We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Externality Trap, or, How Progress Commits Suicide

Click here to access article by Michael Greer posted on World News Trust. (Note: I am violating my rule that requires featuring posts from their original sites because this post is much more readable and it contains Greer's picture.)

I've always had difficulty taking any person seriously when they dress up in a silly costume. In the case of Greer I also haven't found his writing particularly insightful. However, this article has a lot of merit because it directs ones attention to concrete illustrations of real economic problems that people can easily understand. Yet, I was disturbed by the naiveté expressed near the end in which he seems to be completely oblivious to social-economic class power and seems to suggest that it is all a matter of society choosing. His conclusion appears only tentative, so that hopefully in future articles he will explain his position more clearly.
...a society that chose to stop progressing technologically could maintain itself indefinitely, so long as its technologies weren’t dependent on nonrenewable resources or the like. The costs imposed by a stable technology on the economy, society, and the biosphere would be more or less stable, rather than increasing over time, and it would therefore be much easier to figure out how to balance out the negative effects of those externalities and maintain the whole system in a steady state. Societies that treated technological progress as an option rather than a requirement, and recognized the downsides to increasing complexity, could also choose to reduce complexity in one area in order to increase it in another, and so on -- or they could just raise a monument to the age of progress, and go do something else instead.