Thoughts that reimagine the jaded, recalibrate the norm

From reason to righteousness, from justness to joy, from mistake to mayhem, we all have stories. Even though many of them are thought provoking, thought adjusting, thought generating, few see the light of day because we live in a world awash in communication overload where the duration between thought germination, thought formation and thought publication is near zero. Within that cacophony of mostly junk, much that should be said remains unheard because those who can say it took years to come by those ideas and would rather say nothing than try to say it in ten words. Here, we have some really cool nuggets that we have culled and mined through our years of engaging with real people, working real hard, overcoming real challenges for real change. These are some of our chronicles, testaments, observations, experiences and analysis on pretty much everything that we can focus our hearts and minds on.  Some are shorter, some are longer, none of it is actually blogging in the conventional meaning of the phrase where inanities are thrown out at people on a second-by-second basis.

Colonialism, carbon colonialism and the case for blue carbon programs

17

Apr 22

April 17, 2022

Colonialism, carbon colonialism and the case for blue carbon programs

The IPCC’s sixth report is now fully out with the third and final segment from Working Group 3 (AR6-WG3-Mitigation) in our hands. Now, the AR6-WG2-Impacts-Adaption-Vulnerability report mentions, for the first time, the dirty word “Colonialism” in one of its key claims for why we are in this mess, stating specifically, under vulnerability and exposure of ecosystems and people in their Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), “Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions (very high confidence), driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance (high confidence) (SPM.B.2), and also, “Present development challenges causing high vulnerability are influenced by historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, especially for many Indigenous Peoples and local communities (high confidence)”(SPB.B.2.4).

 

Anyone who has been in any way involved with the UN system at the deep drill level would know that they do not use a single word in any of their reports lightly. In this case, the insertion of it has vast implications with respect to the case for various forms of reparations including the added dimension now how colonialism has created the conditions for increasing vulnerabilities with possibilities for colonized countries to demand, perhaps, who knows, “climate reparations of colonization?”

 

Whatever. The thing is in there and its impact should be determined, hopefully, in the near future. Now, WG3, reporting on this matter of mitigation (which is largely energy based and carbon reduction driven) screams at us throughout the document to stop burning fossil fuels yesterday. But it also says this “Shifting development pathways necessitates planning in a holistic manner, rather than thinking about discrete and isolated activities and actions to undertake mitigation. Further, the necessary transformational changes can be positive if they are rooted in the development aspirations of the economy and society in which they take place (Dubash 2012; Jones et al. 2013), but they can also lead to carbon colonialism if transformations are imposed by Northern donors or perceived as such (Chapter 4).

 

Whoa! Hold your horses. Does this mean what I think it means? That there is a very sinister shift to attempt to exploit already exploited countries that have been taken to the cleaners by northern countries to now have to clean up on behalf of those who ravished them in the first place?

 

Let’s unpack this a bit shall we? At COP26 northern countries like the UK chest-thumped their claims to reduce carbon by 78% compared to 1990 levels saying it sets in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target!. That claim is underpinned by a very simple instrument - “make sure we are clean within the ring fenced geography of UK and export all our dirtiest and most carbon intensive businesses such as garments (fast fashion) and prefab (construction) to such countries as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia” Hah!

 

So what does that mean? Well simply, it means that these jokers have gotten better and better at talking about climate change mitigation and doing jack about it or shifting goals and targets so that they look clean when they are in fact double dirty – dirty in strategy, dirty in action. Despite all of these so-called actions, emissions of GHGs are still going up and up indicating that we are not actually reducing anything but shifting the source of those emissions from those that got rich emitting to those that are struggling to get by because of the more known form of colonialism and dramatically increasing problems for those countries, geographies and communities. That is disgusting folks. Additionally, paraphrasing and adding to climate scientist Dr. Adam Levy, “while carbon capture and storage is touted as a silver bullet its ability to cut emissions is pretty small, is dangerous to rely on and costly so the only things carbon capture has in common with a silver bullet is that it is small, lethal in the wrong hands and pointlessly expensive”.

  The damning indictement of global hogwash and carbonwash  

Let’s keep going down this road a bit more. At present, tree planting is the most common form of offsetting an in 2019 it sat at 56.4%, followed by renewable energy projects at around 21.3% and then by domestic appliance projects at about 8.8%. They all promise the triple win of climate response, forest conservation and community development. In reality? Offset projects can and most often do, fail catastrophically – and violently - on all three areas.

 

See, global carbon markets are based on developing regions of the world privatizing and commoditizing its land and forest resources. This is the start of the problem. In a few famous cases, Norway and UK companies bought thousands of hectares of land in East Africa and Uganda to plant fast growing trees like pines and eucalyptus and these resulted in massive depletion of ground water as well as forced evictions of hundreds of people from those areas because the agreements were skewed to badly and so exploitatively towards the northern countries. Additionally, once a specific area of land had been parcelled out and its credits sold those stands of forests must remain in place for literally ever – even if land use requirements of the host country changes making those land parcels essentially owned by others. All hail Carbon Colonialism!

 

So what do we do now as a developing country – or should I say as a HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country) mmm? Anyone? And remember I am not even going into the carbon space argument in this piece?

 

We have a very small land mass to call our own so let’s just face this fact right here right now: We cannot afford to give away any of it to massage the “feel-goodness” of a rich nation. Not for money not for environment. The cost of that money is just too darn expensive for us to bear human development wise and pure development wise. Yet, that money is certainly going to be important to our ICLCs.

 

This is where it makes much better sense to get into blue carbon. You see, we have oodles more ocean space than we have land space and ocean faunal riches, coral riches etc. that are based on water quality and marine and coastal flora plays a critical role in renewing those. So, going in for planting mangroves, seagrasses etc. a) makes sense environmentally b) sequesters more carbon that green carbon and c) can remain in those land masses until the sea cows come home and are let out to the ocean tomorrow and it will not hurt human settlements or expansion potentials one whit. Additionally of course, it will bring in dollars buddies while we are throwing zip for them since our piece of the oceans is going nowhere regardless of who purchases credits off it *wink wink*

 

Sri Lanka must therefore, make sure they play this hand smart. We must make sure that when we do our thing with carbon offsets, we own the process, we rule the process and we control the process. The first generation of colonization was brute force invasion. The second generation of colonisation was aid. Now, we have a new and improved third generation of colonization that can come in through the back door through carbon offsets. Let us make bloody sure that we don’t succumb for a third time in a row.

Anthropogenic Climate Change: Has it marginalized the bigger environmental issues?

15

Mar 22

March 15, 2022

Anthropogenic Climate Change: Has it marginalized the bigger environmental issues?

(This post was inspired by our work in the KCF under the COLIBRI project funded by the EU where we found ourselves scratching our heads and recalibrating all the grandiose schemes we had created to respond to climate change impacts in the region as well as by  general discourse among various global climate activists, correspondents and other um… heh… “stakeholders”. As always, we are constantly disrupting our own thinking on these matters because to stay with one stance in a volatile world is kinda crazy)

 

Aquifers dry up. Saline intrudes into fresh water bodies. Forests are wiped out and along with it species are going extinct at a rate perhaps a thousand times greater than the norm.  Smog sickens people. Toxin laced soil and water kills everything.

 

Some of those cause the climate to go nuts. A mad climate creates mad weather patterns. Mad weather patterns madden people into doing more and more mad things that end up poisoning animals, people, air, water bodies and soils even more. So the cycle created by ignorance, watered by insanity and fed by greed spins ever faster.

 

What has the world done about it? Well, it has picked up one waypoint and  is worrying it to death, hoping that dislodging it from the disk will cause the whole rotator to collapse. That waypoint in Anthropogenic Climate Change (ACC).

 

Let us be clear. First, ACC is an effect not a cause. Next, every cause spins tighter, faster and further due to the outcomes of ACC. In plain English, that means that everything bad that we do causes ACC and ACC causes everything bad that we do to be done even worse.

 

The system must change

So then, why keep focussing, harping and banging pot covers on something that is the result of something else instead of focussing on that something else? Why are the policy makers of the world not having COPs on increasing forest cover globally or reducing unsustainable mining or improving habitat or switching to sustainable fuels with the same zeal that they are bringing to bear to yowl at ACC?

 

Oh sure, they will say we have adaptation, we have mitigation we have this or that plan to address the causes but the cacophony is about the result not the root. This has led all policy makers to revert to the rhetoric on ACC and do the minimum possible to address the reason. We can see that all too clearly when we realize how lame, weak and marginal is the commitment to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from most every nation in the world.

 

The reason is simple: ACC is convenient. It is easy. It’s a copout without being readily seen to be so. It is a means for kicking the can further up the road while pointing to the raucous rattle (read: climate debate) it creates as it rolls into the future.

 

And these politicians, policymakers and lawmakers are smart. In the tiny urban ecosystems in which they and their key supporters reside, climate change is a slow-burner. They still see a bit of well-tailored green, they can still drink a decently clean glass of water, fish still appears magically on their tables, hospitals and supermarkets still give them life. They see not that the designer park is an abomination and that there is little real green for those who depend on it for their lives. They see not that the water coming out of their taps is toxic. They see not that there is little fish for most of the people.  They see not that the proliferation of hospitals and supermarkets is only matched by the uselessness of the drugs they dispense and the food they deliver. Politicians know how to feed this psychosocial myopia. So, for them, the argument is simple: As long as that controlling demographic is kept comparatively happy, we can justify saying “Who cares what others care about? All we need to do is do what we do best – make vacuous promises that tomorrow will be better than today. That way, the controlling demographic can be kept blind while the controlled demographic can be hoodwinked!”

 

The systemOn the surface it sounds laughable but there is a sinister undercurrent to this stance. Failure (a certainty) can be blamed on others while each can claim to have done better, wider, more progressive work and thereby save credibility. Sounds familiar? Of course it does. Every human being in any democracy on earth has seen that happen time and time again over the last century or so. This system must of course change but if the system tells the people how to change the system, then the system, despite our earnest belief to the contrary, will continue to remain, continue to thrive, continue to flourish.

 

Related: Disagreeing to disagree disagreeably

 

So then, what of the millions who engage in various aspects of conservation, resource optimization, environment sensitization, social wellbeing and so on? Well, they’ve had to make like business people and enter the marketplace. Yes. The ACC market for funds. Really. That market seems to grow exponentially for the do-good brigade all the way down the line. For the social conservationist and the environmental protectionist, it makes oodles of sense to reject both stances and proclaim themselves climate activists and design projects around that gaseous claim. This is tragic because the market should not dictate what gets funded and what doesn’t. But that is more or less the reality.

 

So, instead of designing an exercise that manages the diversity of an entire terrain such as say the Knuckles Conservation Forest and its environment where habitat loss and not climate change is the greater ill, many will campaign for a species of frog of which there are six or some mad monkey somewhere of which there are a thousand whose habitat is threatened by climate change. Instead of attacking the causes for the salinization of the aquifers of the Jaffna Peninsula and the loss of water resources in the Mannar district due to over exploitation of ground water resources, this new breed of environment aware groups will talk about water pressure in Northern Sri Lanka due to ACC. Its business! Heh.

 

Most would then dance all over the place trying to prove the unprovable while executing a program that will only yield “lessons learned” (there aren’t any such in the world) or best practices (a few job savers that are the exception and impossible to replicate). A few of them with better ethics will use financial pyrotechnics and strategic mirrors to deflect some of the cash into addressing the real problem of anthropogenic insanity that has comparatively less to do with climate change but has comparatively more to do with environmental irresponsibility.

 

Sure, ACC is top-of-mind, sexy, chic, fashionable, vogue or whatever term one wants to call its trendiness. Sure, it is where the money is. Sure, contradicting Al-Gore’s famous phrase, it is the convenient truth to espouse for the policy makers of the world. But equally certainly, it is a means of tricking people into believing that the world is actually doing something when in fact, the sole goal of embracing this “darling climate change, we love it we love it we love it” is to ensure continued adherence to business-as-usual scenarios while keeping a stock of disappointed faces and wearing them at all times so that everyone can pass the buck to everyone else and all can claim, “reluctantly”, “the talks shall go on”.

4

Mar 22

March 4, 2022

Annihilation through war or weather: Take your pick

If World War III don’t get ya, Climate Change certainly will
 

The world has lost its senses as well all know. You thought I was talking about Ukraine eh? Well yes that too but no, the latest report from the IPCC, that of Working Group II came out a few days ago and it proves that we have lost our minds in more ways than one and that responses to the climate crisis may be far more difficult than the response to war. In both instances, mal-responses could very well lead to literally consuming all of us in ungovernable blasts of heat.

 

None of the outcomes of belligerence are new friends. We clearly saw the writing on the wall with Ukraine back in 2016. So too we see it marked for the South China seas. So too we might well see it writ in the storms of the Western Atlantic. Feeding on doubt and suspicion, our world on the brink of flame, our animalistic reactive responses to threats means just one thing: we learned zip from our histories.

 

None of the outcomes of stupidity are new friends. We clearly saw the writing on the wall for global climate back in 1992. We saw it underscored in three iterations of talks. Feeding on greed and excess, our world on the brink of being seared by global heat, our animalistic reactive responses to threats means just one thing: We learned zip from our histories.

War or weather, take your pick

In both war and weather, pure science has repeatedly told us how we are murdering ourselves. Social sciences give us the doomsday scenarios of ignoring the pure sciences. That second is what the AR6:WG2 report is all about. First, for crying out loud, just #$%^#$%&#%^& READ IT! Each one of us losers live as if the only person who lives in the world is herself. That his idea is the only idea and it need not be based on any other idea. That her action is the only action and need not either depend or be built on those of others. Integrate those individual takes on a time function from t=1945 to t=now and what we have is a fired earth that is being done to a crisp by the only thing we have recently been really good at: The ability to stuff ourselves up ourselves.

 

Let’s just take the climate thing here since the war thing is being done to global death (pun intended) already. What does WGII which looks at impacts say?

 
Everything bad gets worse because of CC
 

To put it mildly, the report is bleak to the point of absolute opacity with respect to how to right the wrong but then again, none of it is new. It says pretty much everything will be touched by climate change but not on equal terms stating under SPM.B.2. “Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions (very high confidence), driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance31 (high confidence). Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change (high confidence). A high proportion of species is vulnerable to climate change (high confidence). Human and ecosystem vulnerability are interdependent (high confidence). Current unsustainable development patterns are increasing exposure of ecosystems and people to climate hazards (high confidence).” Cutting a long-story short, what it means is that everything bad will be made worse by climate change while bad things will increase changes in climate.

It is darkness delivered through desire everywhere, in everyone, in everything

The policymakers’ version has a dark diagram that tells us in no uncertain terms that under various Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) scenarios. In English, SSP translates into the level to which we wish to screw ourselves up as collectives, societies and nations where SSP1 scenarios means we are doing the best we can to unscrew ourselves while SSP5 means we will do what we always did best and cook ourselves into oblivion. We see that if we continue down the path we are on right now, everything gets into the purple regions pretty quickly. I don’t think any of us are even remotely ready to get down and do things about it, choosing to keep discussing and creating reports that will either never be read or get tossed in with the rest of never read but life critical material. We will go our animal route, make our decisions based on where the next buck, fuck or food is going to come from and die. In the process we will use the most creative ways to prove that we are doing everything we can when we are actually doing jak and label what we do badly so that it can be pigeonholed and forgotten except in discussions. And that brings me to our habit of creating new and improved labeling for things we cannot or do not want to address as well as we should. We got one of those mainstreamed through this new report from the IPCC.

 

Maladaptation! It’s been around for a while but it got a bit more traction with AR6:WW2. I kinda like this one. It speaks of something we’ve been doing badly like forever simply to hoodwink people into thinking we are doing something, anything. The intent here is to create excuses for bad behavior. Sch maladapts have the opposite effect to the one intended or claimed simply because they are moves made to deflect people from skewering mal-adjusted human beings doing dirty things to the planet. These types of activities simply try to kick the can down the road while keeping the global human consciousness from biting chunks off the bums of mostly animalistic humans hell-bent (pun intended) on continuing to do their thing at cost to everything. At least that is how I like to interpret it. In general, in adapting to CC, we can do things that help or hurt. Based on who is doing what with what, tools can be the same but the impact of their use diametrically opposite to one another. That should lead everyone to think about what is best for them and how it can create lasting positive impact and not try to supplant something from somewhere else and hope that it grows. WG2 screams at us to understand that coasts will erode, ice-communities will disappear, species will kick their little heals in the air and go to their specific hells or heavens if we continue to try to win individual throws in a game where the collective lot of throws of all players will eventually create a cacophony of dice hitting each other. That noise will be the death knell of a world that was controlled by a species too dumb to realize that this is not a game of chance based on what “I can get as an individual” but a game of choice based on what “We can do together”.

Super nothing: The choice of nutrients over food

13

Feb 22

February 13, 2022

Super nothing: The choice of nutrients over food

The supermarket is an amazing place. Whenever I am in one of those joints I wonder how much work must go into stocking those shelves with nothing, encouraging buyers into believing that there is something and hypnotizing them into thinking they got everything when they step out of its doors.  A truly superlative effort. A superior hoodwinking. And, of course, supremely superfluous. Make no mistake folks, those markets really deserve the adjective “super”!

 

Actually , I am kidding good people. Modern man is easy to hoodwink and even easier to hypnotize. That there thingy that the supermarkets do to the consumer does not require an MBA or thrillingly creative adverts. It is the easiest sell in the world and requires no marketing at all on the part of the market. All they need to do is keep proliferating like a virus, knocking down the small time grocers and open markets so that when people need to get anything, they have no choice but to go to that brightly lit, rack-filled box and get whatever they are selling. I emphasis – get whatever they are selling – not what you want to buy or what you need to buy or what is good for you.

 

Mostly, what you end up buying is nothing.

 

Did you know that in Sri Lanka, we have close to 500 natural foods without counting animal products and multi-purpose plants that are spices or medicines but double up as foods? Do you know the amazing properties of the Durian shell curry? Have you ever eaten a croton salad?  Whether you know of these things or not, I am sure you definitely know that there are no more than 10 types of grain, 45-50 types of vegetables and about 30 - 35 types of animal products at a supermarket. You are also probably aware that you purchase on a regular basis only 12 of that entire set.  Everything else came out of a machine. We call them processed foods. Some… such as TVP are so processed that you can leave it out for as long as you like and not a single roach, rat or mite will touch it  - essentially proving that it is not food! In fact, if you take the contents of five of the seven aisles and leave it all out, no animal will touch any of it except for that really silly animal known as a human being who has been … you got it… hypnotized into believing that nothing is actually something and that textured pieces of old leather is a good, healthy and nutritional oral input into its diseased body.

 

Ah, I’ve covered in that last sentence three words I want to worry you with in this post. “Health”, “Nutrition” and “Disease”.  These days, very few people consume food although a great many people eat nutrients. These days, no one takes treatment for illnesses but everyone has to contend with diseases. These days, almost everyone is doing everything they can to keep themselves in that perpetually debilitated state that results from a 15 year old disease known as CCC - chronic calorie cholera. All in the name of health. This fifteen year old fashion is supposed to be the outcome of increasing advances and developments in the sum total of knowledge of the human race. A small problem here though.

 

Nutrients have not made us any healthier nor has evacuating calories made us any slimmer nor have medicines cured diseases. Instead, all they have done is encourage the human animal to go to that there supermarket to feed its habit of stuffing its face with various chemicals that are either bottled, packed, sealed or shrink wrapped, look weird, smell weirder and have tiny little labels on them saying “nutritional information” or “active ingredient”.  Sounds like the type of thing they put on a barrel of nuclear waste eh? Most have even tinier disclaimers that notify the poor sod who buys something that the manufacturing company is not responsible for a stalk growing out of its head after consuming the product. Come now folks – if people need to be told that they are handling a bomb – then – to all intents and purposes, that is not food. If they have to be told of the constituent chemicals and contraindications of something, then that something should be kept sealed in a leak-proof vault, 2000 feet underground in the middle of a desert. Yet, we, in our blind vote for uninformed, misinformed “wisdom” believe that our neighbor’s Doberman is a greater threat than the nameless goo, grind or gravel inside that next bottle we pick up at a supermarket and hold in our hands.  This is where the meanness of the process of marketing nothing comes to the fore. There is near universal acceptance of the usefulness of the useless.  There is a near total addiction to the desire on the part of a human being to make incessant trips from home to supermarket and back. And the result is…….?

 

Well!

 

When everyone is addicted to the same thing, no one considers it a bad thing!

 

No one realizes that they’ve been had. No one notices that they have been taken in, hook line and sinker. No one understands that they have been sold down the river of marketing mass hypnosis. No one understands that they will never eat well nor ever get healthy.

 

No one considers the fact that we need to cure ourselves of the habit of popping nutrients and pills do we?

 

No one thinks – “Oh hell, I’ve been taking nutrients for yonks but I am still as fat as a cheeseburger, I am breathless, I cannot lift this stupid sofa nor climb that silly tree so I think it’s time I  acknowledge to myself what a terribly debilitating addiction I have, check into rehab at ‘the natural world’ and start eating food for a change”.  No one thinks, “ Oh zark, I’ve been taking meds forever and I still cannot kick any of the things that cause me dis-ease so its time I check my doctor into rehab at ‘Cheaters Anonymous’ and start guzzling a few medicinal plants”.  No one thinks, "Oh darn, we eat the same food but my wife is a stick insect and I am a hippo so what's this rubbish about calories". No one asks “Why are there 40,000 advertisements for so-called foods  that come off a processing line but none that say ‘eat something natural today at one tenth the cost of this here supplement and you never have to spend money on this here supplement or any other supplement’”.

 

Everyone knows what a pathetic creature a heroin addict is. Sick, sniveling, snorting, slobbering, watering and blanking… insatiably expending its life force and its resources on dreams and puffs of smoke… that apology for a human would rather die than kick its habit. I beg to differ. The heroin addict knows what it is doing, understands the consequences and accepts them

.

The majority of nothing guzzlers don’t even know they have a terminal, category 5 addiction problem.

 

However, ask them to remove three of the seven staples of their lunch (dhal curry, fried potatoes, kan-kun/mukunuvenna/gotukola, fish, sambol and papadam) and they would not call it lunch. Remove chicken fried rice from the dinner menu and they would go hungry to bed. Prevent them from taking a shot of coffee and creamer and they would not wake up. Stop them from stocking their homes with a zillion useless canned or packed or shrink wrapped products and they would overthrow the government. Tell them to stop meds and they would drop dead. Ask them to rotate 400+ natural foods over 12 months eating at least seven of them a meal at 1/10th the cost of a pack of chicken fried rice and they would start shivering uncontrollably. Tell them that eating an average of just 12 types of natural foods out of about the 100 or so available at a supermarket would  be the equivalent of intermarriage and would leave them stunted, ill and unable to cope, and they would kill you rather than change their consumption patterns. Tell them that calories and fatty acids are only marginally important and that coconut oil is better than vegetable oil and they would wonder what sort of nuthouse you escaped from. Tell them that all they’ve been doing is stuff up on the equivalent of stale, 3 day old cement and they would want you restrained in a straightjacket and thrown in a nuthouse as fast as possible - with a board around your name saying "danger to society" .

 

Remove the average human being’s access to a supermarket and you would think that a heroin addict is an angel in comparison to what that very very pathetic wretch would become. Me?  Rather than have that eventuality visit me, I’d rather collapse in utter ecstasy while waiting to pay heart attack prices for something whose total substance is a little less than a puff of air – to an apron clad kid - at a checkout counter – in a supermarket – in some unfashionable neon-lit box - anywhere in the world.

 

Enough!

 

Let me now take a rest, gasp in a few labored breaths, reach for a soda picked up at a supermarket, and then… proceed to cackle insanely and hysterically while blubbering about the millions of chemicals used on so-called natural vegetables and explain to myself patiently, carefully, thoughtfully and rationally, the great technologically engineered marvel of vegetarian chicken and keel over insensate as only a true addict can when his habit has come home to roost. Do I sound like I am super mad? Well, the supermarket is only partly to blame for that.  My super dumbness, just like that of any substance abuser, is the bigger culprit.

Your food is a lie! - take a peak at a visual exposition of this here textual barf heh!

Sustainable development eh? ha HA!

7

Feb 22

February 7, 2022

Sustainable development eh? ha HA!

I wrote this piece years ago but I think it is still relevant... heh.

In a world awash in new and improved ways of calling a spade anything but… in a world where it is fashionable to couch one’s meanness and one’s selfishness in fair words and phrases, I have my pet detest – “sustainable development”.

 

As a development practitioner I am forced to use that word a dozen times a day – sometimes more – and I have no clue what the hell it means. Or rather, I am only too aware exactly what it means and it doesn’t mean what its semantic is supposed to mean.

 

Of course, there are the various “oh so chweet, oh so cute” definitions coined by various well meaning people. “Sustainable development is…” and then, depending on what diet of reading, conferences, study programs and development rationale one has indulged one's self in, “...economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources” or “…a dynamic process which enables people to realize their potential and improve their quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the earth's life support systems” or  some similar witches’ brew that attempts to work life quality, ownership, fairness, inclusiveness, care, love and tree-hugging, future generations, women, children, massage parlor workers, agenda 21, Armageddon, wall street and Bruce Willis’ oil rig caper on a meteorite into a passing-palatable potpourri.

 

It can all be slotted neatly under a far more relevant and reasonable phrase “development bunkum”.

 

We all know that global effort towards depleting natural resources far outweighs global effort at regenerating them. We all know that global wars from the Ukraine to the river Jordan are to capture existing resources not to create more of them. We know that the discussions that result in resource destructing or resource exploiting take all of 10 minutes to conclude and all of 10 days to execute whereas those that are aimed at resource preserving and resource regenerating take 10 years to go nowhere. We know that every decision to make the world’s dynamics more unpredictable and more volatile will be immediately executed and every decision to make the world’s dynamics more predictable and more stable will be immediately postponed.

 

In this type of world, whoever believes in “sustainability in development” and its attendant cloud of sweet phrases is simply kidding themselves. Those happy phrases are of no relevance except to the industries that have grown up around them – the biggest being the UN which has now got something known as “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” that are supposed to enhance the “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”.

 

Well, we tried for 20 years to get those MDGs up and running and failed. We need to have are heads tested if we believe that an even more complex model that attempts to incorporate everything from everyone including all of the MDGs and a dozen or so more social, environment, cultural, political, economic and traditional life-realities is going to work.

 

The simple stupid fact of the matter is that after the “world decided” at RIO+20 in 2012 that it needs SDGs (for lack of anything better to do since everything “done” had failed), it  has taken two whole freaking years, about 20 position papers and about 2000 conferences and about 10 billion dollars to come up with what is tantamount to zilch. By 2015, they would have laboriously cobbled together something not entirely unlike life in utopia and equally mythical. The amusing take home from this? we, the world, have been struggling for three bloody years trying to figure out how to sustain it. If we can do it it ten it would be a miracle given the fact that most of the people involved are only interested in sustaining the process of trying to find a sustainable solution.

 

Historical fact: If any development paradigm takes that long to figure out it cannot be done.  We couldn’t get response to climate change to work and we couldn’t find adequate solutions to the financial, food or energy crises. We tried for a decade to figure out what to do about those and another decade to realize we couldn’t do jak about it. SDGs are worse because of their sheer complexity and anyone who believes in them is either demented or delusional or both since none of the previous efforts tied down by sustainability threads and founded on so-called sustainability principles have worked.

 

With sustainability a myth, in a fickle, careless and volatile world, all we can hope for is that our development models are “durable”.  Something that doesn’t depend on fairy stories about future generations – only future generations will care about future generations the way this bad mad world is going. Something that can work well for a while before it, likes all other things, falls apart and has to be replaced. Something that will be short term viable while having a good shot at being long term visible in terms of its impact.

 

Instead of attempting to think about macro-scale regeneration or preservation or any other such honey coated nonsense, think rather, how can we make our development efforts withstand wear? How do we make them withstand natural and human pressure? How do we make them resilient to damage? How do we make them hard-wearing? In short, how do we make our development exercises more durable from the standpoint of societies as opposed to interest groups?

 

Let us recognize something here.

 

This cannot be done through policy planning, international agreements, laws, legislature or binding agreements - those big time diplomacies have big time failed societal durability. This cannot be done at the level of mega-development-projects - those are designed to mega fail societal durability.

 

Those exercises, by their sheer size,complexity and number of shareholders will damage, destroy, delete - even as they supposedly develop and sustain. Take a case in point – four 140 floor casino in Colombo – yeah great. Big economic boost. But hey, hold on right there – the Kelani river only has so much water – if you try to feed four 140 story casinos with water, there won’t be any water left for the rest of Colombo!

 

No. What can be done from a “durability” position is to durably develop micro-communities, living in micro-geographies with micro-efforts designed carefully to be robust enough to withstand the pressure of “sustainable” development.  Those efforts won’t speak of future generations but rather, about keeping some members of this generation safe for a little while against the many challenges they will face. Those efforts can and should factor in such “tions” as conservation, regeneration, edification, consolidation, collectivization, harmonization. Those can and should weave into their “durable development” tapestry such things as social, economic, political, cultural, environmental sensitivities. They should be kept small since enlarging and replicating has had the tendency to break the whole apart at its seems as has been historically evident in such exercises from the efforts of Jesus to those of Lenin. They should not try to achieve goals through processes but rather, accomplish resilience through creating conditions that cannot be easily attacked or easily pressurized. How?

 

Do you think for a moment that simply establishing such durability conditions will allow them to be resilient in terms of social, cultural, economic rhubarb rhubarb perspectives? No. Of course not. Then how?

 

Well, not by going the legal route, the international community route, the policy route or the medicinal-aid route which are all tied into the unsustainably-sustainable rhetoric. Then how?

 

Guns buddy. Lots of them. Simple. In the short and long term future of our world, encompassing both our current and future generations, even as I puke at the prospect, durable development would need to be defended not by development practitioners, lawyers or policy advocates but rather, by warriors.

 

In the interim, as a development practitioner who attends conferences, designs strategies and executes projects founded on the sustainability principle, I shall reserve the barf for that phrase “sustainable development” which is the darling of every form of development from the commencement of the industrial age up until now and called as such by those whose practice can only be called “predatory development”.

 

This post offers nothing, dear reader. It is merely a sober assessment of where we are not going very fast and also a tongue-in-cheek missive to my young friend Dhanusha Amarasinghe who called me on that phrase “durable development” a few FB posts ago

Sustainable production and consumption

7

Sep 21

September 7, 2021

Sustainable production and consumption

THE ZERO DISTANCE ARGUMENT

Back in 2007 I was on an agricultural training program and giving a talk to farmers in the Aluvihare area of Matale about the various crises in transport, food, energy, climate, finance and garbage. While they listened attentively enough, as the talk progressed, I got the distinct feeling that I was not really engaging them. Finally, when I was done, a middle aged man who had been standing slightly aside from the group beckoned me to his side.

 

He was Arunasiri he informed me, a man who had farmed his one acre of uplands and one acre of paddy lands for forty years. Summarized, this is what he told me “Sir, I agree that there seems to be a problem with quality of food and cost of food. But I don’t have that problem because I grow all the food I need organically. I have never had to sit at my table with less than six separate dishes to choose from. I know that fuel prices are very high but most of my fuel needs are served by firewood picked from my own lands or from the vicinity and my family goes to sleep by eight o’clock so we use very little electricity. I also agree that some people have issues with transport. But I don’t have that problem because I go to town only once every three months and only to buy salt, dried fish, blades, soap and toothpaste. Once a year I buy a couple of new sarongs and shirts. I earn about 2000 rupees a month by selling a few fruits on the roadside and that is quite enough for everything I need to buy. I know that may people use bins to put garbage in but I do not think of anything as garbage so I don’t need a bin. Most of the people you spoke to are like me. What you speak of may be true of the rest of the world but for us, these things have never been problems so we are wondering what to do with what you say”.

 

Slthough rueful that my effort of the morning was completed wasted I nevertheless smiled with genuine happiness for in Arunasiri I saw a completely  sustainable man, living in a sustainable community in a sustainable village. Where he is now I do not know.  Neither do I know if his village has succumbed to the insanity and impropriety of the world in the decade that followed.  However, the reason underlying his killer missive of “your problems have never been my problem” is ragingly relevant to us today as we deal with infinitely exacerbated versions of those very crises I spoke about that day.

 

What do we have today? We have Asia growing the largest amount of food but also having the largest number of starving people in the world. We are bleeding money to power our lives with geometrically increasing fuel prices while largely ignoring our own renewable sources. We carelessly bring home and discard 2500 metric tons of material a day and are literally and figuratively being mowed under by an avalanche of garbage.  The price of money has skyrocketed. Having made all of these things come to pass, we call ourselves civilized, sensitive and intelligent when in fact, the opposite is true.

 

The reason is not that hard to understand. Connecting people with goods that were produced on the other side of the planet is a horribly unsustainable exercise that was the great, world destroying mathra of the industrial age. With every increase in the miles between the minds and markets of the producer and the consumer, everything becomes more difficult, more expensive, more wasteful and more toxic.

 

A key difference between the industrial age and the sustainable age is the fact that in the sustainable age, minimizing this distance between producer and consumer is mandatory. Taking the argument to its highest point, the sustainable age must strive to reduce that distance to zero at every possible point. The only way to achieve that is to make the producer the consumer or vice-versa as farmer Arunasiri and his community had done so many years ago. This is easiest achieved in food, energy and transport. In this piece, I will not treat finance and garbage for those wastes deserve fuller attention.

 

To reduce “food kilometers”, consumers need only to grow a percentage of their food and to eradicate those kilometers, grow all of the food that they consume. Even urban Sri Lanka is comparatively green and we have a tradition of growing steeped in our agricultural heritage that is easily leveraged for the purpose. Happily, with the present government committed to localizing food production and consumption, they have the ability and the capability of lending a helping hand to any and all who wish to engage in food production for their own consumption. Not simply in rural settings but (especially) in urban habitats.

 

To reduce “energy kilometers”, consumers  need only to generate a percentage of their energy and to eradicate those kilometers, generate all of their energy. Once again, the government has created the enabling environment for consumers to create their own energy through the “battle for solar energy” initiative that provides substantial technical and financial assistance to those (especially) in urban settings to generate their own power.

 

To reduce “transport kilometers” consumers need only to work and study a percentage of time from their places of residence and to eradicate those kilometers, work and study exclusively from home. Here too, modern technology is already eminently capable of providing the spidering required for person-to-person interconnects that do not require them to be in the same physical space.

 

Doing these things will reduce the carbon footprint of every citizen for all of these areas are high in energy consumption when indulged in using industrial age sensibilities. Most importantly though, it reduces waste geometrically.

 

But will we? Many of us, who dismiss stress, illness, fatigue, loss of quality time as “occupational hazards” of attempting to compete in the world will think of all of these alternative exercise which will reduce all those industrial age problems as either “a lot of work” or “not worth the time”. Such is the nature of addiction to bad things.  If we qualify in any way to the title “intelligent” this should have ended decades ago but beings creatures of habit, addicts, we have let the runaway train of casual producer-consumer convenience gather so much momentum that it threatens, not only to throw the entire human race off track, but to destroy the track as well. Yet, true to our addiction, we would rather shrug, bury our heads in the sand, watch our idiot boxes, sent our tweets and snaps and posts, by everything that loans, debts, supermarkets and malls can sell us and go to our happy, habit-addled doom than lift a single finger to turn this around.

 

I have a small hope though, that people will sit up, remove their pink-tinted glasses and see the world for what it truly it. See that we have run out of time. See that we have to bootstrap ourselves into the future and that future will belong to sustainability of we are to have any future at all. See that enabling that that future mandates that these bad habits must be broken. That these horror addictions are kicked. See that like all such things, these must stop and that they  must stop now.

If you are not dead already you should be

26

Aug 21

August 26, 2021

If you are not dead already you should be

The dumb citizen’s sellout to toxic foods and the disaster to national health

So, you are fairly well to do. You commute daily to your great job or your profitable business. You return each day to a stable family. You take a vacation every few months. You own a few acres and couple of houses and a car or three. You go often to the bank to make a deposit to an already fairly fat nest egg. It’s a great, solid, decent, socially mandated routine and you are probably thinking you do well in terms of the societal norms by which you live. Society probably considers you a smart man and you probably believe that yourself.

 

Oh, and by the way, you also complete that routine by becoming sick five times a year, going in for a checkup every six months with your spouse in attendance and taking a sick child to this OPD or that battery of specialists every month for treatment for a cocktail of illnesses.  Your kitchen cabinet resembles a mini-pharmacy. You hammer the well-woman clinic, the hair-loss treatment clinic, a dozen deals that come couched in health check-up packages from diabetes to prostrate to toe-nails, every next advert claiming that you can be saved if you gulp this, pop that or chomp the other thing.

 

Who are you?

 

You are one of a whole host of upper-middle class citizens of this country that believes, religiously, blindly, that your life is great despite every indication to the contrary. You believe you are doing alright with your diabetes, your hypertension, and your clogged arteries.

 

You think that chronic kidney disease is something that affects poor rural farmers who live surrounded by a fog of toxic agrochemicals. You have no clue that a full 10-15 percent of the population of Sri Lanka will be subject to serious renal disease by 2025 and that you, thirty-something now will probably be having dialysis at forty-something

 

You have no idea why your wife had to suffer so much to give birth to a child and had to go visit a doctor fourteen times during pregnancy or why your child needs every kind of shot, pill and pop imaginable just to keep it breathing over its first five years. You haven’t figured out why most women are half dead by the time they have a single child these days and you have no clue why you have penile dysfunction at thirty. You do not wonder that each time you go to a hospital there are, literally thousands of others crowding in, pushing you out and jostling for position. You have no need to understand why the fastest growing and most profitable business sector in Sri Lanka is the health sector.  You think this is the norm when you are being told by your dad that in his day, he visited the doctor maybe once a decade and even then, there were just a couple of others in the waiting room with him. You have no idea how much of your productivity is lost to your little stash of diseases. You have no idea why in the past, people were cured by medicine but now, they are forced into chronic use of drugs simply to keep you going and going in a twilight existence while buying and buying “controllers”.

 

Who are you?

 

You are no better and no worse than the low income groups and the middle income groups and you differ in just one way – you have the wherewithal to somehow justify the belief that your shortened, diseased life is somehow great.  You believe that your ability to check into a five star hotel masquerading as a hospital is enough to validate the various diseases you need treatment for. When you buy into the various advertisements calling you to splurge on this insurance and that policy, this vitamin or that energy booster, you erroneously believe that by doing so you can live just a bit longer than anyone else.

   
   
Who are you?
   
You are a person who doesn’t know that the incidence of agrotoxins in your food is at levels that will kill you just as surely as the farmer who is exposed to 100 times that amount.  You have no idea that early onset Alzheimer’s is an urban ill linked to the ingestion of those poisons. You do not know why there are so many special needs units popping up to treat ADHD whose incidence jumps 10 times in children  exposed to organophosphates which you end up feeding your children through the foods you purchase. You have no idea that leukemia accounts for 33% of all childhood cancers and that agrotoxins are a key reason for it and that your child is vulnerable to it even before it is born. You do not know that in certain parts of the world, especially developed countries or those urban centers in developing countries that are significantly developed (like Colombo) 1 in every 8 women will succumb to breast cancer linked to agrotoxins. You just don’t understand that pesticides and insecticides are the reason why so many of our children are suffering from asthma and your child probably does as well.
   
Who are you?
   
You are a person who visits the supermarket at least twice a week to buy a few of the 40+ agrotoxin laced poison packets also known as the fruit, vegetables, meat and fish section despite the fact that Sri Lanka has over 550 natural foods that don’t have to be labeled “poisonous! Handle with care”. You are a person who doesn’t care a tiny rat’s rear why there are just two aisles of food and seven aisles of “nutrients” and that those rows and rows of nutrient cans, boxes, packets and wraps only serve to concentrate the toxins already existent in their sources coupled with a chemistry lab full of other poisons just to keep them looking and tasting like food for a long long period of time. You are a person who doesn’t wonder why not even a maggot will touch the contents of a “nutrient rich” package if you toss it out and watch it until it degenerates into dust.
   
Who are you?
   
You are a person who believes that something marketed well is better than something that is not. You are a person who will trample a naturally created jak-fruit seed on your way to a supermarket to buy a kilo of toxin laced dhal. You are a person who reads the nutrient list on a package to see if it will solve an imaginary disease marketed for you by a nice looking chick on TV. You are a person who just doesn’t think that natural foods can be had for either low cost or no cost because it is too easy to access and too difficult to market as part of your “wealth display” or your “knowledge  display”.
   
What are you?
   
You are dumb. And the dumb die. Sooner rather than later. Despite your social status. Despite your supposed wealth and wherewithal. Despite your lands and your buildings. Despite your insurance policies. Despite your acceptance by society as a “smart” person. If you are not a ghost parked on top of a hospital roof or supermarket display while reading this post, you are already dying.
   
You know it, and you are just too darn stupid to realize why that is so.
   
Sustainable engagement: The art of making one’s self progressively unnecessary

10

Aug 17

August 10, 2017

Sustainable engagement: The art of making one’s self progressively unnecessary

(This may also be found here on the Daily Mirror)

 

Today, I will tell a story that is of great use and therefore, I shall limit my reading of it because my views on it are not that useful. The dialogues are not a perfect lift because memories such as these are long and rambling as they flit across one’s mind but… the essence is there. Indulge me folks.

 

Mrs. Seelan (not her real name for reasons that will become apparent),  is a small scale farmer in the Vanni. Back in 2012, I was on a project to uplift the lives of farmers and looking for people who were already on their way without my intercession. I was chock-full of NGO-ese gunk like “empowerment”, “micro-entrepreneurship”, “value-chain enhancement” and a whole load of additional blah. Looking for champions for case studies, I heard of this lady from people in one area as I was rooting around with my Tamil speaking buddy Damien. They were doing fine with a bee-keeping collective but flat out refused to speak about it. Instead, they named another. “Go see Mrs. Seelan” was the stock statement within the community and try as I might, they pointed to none other. Yet, their directive was anything but casual, as noted by the lowering of the voice, the glazing of the eyes, the tiny smile at the edge of the lips.  This then, was one of significant standing among them. A lady held in honor by all to the point that everyone else felt they were not quite as good, quite as enabled. A formidable person, I decided, as we parked our big bad vehicle in front of her gate. A gate  which was one by name only for it was not designed to keep anyone out. We proceeded through into her small haven.

 

As I stepped out of the super-heated sunlit blaze into her cool, green-twilight, elven-fantasy land it didn’t take me more than a second to realize that our very presence there was an aberration. A break in some complex internal harmony within the place. A distraction at best. An irritation at worst.

 

We wandered in. We wondered in. There was no hurry to the process of walking across the acre from gate to house and much wonder swirled around us as we did so. Her two acre land was dense and dark with shockingly luscious and green foliage. Birds tweeted in the trees. Lizards and monitors sat, straddled and waddled across the ground. Insects zinged, hummed and chirped in that strange, constant concord of intermingled harmony and cacophony. The very air seem aware, excited and enthused by the idea of life.  Seated in front of her house and bound up with it all was Mrs. Seelan, a tiny tiny lady with many smiles and few words.

 

Despite our fractious intrusion, she did by us because the great hospitality of our people was not be denied. Indicating a rough seat in her garden, she stepped into her house and returned with two sizable slabs of honeycomb fat and dripping with golden goodness. I sat there, holding it in my hand, and spoke to her with Damien translating.

 

The people call you the bee-lady, although looking around, it seems to me that you are an everything lady”.

She didn’t reply for a while then “… they call me that because I was the first to teach them the art and they are quite successful now”.

Oh??” The penny dropped.  “So it was you who introduced it to them?

No Sir, many came with the science. They failed. I gave them the art. They succeeded”.

I nodded. “They have formed a very profitable business group but you are not a part of that. Why?”.

She said nothing.

“They respect you a lot you know?”

She said nothing.

Perhaps they would love it if you lead them?”.

 

She said nothing.

 

I dropped it. Not entirely insensitive to these things and I saw that I was very quickly going from being a mere irritation to being a downright nuisance so I decided to shut my notebook and concentrate on the honeycomb instead. That honey had a unique sharpness, caused no doubt by the mix of flowers in the area. Tricky thing, eating honey from the source. Much care is needed to extract it and its certainly not an “on-the-fly” type of food that is preferred these days.

 

In that place, the taste seem somehow enhanced by an infusion of the essence of its multifaceted aliveness. So concentrated was I in the task and the ethos of the place, that it was a while before I realized that she was speaking in a slow, casual monotone, murmuring to no one in particular, almost as if she were revealing something to herself.

 

Once they understood, my task was done. Some will teach their children. Others will teach their relatives in other villages. All will enjoy benefits. The art can only be taught if the student owns the process. Otherwise, the knowledge is with the teacher. This is the big mistake of teaching the science. The teacher always tries to be bigger. Always wants credit for the skills. Then the student becomes lesser. Less interested. A good teacher must become progressively unnecessary. I never had to teach them the full art. The last third, they figured out for themselves. I was not needed and that was good. I did not need to be known. I did not need to own. I did not need to belong. I was only the source of the energy. They used it to light their own lamps. It is well. My task is done. The benefit of the action is theirs. The recognition for the action is theirs. The respect for the action is theirs”.

 

Damien was silent for a long while before he translated and I understood why. If roles were reversed, I would have wanted to hold to her soliloquy for as long as possible myself.

 

When he finished, I said nothing. All was well. All was very very well. We finished our treat, he exchanged a few words with her, we all exchanged many smiles and then we took our leave, walking slowing out of a piece of mini-magic.

 

As we retraced our steps, Damien said “do you want to know why she spoke?”.

“No”.

It’s just… well, in all the time I have known her, she has never spoken that much”.

I shook my head. “Drop it bro, it doesn’t matter”. I was not in the least interested in making her into a case study or a report on “best practices”. But he couldn’t let it lie.

He made a mistake, that one…” she had said.

“…but then he realized and he stopped. Many have come here. He is not the first. But he is different this one. He is wiser. He put his book down. I spoke because I saw that he was eating honey as it should be eaten”.

I smiled, nodded, opened the door of our SUV and tossed the notebook inside.

Damien glanced quickly at me, pointing at the discarded book. “You will write it up later?”.

I shook my head as I got in.

Such things are to be passed from person to person. Not report to report. Someday, if I am in the mood, I might tell someone the story. For now, I am satiated”.

what?”.

“Satiated…” the driver started the engine. “…full, complete, aware. Aware that the world is not really all that bad”.

 

Mrs. Seelan, by example, exposed the root of sustainability, continuity, durability. She showed the point of takeoff for a more equitable and contented future for us all, less fraught with danger, less driven by fear. To get there, we must understand three things. First, that our base dynamic energy should kindle the potential energy of many. Next, that our capability must trigger innate capability in many. Finally, that when many people benefit a little, entire communities and nations benefit a lot.

 

Moreover, we must honestly recognize and unequivocally reject our past lives of shame and sham.

 

Lives where the extent to which we were able to hoard and guard our very minor stores of wealth, knowledge and power defined capability. Where the extent to which we were able to viciously suppress any who dared threaten them, using policy, acts, rights, politics on one hand and lying, cheating, manipulation and thuggery on the other defined ability. We must understand that if we are the reason for the contentment and happiness of many, we are automatically giving ourselves a reward a hundred times greater without any requirement to be counted as those who started it all. As Mrs. Seelan is well and her world is well, so, we, too, can make our worlds well. When we do that, we will heal the planet.

 

As Mrs. Seelan proved without ever setting out to do so, honor, recognition, power and above all –respect - does not come to people through demand or command or because of what they are but rather, because of what they make others see in themselves.

14

Dec 14

December 14, 2014

Public debt – Sri Lanka is not bad actually

I wrote a couple of years ago that Sri Lanka's public debt has resulted in every Sri Lankan citizen being indebted to the tune of Rs.200,000. Sure sure, the per capita income of Sri Lankans from a statistical perspective is rocketing upwards, so much so that we are now supposed to be a middle income country. Let us casually ignore the fact that the large majority of poor live in abject poverty and that the small minority if rich live in fabulous opulence. The nation is in impossible debt compared against its Purchase Power Parity (PPP). Well, it seems as if other nations are far worse off than we are.

 

Lets do a bit of comparing shall we?

 

How much money do we have in the world? Well, even guesstimates vary on this but,  we currently have about 5 trillion dollars of physical cash and approximately 25 trillion dollars in "dits and dots" - checking accounts which can be quickly accessed. Forgetting about vague money such as money market funds and long term deposits and adding savings and deposits less than 100,000 dollars, we have about 60 trillion of enabled cash across the world. That's about it. Nothing more that is useable. Nothing.

 

Global public debt is currently growing at an eye-popping 5.14 million US dollars a minute and currently stands at approximately 55 trillion US dollars.

Here are the forecasts according to "The Economist" (Global debt clock figures)

   

What does that mean? lol. Well, it simply means that we are in debt to 91% of the total available funds in the world. Within a year, we will jump that limit and be truly spending more than we have - unless of course, we try to mint ourselves out of trouble, do as Zimbabwe did and end up as Zimbabwe did. Except that we wont have a dollar or a South African rand to save us.

 

Sri Lanka is in debt to the tune of USD 55 billion and per capita debt is USD 2,500. Terrible eh?

 

Here's how Sri Lanka compares to other nations: You can see a "popularly debt ridden country" in Greece and the rest of the "popularly stronger countries" in the table.

Bottom line? We are staggering under debt, and we feel it. The rest of the world in being mowed under it but doesn't give a dime (save Africa... funny? not at all, but, lol, anyway). The reason they give for saying Japan or Singapore is "cool" and we are "uncool" is because of some weird-assed metric that says they have "better fiscal management", "have the capability to repay", "earned the trust of creditors" and such la-di-dah. Well, when sub-prime mortgages failed in the USA and I daresay, leveraged investments in China will fail pretty soon if they don't watch it, everyone knew that the "trust" developed by highly indebted nations were a Chimera - a manufactured dream. It only needed the failure of broadbased nuclear debt to fail for the whole darn pack of cards to come crashing down. So, good people, while we earnestly prattle on about wealth creation, we are all - without exception - only capable of debt creation. In that it is not just Sri Lanka but everyone else who is doing terribly.

  The world is insane. The so-called "developed" countries, especially so.   Ho ho ho. Happy New Year to all!  
A climate of change ripe for advantageous instability

30

Nov 13

November 30, 2013

A climate of change ripe for advantageous instability

Everything changes. Including the climate. We seem to have forgotten that. We believe that we can somehow wish this change away or use some sort of mantra to prevent that universal principle of “anithya” or impermanence from affecting the climate. We cannot.

 

Change isn’t exactly a bad thing as we all know. However, instability certainly is. When things are in flux for any length of time, things don’t just change. They fall apart. The operative word here is “things” - in the plural. Four: the fiscal thing, the food thing, the energy thing and the climate thing. All are very much in flux, very intrinsically interconnected, very politicized and very much in the news. One thing that is not in the news is the one thing that seems to be relatively stable and unchanging inside of this roily, shifty gruel.

 

Attitude.

 

We think we can respond to these life threatening crises by holding desperately on to phraseology such as “our ways of life”, “businesses as usual”, “this was the way then and this will be the way now” even though they were the cause of this mess. We think we can pack, couch or sugar coat the same tired, useless models in new phrases such as “alternatives sources”, “sustainable development”, “nuancing and contextualizing”, “common but differentiated responsibilities”. We go from RIO to COP, from G8 to G77, from OECD to UNDG, from FAO to IFAD, uprooting ourselves from one watering hole and heading off to the next, always moving, always fluxing, always changing in a quixotic effort to find “stability”.

 

The reason why we make like nomads is because stability is not a goal. Rather, it is a ruse.

 

When faced with crises, we, collectively, expend enormous amounts of time, money, materials and effort to continue within the framework of our attitudes, to win throws when every dice is loaded against us, to make for ourselves our personal havens and heavens while damning everyone else to wastelands and hell. We! Want to fiddle while the planet burns – with exactly the same mentality and for exactly the same reason that Imperator Nero Cladius did, 1949 years ago.

 

We! Instinctively think we must somehow hold to our comfort zones, our respective understandings, our separate conclusions, our exclusive experiences, our unique perspectives, our personal advantages and battle to the death all who dare contradict us, oppose us or threaten us. Even if we give way, we give grudgingly, attempting to acquire as much if not more than that which we cede.

 

Let us take climate change and see where our attitudinal adherences have taken us. Well, we have come a long long way – going nowhere. Here’s why:

 

The climate crisis is utterly bound up with the other three crises mentioned above. The segregationist views of modern science and the application of specialized expertise is supposed to solve the problem of climate per se. Will it succeed? No.

 

Scientific experts from physicists to economists legitimized uncivilized behavior in the name of civilization. They laid the foundation around 400 years ago for the eventuality of the multiply threatened existence we are experiencing now. Within their scientific realities they have, over two decades, proposed about 200, mostly contradictory response strategies. None of them have even the remotest chance of succeeding and scientists now, as scientists then, will happily retreat into their laboratories and studies sniffing and snorting at the lack of political will to see their ideas brought to fruition.

 

Political will I: Good one. Laughable. Politicians are willed by self-servitude. When the ex-biggest polluter of the world, the USA tenaciously hung on from COP 13 to 18 to its right to be “America” and the “right to pollute”, it (and Canada) were smoothly broadsided by China (and India) who want to occupy center stage in the “fight against climate change”. The chief polluter is dead, long live the chief polluter!

  [caption id="attachment_8074" align="aligncenter" width="960"]COP debates So we shall argue and we'll compromise and realize that nothing's ever changed...[/caption]  

Political will II: This is good - two. heh!  It changes from year to year, from COP to COP. The current flavor of how not to do while talking about how much to do was at the recent COP (19). This time it was carbon credits for REDD where developed countries are ready to spend millions to see that forest resources in developing countries are in sound working order. Small problem here: apparently they are not willing to spend a single dime until there are reliable reference levels to show how much capturing is done. Developing countries are not willing to spend a single dime to obtain these figures until someone flashes some green their ways. We are very self-willed aren’t we? We are progressing…onward… march… to the next COP!

 

Ok. So we recognize we are going nowhere. Where then is nowhere? I don’t know? By definition, that should be apparent but crisis politics seem to enthusiastically tell me that it is a utopic place lurking just beyond the scope of my vision. If someone can enlighten me, please, do so. I’ve been waiting a long time and have paid my dues.

 

Here are some indicators that I like from Alex Evans to that chimerical place. They are not exclusive paths, crisscrossing and riding rough shod over one another constantly. There are many more and they are just as good or just as useless as any since no one has gotten there yet, but, for whatever they are worth:

 
  • They who argue for “one last push” believe that nothing short of a global deal based on binding targets and timetables will cut the mustard. But it also doesn’t think that ‘big bang’ approaches can work either. So they argue for a ‘muscular incrementalism’ based on the steady, hard work of assembling political coalitions to make progress and open up political space, one step at a time. 20 years, 19 COPs, 2 RIOs, 1 Kyoto and no, it’s not happening ducky.
  • They who argue for “technological competition” reckoning that the main driver of change will be countries competing with each other to secure shares of massive future clean technology markets. Competition got us in this mess. Competition won’t get us out of it so, sorry, no cigar.
  • Those who argue for a “tooling up to a zero sum world” who knows climate change is a problem but don’t care much about solving it. Instead, they focus on coping with heightened competition for oil, land, food and water implicitly boosting low carbon tech that can yield energy independence and other such national goals or, drive investment into less sustainable options like tar sands, shale gas etc. Fear of tomorrow? You are about to have a very bad day my son.
  • Those who argue for “new designs for living” do not trust the policy elites and try to work from the bottom up on small scale, sustainable mechanisms. Works. Problem? Impossible to upscale despite all the love and goodwill in the world. Political wiliness shall kill your efforts dear lady, even if political unwillingness doesn't.
  • Those who argue for “using shocks intelligently” and seek to deal with the lack of political space for action on climate by being ready for shocks – extreme weather events etc. - and using the political windows of opportunity that open up (usually suddenly and only briefly) in their wake. Like Alex, I like this one the best. In a world where no one knows where nowhere is, it charts a map that has a shade more clarity than all of the others combined.
 

However, one of these days, the collective crises might yield a series of minor shocks over a very short window of time that taken together will be tantamount to one mega shock that no one will be able to survive - regardless of our specific attitude or our individual comfort zones and regardless of the fact that cop-out 19 just like the 18 before got undone and undusted.

 

Anyone reading this might think I am talking about changes in natural climate. Well…yeah. That too.

 

Here's a mangling of the lyrics of Billy Joel's song on the subject:

And so we argue and we compromise, And realize that nothing's ever changed, For all our mutual experience, our separate conclusions are the same.

 

Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity, Our reason co-exists with our insanity. And though we choose between reality and madness... It's only sadness no euphoria.

 

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies. And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives, With our respective similarities... It's only sadness no euphoria.

 

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