lima, positioned between the two groups of negotiators. FECONA (Federation of native
their necks, with faces painted white, inside of their hands drenched in red paint, as they, one by one carried other traditionally dressed Boraa to their reenacted ‘deaths’. One by one
communities along the Ampiyacu River) and FECONAFROPU (Federation of native communities along the Putumayo River) were about to engage in open dialogue over
they were placed on the floor, eyes shut closed, some shivering. It was clear this wasn’t a demonstration intended for entertainment, nor a tourist attraction. They came,
whether to allow the exploration of their territories in exchange for infrastructural development and economic “progress”: the promise of educational centers in exchange
they danced and they left, with an obvious intention and message: that of resistance. Los Boraa men and women clearly revamped the negotiation table based on their own
for unmonitored rainforest explorations, and possible exploitation. This impending invasion experience weighed upon the interests of various native communities.
terms of communication, void of third party translators, verbal manipulations or succumbing to invasive foreign contracts. The answer was clear. “NO”. As I watched the monitor in disbelief, I began to observe the confusion that ensued. The meeting could no longer continue, the investors frozen and speechless, and so the camera ceased to film
Members of the Boraa community had yet to arrive at the meeting—their presence necessary in order to commence the possible signing of contracts. I began to question the
relevance of this video to my research, when suddenly an Apu (leader, Miguel Mibeco Ruiz) representing Los Boraa appears on the screen. Miguel simply entered the space
This exemplifies the ways in which intangible forms of heritage, such as dance, become a language of resistance, identity
quietly as everyone began to “take their places”. Before either party spoke a word, the sounds of song and drum broke the silence and the tense formality of the space. What
negotiation, cultural autonomy and protest in the name of territorial sovereignty, among some native communities in the Peruvian Amazon. I also feel it is important to focus
seemed to be around 20 or 30 Boraa community members entered the space with
attention on the uses of traditional (folkloric) and non-traditional dance by two native
communities, Boraa and Kukama-Kukamilla
‘exotic’, while simultaneously imposing and
as a tool for representation within the contexts of folkloric dance institutions and tourism, as well as in unconventional spaces. The Kukama-Kukamilla communities were
condoning ethnic genocidal practices against them, marking a disjuncture, a binary of what is loved and what is hated. “The perpetrators both fearful of and fascinated by
not present in the 2002 video, but are increasingly using cultural expressions such as dance and poetry through movement as a form of intervention, and are therefore very
the (black) body were locked in the love-hate syndrome that characterizes oppression.” (Gottschild p.15) Unlike Gottschild’s mention of racism in the U.S. as a low grade
relevant to this account. Both communities share a history of displacement and exploitation resulting from colonial and neoliberal state ideology, yet both com-
fever, I would say that oppressive race-class relations regarding indigenous bodies in Latin America are an ongoing high grade fever, openly sanctioned by a 500-year-long colonial
munities have very distinct languages and traditional practices. With a history of violence and mistreatment by the state and foreign investors, many native communities
legacy which is currently at its tipping point. In this respect, I explore the rhetorical question of “what is dance?” through it’s discursive powers and its direct relationship
have joined forces to respond, supporting various pan-indigenous movements. Dance is a shared language within recent protest activities. Thus far, I have only seen two of
with folk dance institutions, heritage making, state control, cosmovisions, human rights and resistance in Peru. Before watching the video of the 2002
these demonstrations—the 2002 video (Boraa) and recently in 2009 (KukamaKukamiria) upon an invitation to participate and support their political cause.
Boraa demonstration, in 2005, I had lived with the Boraa community for months at a time, starting in 2004 (during which the event was never mentioned.) However, before
I am interested in exploring how traditional dance (as an intangible heritage) and (or/vs.) new dance projects within these two communities interweave as identity construction
my arrival to Iquitos, I had only the slightest notion of who they were as a community. As a performing Peruvian traditional dancer in both New York City and Lima, Peru, the first
mechanisms negotiated between unequal powers compromised of local, state and international actors. Within this context, I also aim towards deconstructing racialized
proclaimed notion of Boraa identity came with a dance: what is commonly called la danza de la selva (the jungle dance).
clichés and stereotypes imposed upon indigenous mobilized bodies by re-examining the power relations present in racist perpetuations and repercussions. This includes addressing how indigenous body images are manipulated by state politics to applaud the
Los Boraa as represented
darken their skin before performing the selva
by Peruvian folkdance institutions: PERFORMANCE IN LIMA
dance, where skin color (an aesthetic tied to race distinctions) becomes the essential “costume.” Personally, these images provoked mem-
La danza de la selva is performed within folkloric institutions in order to represent
ories of minstrelsy practices in racist U.S. entertainment history. My lens translated the painted skin, along with the exoticized dance as a symbol of power relations and ap-
“authentic” Amazonian indigenous culture of Peru. It is commonly performed by urban mestizo1 folk dancers in touristy settings and dance contests, particularly in the capital,
propriation over the marginalized absent body it tries to represent.
Lima. The five-minute circulated choreography and dance style provide folkdance institutions a way to include Amazonian culture in their repertoires. Before it is
How did the folk dancers see themselves as representing “la selva” with the use of skin color as a self-conscious add on? During group interviews I questioned the need to darken the skin. I received the following short responses from five different folkdance
performed, it is commonly announced as generally as the title implies—“the jungle dance”—seldom adding any specificity to what community it attempts to represent. As
the Amazon comprises more than 60% of Peru’s geographical makeup, including over 30 different native communities and 46 different languages, this one popular staple
• "I’m too white, it would look just horrible ... Imagine my pale legs jumping to this; how embarrassing!" • "To represent the true Amazonian. They get a lot of sun ... no they are born that way, it doesn’t wash off for them!" (jokingly laughing)
dance seems hardly sustainable, in the way of its claims. La danza de la selva’s performative fallacy of representing the whole through parts, or Amazonian native com-
• "Because their skin is dark. We have to be authentic in representing the image the way it is, otherwise it will look fake."
munities as one unit is exemplified by what ethnographer Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett refers to as the “ethnographic fragment”.
• "Look at me! I’m already brown, I don’t need that makeup!" (smiling) (This answer was given by the solo dancer and group leader who opened choreography of the piece.)
Whether the representation essentializes (you are seeing the quintessence of the Balinese) or totalizes (you are seeing the whole through the part), the ethnographic fragment returns with all the problems of capturing, inferring, constituting, and presenting the whole through parts. (BKG p. 55)
• (response to the latter) "No, but now you need s l a n t e d e y e s ! Yo u ' r e n o t “ c h i n o ” enough!" (laughing) • "To be more “charapa” (a staple name given to Amazonian natives) It's indigenous." • "They have beautiful skin ... I wish I had that." • "Its part of the image ... haven’t you seen them?"
The “part” that claims to represent the whole is further delineated with a key objectified body part. The skin. Commonly, dancers will
When asked what native community the
primal, the embodiment of “the natural”,
dance represents, some the responses were as follows, beginning with the troupe leader:
whose movements are therefore binary to a Eurocentric aesthetic of uprightness, of ‘civility’. The folk dancers interviewed glorify the indigenous body as a deeply intuitive
• “From Loreto. The Boraa, the ones from Iquitos … that whole region. The tribes that live in the Upper Amazon region of Loreto, you know. It’s a ritual dance to the earth.”
body, naturally agile, the quintessence of “animal” so to speak. “But racism and social Darwinism have attached sticky, negative connotations to this reverse anthropomor-
• “The ones who live in Loreto, but the real ones, not the ones who walk around wearing jeans dancing cumbia. They are losing their culture. We make sure the tradition doesn’t die.”
phism” (Gottschild p45), an idea that further perpetrates the stereotype that agility in indigenous bodies is an innate quality, not learned. I could not help but feel my body
• “Los Boraa.. I know because of they way they move…. like … more to the earth… because they know the earth better, they know the jungle better, so they move like that. They “have” that, they are used to it.”
reject the dance as an all-flash, plastic, racist, exoticized misappropriation of identity. As it repeated (with exact choreography) with every show, I wondered where my place was
• “I think its the Boraa but also the Yagua because they live right next to each other.”
in all of this.
This was not the first time I heard similar
Through the kind of repetition required by staged appearances, long runs, and extensive tours, performances can become like artifacts. They freeze. They become canonical. They take forms that are alien, if not antithetical, to how they are produced and experienced in their local settings, for with repeated exposure, cultural performances can become routinized and trivialized. (BKG p. 64 )
stereotypical notions on the indigenous body. These were more or less the same answers given to me back in New York City, where la danza de la selva is routinely performed in the same manner; a staple dance to round out their multi-cultural depiction of Peruvian culture. Programs usually consist of an array of Andean and coastal dances, accompanied with announced histories, meaning, etc. Suddenly the lights dim for the spectacle, of the ambiguous yet “exciting and mysterious” Amazonian indigenous identity. Signature
State Obsession (Love?) Folkdance is a Peruvian state necessity. It is an essential cultural marker that becomes the spokesperson for a homogeneous yet
movements are the same, ranging from very low crouching, sudden high “attack-like” jumps, spear throwing, high screeching, animal calls, promoting embodied notions of
pluricultural patrimony. It is necessary to claim heritage, to mark ‘difference’ as agency within a capitalist international community. With similar uses of heritage for the national
the “animal”, “primal”, “wild” and “uncouth”. These are all common stereotypes of the indigenous body attached to a colonized Darwinistic view of indigenous “folk” as
museum, the Peruvian state supports the promotion of “cultural wholeness” through dance representations, as “efforts to produce
Similarly by aestheticizing folklore—no matter what is gained by the all inclusive definition of folklore as the arts of everyday life—we are in danger of depoliticizing what we present by valorizing an aesthetics of marginalization. (BKG p. 76)
unity out of diverse rural traditions.” (Klein p. 3) The dance becomes part of a symbol, a “nation brand“ where dance is objectified and easily marketed over a peculiar fine print: Too much difference not included. In this respect, la danza de a selva
For these reasons I left the folk dance institution and traveled to Iquitos to understand how the Boraa represent themselves
can safely be used to fulfill the limited time slots in the showcase of a “multi-cultural” or “diversity agenda”, and very often remains embedded in hierarchal premises that confirm the status quo. (Chatterjea p. 7)
and get a first-hand opinion of this pop jungle dance promoted to represent them. I affiliated myself with FORMABIAP,3 an NGO dedicated to preserving the language and traditions
The aesthetic of what is already labeled as the indigenous body is run through an acculturation machine where it is dismantled, pruned, reassembled and regulated
within the northern Amazonian native communities. After all this misrepresentation I had observed and felt with the business of culture making, I became self conscious with
as marketable to the gaze of the dominant culture. The indigenous body becomes erased in all its transformed “new” staged visibility where people are defined to skin color,
regard to what my dancing body meant.
animalistic movements, a celebrated anomaly.
Dancing beyond my body
The phases of appropriation give a false sense of ‘getting closer’ when the dance
When it came to performing traditional dances from the Andes, I felt deep connections due to traditions practiced within my family since childhood, in and out of Peru. None-
actually performs another kind of work: In short, the appropriation not only produces the divide between dominance and subalternity but also the demand for further appropriation as a very condition of social reproduction. That race, class, gender, and sexuality, as the very materiality of social identity, are also produced in the process indicates the practical generativity ... necessary for any cultural product.” (Martin p. 206)
theless I avoided dancing la danza de la selva due to lack of background information, disconnectedness and a distrust in the institutional “bastardizing” of it. I was raised to dance “con el espiritu y corazón de los ancestros, con el sexto sentido” (with the spirit and heart of the ancestors and with the sixth sense)—a principle I hold dear. I needed to
As folklore is repeatedly taught as representative of “everyday life”, to all Peruvians as national identity markers, la danza de la selva falls into the dangers of cultural and
further understand certain meanings before I could connect and perform, otherwise my body would feel empty; moving as a bag of skin with no sense of agency given to me by
the spirit. Dance existed (and still exists) for me beyond physical movement, where the
The senses represent inner states not shown on the surface. They are located in a social material field outside of the body... This speaks of a social aesthetics that is not purely contracted or negotiated synchrony but one that is embedded within and inherited from, an autonomous network of object relations and prior sensory exchanges. Performance therefore is elicited by externality and history as much as it may come from within. (Seremetakis p. 67)
physical execution was secondary to the elation of a lived liminal space, a strong circulating communication held between the body and the spirit. In retrospect, this phenomenological experience of dance and the body as enacted by the spirit, is a shared one. I recall my grandmother who emphasized dancing our ancestral past of memory through spirit, where “they” sometimes dance through and with you”, a merging of the collective and the individual through an extraphenomenal force: Soul power is both personal and collective.” (Gottschild p. 231)
Considering this, who or what legitimizes traditional dance as ‘authentic’? “Authenticity” as a problematic term within the social sciences is nevertheless a term relied upon among several folkloric theorists to legitimize their claims. Amazonian archival histories have already created a ‘false nos-
The question of “what is dance”?” for me swims through this ever changing, interweaving consciousness and subconsciousness between the body and the spirit or soul,
talgia” or romanticized ancestral past, seen through a “privileged” gaze, rendering the indigenous body to the symbol of “purity”. Another way to approach the question of au-
whether it is mine or not. This cosmology passed down to me by my grandmother furthered the idea that in order to be an effective “mover” I had to be a transmitter of
thenticity ‘is described by Peruvian anthropologist Gisepa Canepa Koch:
the spirit, the energies. La danza de la selva in no way evoked any spirit in me, where perhaps a dance from anywhere in the world could.
Authenticity should be understood as the capacity for social groups to represent themselves, and to own those spaces within national and global discourses, which permits them to assert who they are for the ability of auto representation and self determination, instead of the resistance of supposed essential identities. (Canepa Koch p.16)
The process of meaning making, (a liminality in itself,) where dance becomes the narrative between my body and the memory of my ancestors or (spirits) suggests a phenomenological approach as a “way of living in the world that integrates intellect with sensory experience... it can be used to construct meaning, to celebrate the mundane as well as
Los Boraa as representing themselves through dance
the extraordinary...” (Closer p. 2) This ethical relationship with the senses and dance serving as both an “inner and outer“ experience, highlight the fact that:
Upon my arrival to the main plaza in central Iquitos, there it was, la danza de la selva, performed by scantily clad young girls panhandling for tourists. I quickly made my way to FORAMBIAP, was provided with a guide,
and traveled by boat down the Nanay river to
MR: NO, no, not that one…. we created that
the Boraa settlements. The close proximity of Boraa migrant settlement to central Iquitos is the result of a growing economic dependency to the global market, where tourist activity is
one for tourists a couple of years ago. All of these are to welcome foreigners to our dance practices, or cultural activities … so they can see and participate.
the main source of income. The display of representational dances supersedes any other activity, including the selling of arts and crafts, as the leading money-maker. In fact,
CP: Are any of these dances danced outside of here? (the tourist settlement) MR: NO. In San Andres (where we live)... we have our own celebrations, but we don’t
the tourist boom (which started in the mid to late nineties) increased the demand for tourist outlets, creating new reasons for Boraa to migrate and settle. It was, therefore,
dance these. We dance socially, but not these. These dances are our heritage, but we don’t dance them anymore in San Andres. Maybe on the occasion, to show
no surprise that I was greeted with a dance specifically performed for tourists.
our children, but the practice of it is mostly done here. That is our income also. Noone else has this same tradition this style of dance. This is purely Boraa.
Dressed in traditional clothing, five dances were presented to me, none of them resembling la danza de la selva in the least. The dances were titled la danza de bienvenido, la del mono, la del lagarto, la del anaconda y de celebración (The welcome
CP: The tourist camp is part of your tradition as well... MR: Yes. Its good, we make enough money to sustain ourselves and we keep our
dance, of the monkey, of the lizard, of the anaconda and of celebration.)
tradition alive. Sometimes we make new dances. Its how we survive.
What meanings did these dances have for them? How is globalization (fast-paced
CP: What if dancing didn’t pay ... the purpose of dancing then...
tourism and related development) creating new traditions? What about la danza de la selva that represents them in the capital?
MR: Maybe not so often, I don’t know. I still would want my grandchildren’s children to learn it... even though it changes... sometimes, to make it better.
The following interview (2005) with Boraa Apu (leader) Miguel Mibeco Ruiz, also known as Lliihyo described the dances as such:
CP: What changes? How is that? MR: For tourists I see some dances change... not the steps, but the way the steps are done. More force, more energy, step on the
MR: These dances (the five shown) are centuries old, from our grandfathers, our ancestors .. all the way from the Putumayo River.
ground harder. Louder singing. Before it was softer...
CP: Even the “welcome dance?”
CP: Which one do you like better?
MR: Both. The softer version makes me feel
The excerpt from this interview challenges the
more inside. Its from my childhood. The new versions are exciting and it gets more attention from tourists. My grandchildren like it better like that, they have more fun.
notion of “truth” in dance. Truth for whom? The heritage making, the self-conscious display of “what used to be” practiced as ritual celebrations now becomes a vital tradition of signifying itself.
I showed Miguel a video of la danza de la selva. His reaction:
Tradition (whether old or new) becomes heritage, on the other hand, when its authenticity and it’s imminent death are recognized (or invented) with the express purpose of “expediency”, that is, of getting things done in the world, whether that be preserving an ancient temple, reviving a folk festival in order to attract tourism, or, as in the case of the Morrocan Gnawa ... validating the artistic traditions of minority groups in order to increase their visibility and viability on the global stage. (Kapchan p. 3, Possessed by Heritage)
MR: No, that’s not it... What is that?! That’s what they dance over here in the plaza... that’s not us. (laughing) They make money doing this? MMMM ... Why do they say it’s Boraa? This is not Boraa. Its nobody. It’s the young students from the city (Iquitos). What’s it called again? CP: “la danza de la selva”. Most troupes are informed that it is a dance that represents Boraa ... Yagua.. –
The five Boraa dances, have nothing to do with la danza de la selva , yet, by default may be perceived as serving the promotional tourism and state sponsored commodification
MR: No. No, no, no. Not Boraa, not even Yagua ... no native community here dances that. The lights look nice and so do the costumes... but that’s not us, that’s what
of heritage, “contributing to the health of national culture” by contributing to the tourist industry. Who, then, owns folkloric dance? Los Boraa? Local travel agencies?
they want to say. That’s an invented dance ... not ours. Thats not it ... not it. But what are you going to do ? What can I do? Tell them to come here and see how it
Respected folkdance institutions? The state? Is dance an object to be owned? A Foucaultian view would waste no time in concluding that both individual and com-
is... How crazy ... crazy. Look at that. (as he watched the screen off my camera) They think we are made of feathers? CP: Its not authentic?
munal decisions on cultural meaning-making as an activity are inevitably tied to state cultural control. Especially when regarding the systematic internalized “eye of the Other”
MR: (clearly upset) What is authentic? It means the truth. That is not the truth. That is not Boraa. They can never take, imitate, my cosmovision ... It doesn’t
discoursed by new aesthetics practiced in Boraa dances. “Since the Other was reluctant to recognize, there was only one answer: to make myself known.” (Fanon p. 92)
matter what they do. Its not Boraa. (Miguel Ruiz Tamani, personal communication, August 2005)
As for la danza de la selva, it confirmed
I was invited to live with los Boraa after
that Los Boraa receive NO respect in the decision making process of folkdance institutions which claim to represent them. Los Boraa practices do, however, reinforce
about a week of visiting. I lived in the community for about four months, leaving my camera in Iquitos. I have not been the same since. For the purposes of this report, I will
their cultural rights by reinforcing their unique dance performances (whether for tourists or not) as a self-determined identity marker. Regardless of any changes, inevitable
not indulge in elaborating on my personal experiences during that time, but will note the following: Miguel was right. None of the tourist dances are physically enacted in San
with time, Boraa self-representation through dance is a choice, a spiritual continuum of past memory as the new dances are:
Andres; I have, however, witnessed elder men and women speak of the dance to their grandchildren through narratives based on spiritual beliefs and Boraa cosmovision.
promised as substitutions, replacements and improvements to prior sensate experiences. (Seremetakis p. 8)
Admittedly, I couldn’t help but feel like the dance was cheapened, a feeling totally arbitrary on my part. In retrospect, remembering Miguel’s preference for the “softer
The Boraa and Kukama-Kukamilla communities have survived centuries of displacement by Spanish colonizers and later foreign and Lima-based economic markets, forcing them through several cycles of colonization and
movements” which provoked more “feeling inside” and also his indispensable, impenetrable and theft proof private relationship to the Boraa cosmovision negates state con-
assimilation. These neoliberal systems have continually mandated the exploitation, enslavement and even genocidal treatment, which comprise the history of these families,
trol. Particular and now idiosyncratic cultural experiences are described as having long disappeared, as lost, when in fact they are quite recent and their memory sharp. As one moves deeper into conversation with people, their intimacies with these distant practices comes out as fairy tales, anecdotes, folklore and myth (Seremetakis p. 9)
among so many other indigenous communities. Not only have they fallen victim to a violent history with foreign rubber investors and their mafias, but they have also endured decades of territorial battles resulting from the rise of the cocaine industry, civil war, terrorism and the current exploitation of recently discovered hydro-carbons in their
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett notes how, “in making a spectacle of oneself, or others, what is private or hidden becomes publicly ex-
lands. Recognition as a community with territorial sovereignty and human rights by the Peruvian state is crucial to their current economic, cultural and basic human survival.
hibited; what is small or confined becomes exaggerated, grand or grandiose” (BKG, p. 48)
In the last three decades we have observed an important dynamic of the development of political systems within Amazonian indigenous society, a response to the pressure exercised by an expansive national society whose objectives are not only to transform the environment of these groups, but also modify their cultural, economic and social status. (p.21 PNUD, Proyectos RLA/92/G 31,32,33)
mance artist. Five Kukama women organized
Not much has changed since 500 years ago. In 2006, Peruvian president Alan García,
Kukama-Kukamilla are a community that has integrated almost completely into urban life in Iquitos since the nineteen seventies. With the exception of small settlements along
a dance and poetry performance as part of the protest.
Dance insurgency: KukamaKukamilla
after signing the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., arbitrarily opened Amazonian territories and (so indigenous bodies) to foreign petroleum consortia for exploitation, without
the Marañón River, most Kukama-Kukamilla live in the city of Iquitos. Maritza Rodríguez, considered a Kukama Apu (leader), a bilingual teacher (member of FORMABIAP) and
the prior consent of indigenous communities. The violation of state and international law, indigenous human rights, human and ecological contaminations, that followed led to
organizer of the Kukama dance demonstration addresses her cultural and political concerns in an interview conducted the day before the protest event:
pan-indigenous protests in 2009. On June 5th, 2009, peaceful protests turned to violence as police and military helicopters fired upon hundreds of unarmed members of protesting
M R : We a r e w h a t I c a l l a n “ e t n i a urbana” (urban ethnic group). Because we wear jeans, speak Spanish and are
native communities—Boraa and KukamaKukamiria included (the massacre at Bagua). President García later publicly denounced indigenous peoples as “savages” who:
completely assimilated into urban life does not mean we are any less “indigenous”. We have the same history of genocide as the Boraa. Maybe some of the dance traditions
are not first-class citizens and who ever has this way of thinking wants to take us into irrationality, a primitive regression. To the past. (Alan García, Canal N, June 2009)
that were practiced long ago ... are gone. But either way I strongly identify with my heritage and work toward the recuperation of our community. The Kukama are
As a result of these happenings, I was invited back to Iquitos, in November 2009, to give testimony of the violations of human rights (tied to oil exploration) I had witnessed
warriors by nature. We resist. It is tradition to resist. Violence marks our history, all of our histories as indigenous people. Los Boraa, Yagua, Achuar are dying from
with the Boraa in 2005. Los Boraa, along with Achuar and Kukama-Kukamilla native communities, were also planning a protest event in memory of those lost in Bagua. I was
contamination. What does the world do? NOTHING. But we are willing to die to protect what is rightfully ours. Alan García
specifically invited to take part as a perfor-
is making a grave mistake. He is not only
Disappear into the forest (the background).
killing us, he is killing the “lungs of the earth” and everyone will feel it eventually. The fact that I’m standing means that I am here to speak out, to mobilize, to risk my
CP: It will only be Kukama women performing this tomorrow? MR: Yes, we indigenous women have a lot to say. We are there to see the blood shed, to
life for justice.
take care of our dying brothers, children. We want to show that we can be involved in protesting. We are a community, with one voice—men, women, even the youth are
CP: What will the dance mean for tomorrow’s protest? MR: That we are not afraid. If they arrest me because I am dancing, that will be the “ultimate”! They say I am a terrorist because I’m speaking the truth. But our bodies are already condemned to death! We
getting involved. CP: Who made the dance moves? MR: All of us. Some of them are movements from traditional war dances but most of it is
are not the ones terrorizing... I want everyone to hear the poetry, the words that denounce Alan. CP: Why dance?
just how we feel, how our body wants to move—we are angry—with the words of the poem. And the rest is improvised, you know how it is… we barely have time to get the
MR: It’s not to entertain, or to do what people expect of us, traditional dance with traditional dress, feathers. No. Our ancestors danced before battle and so do
girls together for rehearsal …we are always detained by police, questioning. But you’ll see it tomorrow … and you’ll dance in the battle too! Don’t be scared!
we, except we do it in public, our own way. The spirit is still there, you understand ... It’s to warn them (authorities), it’s to show our determination, that my body is still
CP: (laugh) I am “gringa” here though. MR: What?! No you are indigenous... I feel that... besides from your Andean family ... anyone that comes to fight for us has an
alive and even after they kill me, I will be there. We are not afraid ... and we won’t stop until we are respected, recognized. We have to show who we are, that we are not
indigenous heart. Your friends from your school who care have indigenous hearts... anyone. I will dance it tomorrow ... and make it loud. Wika Iritama!
terrorists. We are more “civilized” than these killers of the supposed “first class”. Dance demonstrates that we exist. That the indigenous body is there, moving, expressing,
CP: What? MR: “Poder al pueblo!” (Power to the ‘pueblo’ people, the popular masses)
reacting. And my voice will go with it. If we couldn’t change the law through table dialogue, then it is time to mobilize. Be militant—otherwise we disappear, fall into
(Maritza Ramirez, personal communication, Dec. 2009)
conformity like so many Peruvians do...
Considering the dance as a human rights
print, no exceptions, no third-party trans-
discourse, through protest, as a means to express the “tradition to resist”, Maritza implies a tradition of violence as part of Kukama and Boraa heritage. The very lives of
lators. The intent of such choreographies is to reveal the forces of oppression to the viewer, to render them blatantly visible, thereby destabilizing them ... to subvert the status quo (Gere p.140)
indigenous communities are in danger, yet the dance persists as a direct language of insurgency where the body becomes agency for affect and reaffirmation of identity against
Culture becomes a vital resource for native communities in the Peruvian Amazon, not only as it marks difference, but as an integral
the state. Again we see the body literally “becoming responsible” for the survival of a community, to gain visibility, to represent and say “we exist” on different platforms
part of the centuries’-long sustaining of place (territory). In the case of urbanized etnias such as the Kukama-Kukamilla and Boraa, culture—no matter how subjugated or altered
where the bodies of the oppressed cannot be negotiated on the terms of the Other. There is a double-consciousness of what is expected of them in terms of dance and tradition. Maritza
it may be—is a vital part of a mobilizing axis of the urge to self-determination and autonomous development. This cultural principle acknowledges the supremacy of the spiritual
highlights the continuity of tradition “our own way”, breaking free of an expected dance routine while maintaining the cosmovision of the dancing spirit. Contrary to the roman-
realms mentioned, and of the ideas and languages (including dance) that conceive and express them. According to both Boraa and Kukama-Kukamilla, to kill the rainforest is to
ticized notion of the indigenous communities as passageways into the primal, the past, or as obstacles against modernity:
kill them, their ancestors and their way of life —an unquantifiable reality. Can dance as protest for the Kukama or Boraa communities become part of new local
replication of the body is not a “ condition in every ethnographic community, and even, then … human bodies are never stable over time. Yet they may be perceived to be stable in some instances and viewed as an authentic conduit to a past and continuing performance identity. (Buckland p. 15)
tradition? If so, then its practice as a direct negation to state interests would threaten all preconceived notions of state-serving cultural activity, negate the role of folkloric institutions who are quicker to glorify la danza de la selva than these protest dances. Furthermore, it would fall outside the categories of a desired state “pluralistic culture” since
The dance exists in and out of the tourist camp, the body asserting itself from private to public spaces, but maintaining a communal goal. Survival. The uncodified movements
president García continues to reinforce the idea that Amazonian indigenous are “secondclass citizens”. As disowned by an authoritarian Peruvian government, not only the
demonstrated by the Kukama women “make themselves known”, and make visible, all unequal actors (local, state, international) on the stage of the community plaza. No fine
dance, but its cultural cultivators are unac-
ceptable, labeled by the state as an obstacle
Moving together as a fearless mass, sing-
to state “progress”.
ing, dancing, mourning, shouting for the right to be heard, was a moment I will never forget. Although we were subsequently detained, none of us could be threatened into
Moving onwards, never stopping
silence. Los Boraa and Kukama-Kukamilla among others affected are teaching me, and those who truly listen, about the value of and commitment to human life.
On December 4, 2009, communities from near and far gathered to protest against the criminalization of indigenous peoples and of the right to protest. Present were Boraa,
As Miguel once said: “Jamás me podrían quitar ... mi cosmovisión. Hagan lo que hagan.” (“They can never take ... my cosmovision [the spirit]. It doesn’t matter what they
Kukama-Kukamilla, Achuar, Kichwa, Ticuna, Aguaruna, Wampis communities. Maritza and her comrades opened the scene with poetry, a call and response which collectively began to
include the voices of other demonstrators. When the streets became loud enough with call and response, confirming that all were in solidarity, the dance began.
Cynthia Paniagua is a dancer, choreographer, and educator whose work reflects her Peruvian heritage. She was raised in New
The poetry accompanied the movement, but not as a subtitle or a logical explanation of it. Whether a dance scholar from NYU comes to interpret the dance as “gestural or
York City where she earned a B.A. in dance at Hunter College and an M.A. in Performance Studies at NYU. She won a Fulbright scholarship to study traditional dance in Peru
narrative” or read into the use of words their serving as movement interpreters, the dance as logical or illogical—as the academic gaze of a dance scholar may easily pick up on these
to “quench a burning desire to know the real Peru, my mothers country and unearth the mystery of the dances.” She studied at Peru’s two leading folkdance institutions Jose Maria
things—this gaze was foreign to me in the moment, an in-depth dance analysis far removed from the concerns of the Kukama and Boraa communities. Nothing mattered but
Arguedas and San Marcos. She then journeyed up and down the coast, Andes and Amazon of Peru studying and living with many of the living masters of Peruvian dance.
the bodies, the spirits, the life, the death. As I participated, the spirit pulled me, my body touching other bodies, some sick with impending death. Mourning the dead fueled
Her experience was taped as part of the movie Soy Andina. In 2007 the movie was released and Cynthia returned to Peru with the movie and dance workshops as part of the biggest
militancy. (Gere p. 142) We held onto each other.
cultural exchange tour ever organized by the U.S. Embassy. She continued touring the movie and Peruvian dance workshops in the
Chatterjea, Ananya. 2004. Butting Out. Reading Resistive Choreographies Through Works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Chandralekha. Wesleyan University Press. Connecticut.
U.S.. Her success and positive response from her audience has encouraged her to continue to share the experience and the treasure of Peruvian dance. Today Cynthia divides her time between NY and Peru where she
Fanon, Frantz. 1952. English translation copyright 2008. Black Skin, White Masks. Ediciones de Soleil.ed. Richard Philrod.
performs, choreographs, and teaches. “The journeys are part of my quest in order to respect my ancestors through dance and share that energy with my audience and
Gere, David. 2004. How to Make Dances in an Epidemic. Tracking Choreography in the Age of Aids. The University of Wisconsin Press. England.
students.” She is the founder of Kaypacha Dance, a project to bring together Peruvian indigenous dance, culture and spirituality, and contemporary dance expression.
Gottschild, Brenda Dixon.2003.The Black Dancing Body. A Geography From Coon to Cool. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Kapchan, Deborah. In press. Introduction.Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage and Human Rights. Deborah Kapchan editor. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Notes mestizo: Literally translates as “mixed” and used as a race label - a mixed race of of Spanish and Indigenous blood In common every day usage, however, “mestizo” is synonymous to “criollo”, a more Eurocentric perspective that attaches itself to an elite class and lighter skin. 1–
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara 1998. Destination Culture. Tourism, Museum and Heritage. University of California Press. Klein, Barbro. 2006. Cultural Heritage, Human Rights, and Reform Ideologies: The Case of Swedish Folklife Research. Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage and Human Rights.Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Borra are part of the Huitoto linguistic family. Within this family are two other groups, Huitoto and Ocaina. 2–
Kozel, Susan.2007.Closer: Performance Technologies, Phenomenology. MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachussets.
FORMABIAP – Programa de Formacion de Maestros Bilingues de la Amazonia Peruana. – Educational Program for Bilingual Teachers in the Peruvian Amazon. 3-
Martin, Randy.1998. Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics. Duke University Press.
Proyectos RLA/92/G 31,32,33. 1997. Amazonia Peruana: Comunidades Indigenas, Conocimientos y Tierras Tituladas. PNUD (Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo) / GEF (Fondo Mundial del Ambiente).
Buckland, Theresa Jill. 2006. Dancing from Past to Present: Nation, Culture, Identities. University of Wisconsin Press. Canepa Koch, Gisela. 1998. Mascara, Transformación e Identidad en los Andes. Pontifica Universidad Catolica Del Peru. Lima, Peru.
Seremetakis, C. Nadia, ed.1994. The Senses Still: Perception and Memory as Material Culture in Modernity. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
Take it from Yale: What we really need to communicate about climate change
that figure fell from 77 percent in 2007 to 58
by Steve Valk
cause of global warming. The percentage who think it is human-induced has declined while the percentage who believe it occurs naturally has gone up (see below).
percent in 2010. Since then, however, those numbers have rebounded but have yet to reach previous levels. Equally disconcerting is the trend in what people believe is the
Of all the third rails a member of Congress can touch to commit political suicide, the deadliest is to propose a tax on carbon, right? Well, that depends. If you couple that tax with an equivalent reduction in income taxes – a revenue-neutral tax swap, as it were – majorities across the political spectrum would vote for a candidate who supports it. In fact, only 25 percent of Republicans would oppose for that reason. That’s just one of the surprising findings from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, which, since 2005, has been trying to bridge the gap between climate change science and policies that could avert catastrophe.
So, why all the confusion? Hasn’t everyone
If there is a gap between science and policy, it most likely stems from the public’s confusion about climate change and its causes. At the Citizens Climate Lobby
r ead James Hansen’s “Stor ms of My Grandchildren”? Well, no they haven’t, and Leiserowitz ticks off a list or reasons behind these numbers heading in the wrong
Conference in Washington, D.C., last month, Tony Leiserowitz from the Yale Project walked us through the research. Some of it was depressing, but a lot of it was hopeful,
• The economy and unemployment • Declining media coverage • Unusual cold weather
pointing to opportunities that exist for communicating vital information on climate change.
• An effective “denial industry” • “Climategate” • Increasing political polarization
The depressing: Since 2007, the percentage of people who say global warming is happening has dropped significantly. Tracking data from Pew, for instance, finds
One of the more illuminating facts from the Yale Project is the percentage of people
who think there is agreement among the
Among these, number four is perhaps the
experts on climate change and its causes. Among scientists who do peer -reviewed research on climate change, various surveys show some 98 percent concur that global
most critical. Leiserowitz characterizes this as a â€œgateway belief.â€? Those who understand that scientists are in agreement on climate change and its causes are likely to accept the
warming is happening, primarily because we burn fossil fuels. For those who follow the issue closely, this comes as no surprise. Among the general public, however, this vital
first three points. Those who accept the first three points are likely to be concerned or alarmed about the situation and expect their government to do something about it. This is
piece of information has gone unnoticed (see below).
where that elusive phenomenon called political will kicks in, and we inch closer to the tipping point for pricing carbon. Which takes us back to that delightfully surprising poll I mentioned at the beginning about large majorities supporting a revenueneutral tax swap on carbon (see below).
The opportunity: Based on extensive research done by the Yale Project over the years, here are the five most important things that need to be communicated to the public about climate change:
Leiserowitz et al (2011) As one might expect, strong majorities of
1) Climate change is happening
Democrats and Independents would support a tax shift, but 51 percent of Republicans also express support for a carbon tax swap, with only 25 percent likely to oppose. What
2) We're causing it this time 3) There are serious consequences to humans and nature
makes this poll even more remarkable is that support for this type of a carbon price exists even in the face of limited understanding among the public on climate change (that
4) Experts agree on the first 3 points 5) There are lots of options to solve this problem and to make our lives better.
depressing stuff we talked about before). As
Cutting Arts & Music Programs Erodes Our Children’s Potential
more and more people begin to comprehend the ramifications of our changing climate, support for a price on carbon will only go up. There’s lots more juicy information from
by Joseph Robertson
the Yale Project, including the latest poll finding that pro-climate-policy candidates are likely to win votes and another study showing more and more people connecting the dots
A version of this article first appeared on The Hot Spring Network on August 4, 2010.
between extreme weather and climate change.
When state and municipal budgets are tight,
So, here’s your conversation opener for the next six months: “Bet you didn’t know 98
education funding is usually targeted for
percent of climate scientists say global warming is happening and we’re the cause.”
framed as being about “holding teachers and
cuts. The politics of the cuts is almost always schools accountable” as a way of protecting
Tell them Tony from Yale sent you.
the future we expect for children. The reality is that those cuts reduce the resources available to students, and “non-essential”
courses like music and art—usually those
Steve Valk is Director of Communications for Citizens Climate Lobby.
subjects for which accounting consultants are not able to quantify future return on investment—are eliminated in favor of those subjects standardized test-makers know how to test for—those subjects which the testscore-based system for budgeting converts to direct monetary value for the schools. But who is being held accountable? What is called “accountability” in political speeches turns out to be broadly punitive from the start, and it is the future diversity of students’ skills that are in fact targeted. The system is deliberately degraded, due to a philosophy that says hardship will generate improvement—a reckless distortion of the science of natural selection, in which features
that promote survival are promoted by that
demand of their public schools: a diverse
range of subject matter, including robust art,
Funding cuts are also carried out in a way
humanities, and phys-ed programs; expen-
that is inherently dishonest, justified to all as
sive, highly trained faculty, sometimes with
a way of building accountability, but cut from
doctoral degrees; extracurricular extra-
districts where there is less wealth per
vagance, from football stadiums to radio
household, meaning they require higher
stations and TV studios; school newspapers;
levels of statewide funding, to achieve the
latest edition textbooks; free-of-charge on-
same diversity of skill and experience other
campus photo-copying services, etc.
communities might find funded through
Everything wealthy communities demand
extracurricular programs and other types of
of their schools is, to some extent reasonable,
budgeting, whether private or public. More
but it is not so clear whether any community
money is revoked from where it is needed by
has a right to say another community’s
maligning the notion of shared responsibility:
children should be denied those services just
convince a given community that its money
because their parents are not affluent. In
should not help a more needy community,
poor, inner-city school districts, it is common
and you will have the freedom to erode that
to have only a small minority of faculty
needy community’s basic resources.
meeting state requirements for Masters
The philosophy that funding and perfor-
degrees, common to have teachers trained in
mance are not linked, or that markets can be
one subject teaching something totally
abstracted from the communities that feed
unrelated, due to shortages of qualified
them, is spread through political rhetoric,
teachers for that subject, or budget
because it has to spread in order to justify
constraints, common to have older textbooks,
removing funding from schools in com-
shared textbooks or none at all, common to
munities which cannot provide adequate
have no funding for extensive extracurricular
funding to achieve competitive standards in
activities in which students are able to
resources, personnel and infrastructure. The
choose a path that matches up well to their
myth that “responsible” communities do more
personal preferences and character.
with less is used as a bludgeon to malign
Television studios, radio stations and
poor communities and deprive their children
school newspapers are much harder to come
by, because all necessary funding is devoted
We can easily confirm this is a myth by
to basic life-support: teachers, sanitation,
simply looking at what wealthy communities
security. Vital programs in language, arts,
and phys-ed are often cut, simply because
right to a good education that they have to
schools can no longer afford to pay teachers.
clean public parks, fresh air, and a life free of
In New York City, in the fall of 2012,
gunfire and danger.
“education reform” has seen the elimination
Cutting arts and music from schools
of “language arts” programs, meaning the
erodes the future of children whose options
effective use of grammar for thoughtful
for study are limited to those schools. Such
composition is not given as much time or
cuts are often justified by a falsifying market
attention as before. Reading, math and
psychology that says the wealthy should not
science are promoted as essential, because
have to think of “the greater good” of society
testing is easily standardized, but little
when spending their public funds, but in fact,
thought is given to what options this limited
the cuts are justified by the claim that it is in
curriculum will give students later in life.
the interest of “the greater good” that public
A student, for instance, that excels in
funds not be spent on certain communities.
science, but has little experience of cultural
Ultimately, the logic is circular, the
history, art or creative design, may lack
justification is shoddy, and the claim that the
certain skills that would allow her to choose a
refusal of those who have enough to build the
career in astronomy, because she will have
social fabric through public programs is a
learned to focus on what she “can know”,
moralizing contribution to “the greater good”
which means what she already knows, and be
quickly runs into a celebration of bias and a
intimidated by a field of study that goes far
callous disregard for future outcomes. In
beyond her life experience. But a student who
other words, we need to think twice before we
spent her childhood playing the cello, while
target defenseless children for ideologically
getting by in math and science, might find
motivated spending cuts.
herself drawn to and daring enough to con-
What’s more, there is no evidence that
template a future that involves studying and
these sort of cuts help to improve the lives of
redefining the cosmos.
people anywhere. It’s a now versus then
These intangibles have real value for any
mentality, which says we can safely deprive
community: the more capable and dynamic
the future of its needed quality of life in order
the future of a community’s people, the more
to have an easier time holding onto what we
prosperous and stable that community itself
have now. We don’t need to invest wisely; we
will be. Another way to say it is: good schools
can just keep what we have and celebrate
breed stability and prosperity, and every
ourselves in the process.
community’s children should have the same
We do, however, have evidence that by
thinking, music, art, phys-ed and foreign
reducing the range of quality educational
options for students in a given community,
We have to begin any discussion of
we can destabilize that community econom-
education policy by thinking about what we
ically, erode its public spaces, deprive its
want to build into the future of our society.
residents of productive leisure time which
And we have to consider that our society is
can be devoted to maintaining the fabric of
not a landscape of isolated villages and
community, and we can drive rates of anti-
disparate demographics that never have to
social and criminal behavior up, while
mix and have no responsibility to one
shutting down businesses that complement
another. We expect all communities to respect
the higher quality education that should have
the same laws and honor one another’s right
to life and liberty, so we cannot shape those
Specifics? Charter schools are great, for
laws to then discriminate against com-
those who get to use them. But no solution is
munities that need to tap the benefits of
satisfactory that leaves a majority of students
being part of a commonwealth more than
with no access to high-quality, state-of-the-
art educational programs. Charter schools
Building a generative economic future,
can never be treated as anything other than a
one in which our investments actually pay
testing ground, where best practices can be
back higher returns than we put in, means
discerned and then distributed through the
considering how we contribute to the building
standard educational system. If we can only
of the fabric of a functioning, humane, stable,
find funding for the charter schools, then we
civilized public space. All people need and
deserve a public space in which community
Curricula? No serious school should be
and individual are part of a virtuous feedback
“teaching to the test” in order to promote a
loop. We cannot do this if our approach is
mechanical increase in standardized test
more punitive than constructive; we cannot
scores: the only worthwhile increase in test
do this if we ignore how flippant cuts to other
scores is the one that comes from having
communities’ funding might be rooted in
promoted real intellectual curiosity, real
flawed mystical assumptions and perversions
breadth of basic knowledge and a well-
of the concept of natural selection.
rounded experience of what society knows:
Build better schools, and children will fill
not just reading, science and math, but
them. Build opportunity, and children will
history, civics, ethics, literature, critical
rise to it. Build a future of diverse options,
and children will grow into more diverse and
this, and it starts with privileging the
complete citizens. Build community, and
intangibles: those segments of the human
those who inhabit the community will
character and intellect that foster develop-
flourish. We can say we don’t want to throw
ment of ethical understanding, compre-
good money after bad, but we can’t make
hensive language ability and compositional
good policy by smearing whole communities
potential in the expression of ideas, including
with the bad that is our bad policy. When
in the visual arts, in music performance and
educators, administrators, budget managers
composition and in the art of movement. If we
and publishing companies that sell the tests,
do not provide access to music, to art, to
restructure a program of study to make it
thoughtful expression through language, we
appear as if education is happening, when in
are not empowering students to rise to the
fact the best of what education can be is
highest heights of their abilities, or even to
being skirted in service of a self-reinforcing
recognize that a given challenge—as yet not
logic of punitive test-score analysis and
apparent to student, teacher or parent—
tactical deprivation, the “soft bigotry of low
might be theirs to take on.
expectations is being intensified and expan-
If we cut the education of intangibles and
ded, not made into a thing of the past.
transcendent humanizing values from our
We have to build stronger, more vibrant
curriculum, we degrade our students’ future
futures, for all children, by making sure we
potential; if we empower them to recognize
spend, and spend wisely—spend to invest,
where there is real value in the exercise of
not to purchase retroactively the legitimacy of
their character and their abilities, they will
unsound political arguments. We have to take
rise to the challenge of building a better
seriously the fundamental rights and trans-
future for all of us.
cendent human dignity of every student: that means we must give them the tools to perform, the information they need to
NOTE: The Winter 2012-2013 edition of the Hot
perform and the opportunity to actually
Spring Quarterly will include a G.O.O.D.-based
perform, as complete human beings, with
education report. The value of arts and music
integral and sovereign intellects, making
programs, of access to ideas and to new ways of
critical judgments and creative choices, at
thinking, to thinking itself, needs to be better
every step of the way along their educational
understood, better assessed and better protected,
journey, a journey we should expect will not
and we are looking for ways to begin to show this.
end at graduation from this or that level of conventional schooling. We know how to do
any address like the one scrawled on a Post-it
Poetry of the Future Library
note and passed hand to hand in spite of Google maps. Technology won’t save you from malformed
by Joseph Lucia In the two following poems, Joseph Lucia
visions, the self-induced calamities some might call
explores the existential crisis inherent in crossing over a conceptual threshold in our relationship to information, and explains what might be the functional “afterlife” of libraries.
fate, messenger RNA failing its functions, receptor sites slow on the uptake letting bad stuff, lots of it, happen at the molecular level. You can’t
Below the City
imagine what goes on down there without complex formulas
Below the city, something’s amiss in the mudchoked sloughs where industrial flotsam abuts asphalt and airport, the camouflaged
and a degree in Genetics. Many will try to tell you knowledge won’t help. But in lost versions of the truth
dwelling places of slick-furred rodents, a borderland that hints you can’t go back though the path forward requires
there’s still a vestige of conscience about facts, though facts never matter to the faithful
a shrink-wrap agreement about the future tense of any sentence you might serve
who won’t accept any possible distinction between what’s up and what’s down in the old implausible cosmologies , the troubled stories
without parole. There are no acceptable outcomes when unnamed effluents from the chemical plant’s hot retort are seen as gifts by those who
that always were just preventive medicine
count— no malice in their mannered sweet platitudes,
for common terrors, for wakefulness at 3 a.m. when quivering inner voices reveal anxieties we can’t deny, denial itself the antidote for loss. Somehow we know we won’t escape or do otherwise,
their words deemed nourishment not poisoned air. All our bad politicians meaning all of them should be buried here or at least dropped off alone by a late night taxi driver who can’t find
returning by compulsion to these outlands,
the places we pass by on the way to other
culture, for our refusal to see ugliness at the
places, rejectamenta littering the roadside, reclamation sites operating their loud, violent equipment all
margins as ugliness in the heart. Our cars keep running on the worn down highways. Most of us
ignore the rust on bridges and don’t care that there’s no more
crushing wrecked cars, chewing up defunct appliances, even the old Kenmores that made homes outposts of reliability. Seeming alive in their hydraulic frenzy,
American steel. But you can still smell it in the air if you sniff really hard, the rank sulfurous odor
elegantly engineered robotic claws feed scrap iron into the maw of a machine that compresses
of the dead mills. The big plants are gone, the ones producing heavy stuff. But the commitment continues
and reforms it, yielding postmodern raw material, dense cubes of refuse that will somewhere again become
elsewhere, in our chemical obsessions, in the black spew we turn to energy so our motors keep
fresh objects of desire. Who knows where they end up,
running even though there’s a parasite eating us from within. The beauty of it is we always find amusement
the recuperated wastes fundamental to our self-regard: yes, we can figure out ways to amend wrongs by making more stuff, by low-cost manufacturing of
in witnessing slow cataclysm and eventual demise.
illusory goods. That’s the job of marketing but also the whole megillah of our fevered romance, the lovely stupefaction by which we live. What are we willing to do other than seek paralysis by argument? The politics of rage is just another face for this junkyard
where people see their faces reflected as
The Afterlife of Libraries
background to whatever they read. A woman looking at weather.com
When the shelves are dismantled, the visitations begin, brief ghostly apparitions of recycled volumes in a remote corner of the upper stacks
has several sentences on Analysis of Variance inserted at the bottom of her display, just above the navigation icons. A guy using his golf GPS
where the Qs were, crowded but less visited than some of the more welcoming books,
the ones down in the Ps unburdened by a tumult
gets equations defining the photoelectric effect
of formulas, the deltas and thetas
overlaid on a contour map of the seventh green. A kid playing Pokemon online is puzzled
that are just Greek to students who spend more time daydreaming than doing labs. There, above the reinforced concrete floor
by the description of glutamine synthesis scrawled across the gym floor. It happens at random, this networked dispersion of facts and
that supported the old weight of knowledge, in the red glow of the Exit signs, the lost empirical tomes assert their quantum
prerogative to flicker back into existence for a picosecond and to shed their complex words into the mute air
into the cellular ether where people graze bits of information they need for a minute
riddled with signals, the layered protocols running on staggered frequencies and bearing the
has been un-housed and rendered formless,
without realizing the matrix of mind and culture
and flows now through buildings, over mountains and rivers without destination, without an endpoint
disembodied syllables that could be the soul of thought. Unexplained interferences start to interrupt the dependable performance of mobile devices, a perfect storm of untethered content appearing
in the binding physical artifact that is its past perfect home. But information wants to be more than free. It wants to matter and last, to counter entropy
in fragments on bright sharp touch screens
emblazoned on all the various and durable with the order of classified things, as if blooming out of the multi-verse there could in fact be pure forms,
ideal manifestations of all the ways we know
revealed in what we held as books but what are instead
Joseph Lucia is director of the Falvey Memorial Library, at Villanova University, in Villanova, Pennsylvania. With his team, he is developing new programmatic models, and new tools and technology (used worldwide),
in this altered place shadow beings from a gone world, a world where fingers made a tacit pact with signs
for the digital age library.
pressed into paper: that we can embrace thought and witness its slow accretion, that we can take pleasure or solace in the long corridors full of othersâ€™ words that enlighten and humble us. Suddenly it seems thereâ€™s a corrective impulse in the curled up dimensions at the Planck distance, the hidden-then-revealed bridges across unmeasured magnitudes of space and time: hints that the old collections persist somewhere and foam up into being again here, breaking through the welter of digital distractions, giving hope to those who remember the weight of pages and the contract with the future of a few strong words
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Published on Sep 28, 2012
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