Saturday, December 24, 2011

“Father Christmas is real… in the imaginary world.”

Thanks to Tim Minchin (and daughter Violet) for the title quote which I stumbled upon when looking for some quick and easy festive wishes.

We appear to have just dodged the "Is Father Christmas real" bullet this year, but I feel certain that I will need to use that one next year - Cheers Tim!.

Our efforts to avoid shattering childhood illusions while refusing to lie to our children have been aided this year by the curious tradition of St Nicolas Day. It seems that our 4.5 year old is churning most of his mental cycles trying to decide whether each of the jolly fellows that we see or hear about is St Nic, Santa, Father Christmas, Pere Noël, or just some random bloke with a pillow up his shirt. So far, this seems to be keeping him busy enough to cut off the desire to question their verisimilitude.

I have had some fairly detailed questions about who lives the furthest away though, which I dodged by saying that I honestly don't know because I've never been to any of their houses. Jas has independently managed to narrow the field slightly by observing that it probably isn't St Nic, because he only rides an old donkey, and he always has that black guy walking alongside...

Anyway, it is now after midnight on Christmas eve and my wife will be furious when she finds out that I'm blogging instead of sleeping.

I have to post something though because it has been weeks. We've got Nana visiting and all the usual end of year work and home stuff means that you've all been neglected. I know that any reader who chooses to come here more than once will understand though, so no apologies :-)

So, anyway, what I actually went to Tim's page for was to share this with all you beautiful people:

White Wine in the Sun is the best atheist Christmas carol that I know, and I'm sure it is sending fellow members of the Aussie diaspora teary the world over tonight.

I hope that you all have a wondrous, loving, family day today...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

World Changing Ideas: (The) Faces of the 99%

I know that I promised a break from Occupy commentary, but a friend just sent me some good news and I had to quickly share it...

By now, we've all seen the WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT Tumblr site that presents the personal stories of people who work hard, but who struggle due to circumstances beyond their control. is an example
 of an independent Occupy signal amplifier
Perhaps you've also seen the WE ARE THE 53% response...?
This image is one of the most evocative that I've seen on either site.
It has unsurprisingly inspired some thoughtful responses.
It is important to our humanity that we have an opportunity to share our own story, and to hear the stories of other real people, so I'm happy to report that there is a new wave starting.

In fact, there appear to be two new waves starting independently. Go check out "Faces of the 99%" and "The Faces of the 99%" (Will the real "Faces of the 99%" please stand up! :-)

TEDxBrussels 2011 Commentary

I've been caught up in Occupy commentary for a while and although Occupy is the most interesting and important thing happening in Sustainable Human Flourishing today, I have 20 posts in draft and dozens more flying around in my head. Many, such as this one, are starting to lose the moment so please bear with me while I try refocus slightly and hammer them out.

This post is a synopsis of the TEDxBrussels event that I attended last week, brutally cut to only those talks obviously and directly relevant to Sustainable Human Flourishing. Occupiers please stick around though - TED is billed as "Riveting Talks by Remarkable People" talking about "Ideas Worth Spreading", "Free to the World" - It might as well be an OWS GA, only without the People's Mic, so there are plenty of important Occupy ideas here ;-)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

World Changing Ideas: How the Occupy Movement Will Win

"How can they possibly beat such a powerful and entrenched system?!?"
Most people rightly observe that the Occupy movement has a huge a task ahead, but again, everyone I know who is actively following Occupy is energised by the challenge. In this post, I will explore some more unique aspects of Occupy that are helping it to succeed.

My last post references a piece by Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic. Although it is nerdy in the extreme, it is one of the most insightful pieces of Occupy commentary that I've seen to date so I encourage you to read the whole thing.

As a sometimes computer nerd, I adore Alexis's REST API analogy. It really helped to drive home an idea that has been nagging at me for a while.
Occupy Wall Street is not a movement. It is a meta-movement.
For my non-computer nerd friends who were completely lost by the article or by that last comment, I apologise. Put simply, this nerd-speak means that what the mainstream media tries to portray as a weakness is actually Occupy's greatest strength!

Yes, everything you hear is true. Occupy Wall Street is not a protest about anything specific.
Occupy Wall Street is a model for a protest.

World Changing Ideas: The Occupy Media Strategy

"How can they possibly achieve anything when they look like such a bunch of losers?!?"
Most people rightly observe how easy it is for the mainstream media to make the Occupiers look like some Burning Man hangover.

The whole world understands this. Yet, strangely, everyone I know who is actively following Occupy seems energised by the challenge.

They are energised because they understand that it is the mainstream media's job to make Occupy look like a bunch of losers. And yes, it sure is easy. Just focus on some dreadlocked, pierced types having a drum-in and cherry pick some tales of dirt and depravation. Hey presto! The perfect story to ensure that the 99% feel nothing in common with those unwashed, unemployed, deadbeats who are only camping out for the free food.

So, how can the Occupy Movement respond to such transparent misrepresentation?

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Big Issues: How to get the real story?

On Thursday night, I participated in the Occupy Wall Street November 17 Mass Non-Violent Direct Action. This SHF GreenRant is my attempt to capture and share my amazing personal experience.

No, I didn't fly to New York and get arrested, but with tens of thousands of others all around the world, I most certainly did participate.

On Thursday night, live on my computer, I watched as tens of thousands of happy, excited people peacefully reclaimed the streets of New York.

I watched live as buildings, parks, bridges, and at times seemingly entire neighbourhoods were reclaimed and occupied by peaceful, happy, singing crowds.

I watched live as the NYPD behaved (mostly) honourably and (mostly) with integrity. There were moments when some almost seemed to help protesters.

I watched live as retired police captain Ray Lewis allowed himself to be arrested in support of the protests. I heard the cheers and chants of thousands of people in support of his brave personal sacrifice.

I watched and held my breath as I witnessed troublemakers (often allegedly plain-clothes police) attempt to incite the excited crowds to do something stupid...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two reasons to celebrate #NOKXL and #OWS

I'm back after a quick family staycation where I was largely offline. Did you miss me?

It is rare these days to have something to celebrate in the domain of Sustainable Human Flourishing, but this week, there have been two significant breakthroughs.

The first was the success of the NOKXL campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. As you can see in this inspirational victory video, after the most extensive environmental activism campaign in recent history, President Obama finally sent this awful project packing.

Here's a more light-hearted interview with one of the heroes behind that success, Bill McKibben

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Little Things: Trying to do better

Although this blog is supposed to be my ramblings, we're all too busy to waste time with bad writing. So, from now on, I will try to be more disciplined by leaning on a literary hero of mine...

George Orwell was one of the most important and powerful writers of modern times, and if you know him, you will know how beautifully he wrote on topics related to human flourishing. Did you also know how forcefully he campaigned against lazy writing though?

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend his Politics and the English Language essay, published in 1946, in which Orwell criticizes (amongst other things) "ugly and inaccurate" written English.

In that essay, Orwell even goes so far as to propose a "Remedy of Six Rules" as follows:

Friday, October 21, 2011

World Changing Ideas: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

Last month, DESERTEC were in Almería, in the south of Spain to record the opening of the impressive Andasol 3 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant. This short movie gives an idea of the power (pun intended) of that project.

I have been convinced for some time that CSP will be the most important wedge in the world's future energy supply, so I'm delighted to see such tangible steps from Andasol.

I first started to take CSP seriously when I saw the following picture over four years ago, via The Oil Drum (a cool resource that you should subscribe to just after you've subscribed to my blog using the button on the right there ==>)

World-Changing Ideas: Steady State Economics

It seems to me that if humanity is going to get through our current economic, ecological, and spiritual woes, then Steady State Economics will form a very important part of the "new world order". For this reason, I encourage you to learn more about this important paradigm shift.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Brussels - Photos and Videos

Today was such a gorgeous day for a street party with a few thousand of my closest friends. 

Please share and circulate (and say nice things about the protests) - I'm putting them in the public domain. Let me know if you want more context on any of the pics. I still haven't had time to add much commentary.

Before anyone asks me why was I protesting, you can see my response to that question here

First, check out this video to give a sense of the awesome vibe throughout the day, then read on to see some more pics

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is there a fractal nature to human failings?

I started to write a reply to CT's very interesting response to my last post, but realised that I had started rambling about sustainable human flourishing again. So I promoted my response to a post where I could unravel the thread a bit more easily. This is the result...

Edit: Before I go any further, some friends complained that I lost them with this post... I suspect that the word "fractal" started their eyes glazing over before they even started, so I'll try set that straight. What is a fractal? Well, to help get the picture (pun intended) here is one of the most famous and beautiful fractals, thanks to the mathematical legend Benoît Mandelbrot (who died late last year - a terrible loss)
The Mandelbrot Set: Click to see zoom sequence (Wikipedia)
Now that sure is beautiful, but why did CT write about human nature being fractal?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"What do we want?"
"How the heck are we supposed to know?"
"When do we want it?"

I am sick of hearing otherwise reasonable people making unreasonable demands of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I can't count the number of times that I've heard...
"... they will never make a difference if they only protest against something! Why don't they just tell us exactly what it is that they are protesting for?"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Goldman Sachs is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity...

The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
That quote is from this brilliant Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi. I have nothing insightful to add, but wanted to post it out of respect for all the wonderful people putting themselves on the line in the Occupy Wall StreetOccupy America, and Occupy Together protests.

We can only hope that this movement will continue to grow, and that we will finally find a way to contain the bloodsucking parasites that are so negatively impacting Sustainable Human Flourishing.

If you choose to live in a participatory democracy, then I hope that you will seriously consider your responsibility to get out there and participate - whichever side you support, it looks like the game is on.

The Big Issues: Economics for flourishing Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this post, I gave my thoughts on some of the more widely discussed problems with neoclassical economics, but in this final installment (for now), I will tie this all back onto the theme of this blog - Sustainable Human Flourishing... More specifically, I will try to finish the thought process about just how a system that is so demonstrably damaging to SHF as the Chicago school ideology has become so bloody influential? This side of the story is far less widely discussed, and so I would particularly like to hear from economics insiders...

One of the most detailed yet approachable explorations of this idea that I have found is Naomi Klein's eye-opening book The Shock Doctrine.

The Big Issues: Economics for flourishing Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I threw my hat in with many in the blogosphere who consider neoclassical economics to be a disappointingly unscientific undertaking. For me though, the substantive question is not whether neoclassical economics is a science, but whether we should entrust our collective futures to it?

If we believe (and I admit that this is highly contentious) that one of the most important roles of an economy is to serve human development (or, in other words, to support Sustainable Human Flourishing) then all evidence seems to suggest that Chicago School neoliberalism is simply not fit for purpose.

For this reason, what concerns me even more than the current global economic crisis is the fact that even most honest, reflective economists seem only to want to get things back on the track that they were on before the crisis, refusing to acknowledge that the track itself was unsustainable. As professor Tim Jackson notes in his brilliant "Prosperity Without Growth" report on behalf of the Sustainable Development Commission

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Big Issues: Economics for flourishing Part 1

Update: I originally published these three articles as a single, unreadably long post - To show more respect for my readers, and to try enforce some self-discipline, I have now broken it into separate, and I hope more digestible parts...

I've been struggling for a while to find the right angle to express my Sustainable Human Flourishing-related concerns about Chicago school neoclassical economics - (Note: If those words mean nothing to you, then you should look into it a bit, because this is the school of macroeconomic thought that pretty much runs the world today.)

Noah Smith has saved me from an important part of that struggle with this brilliant post, in which he expresses some very valid concerns on the widely debated topic of whether modern economics is a science (there are some stellar follow-up comments too). I've recently started following Noah because he seems to be a rather clever economics (almost) grad who eloquently expresses many of the same concerns I've heard in various forms from other younger generation economists. Some great quotes from Noah's post include:

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Big Issues: When Should We Stop Burning Fossil Fuels?

I often hear people making statements like - "There is no point reducing my carbon footprint, because anything that I do is insignificant compared to increases in developing countries."

Realistic people convince themselves that this is a realistic position. Sensible people make the sensible choice to enjoy life now before the oil runs out. Rational people come to the rational conclusion that we are ripping ourselves off if we don't gorge on the cheap fossil fuel pie - Nobody will leave the last piece of the pie on the table out of politeness, right?

Sure, we'll move to cleaner, more expensive fuels later, but only when we really need to. You've heard this all before, haven't you?


This whole blogging thing is harder than it seems - I'm working on 17 different threads, which ostensibly means that I am not getting any of them to a point where I'm happy enough to hit the publish button.

It seems that I'll need quite a lot more focus, but please bear with me - I'll get a rhythm somehow...

For now, I think I'll try publishing a couple of less-well polished ideas - with your help, I'll try polish them on the fly - please let me know if  you're not following and I'll try to fix, or clarify in a comment or follow-up.

Kind regards,

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Big Issues: Canadian Tar Sands


Did you know that over the last two weeks there were 1252 arrests during a sustained, non-violent, civil disobedience sit-in at the Whitehouse?

If you get your news from the mainstream media, you may not even be aware that tens of thousands of concerned people have just finished phase 1 of a protest that surely has ramifications for you and your family. What were they protesting against?

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Little Things: Music

Music is such an important part of what makes us human. I vividly remember the in utero response of my first child to Eskimo Joe. Watching with a mix of wonder, laughter, and love as my wife's heavily pregnant belly bopped away in time, I began to appreciate just how primevally we experience music. I have never lost that sense of wonder, laughter, and love as I watch my children grow into tiny little people with an innate and entirely unselfconscious joy of dancing and singing - even before they can walk or talk.

Music that we like makes us feel good and helps to bind us together as a cultural group. Just what music we like is highly subjective of course, but thankfully it is beyond my ambition to explore that subjectivity today - The mental thread that brought me here is far lighter - I just want to share some cool music...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

A Little Thought Provoker: What's up with all the earthquakes lately?

We seem to hear about some new seismic event almost every other day, and from a quick check of the Web I’m not the only one wondering whether the earth might be falling apart...?

The Google-equipped inquisitive mind finds a figurative tsunami of pages exhorting that recent natural disasters are signs that we are in the "End Times". At time of writing a Google search for "earthquakes, end times" yielded literally millions of results (Well, for me it does anyway)

When pondering Sustainable Human Flourishing, religion of all flavours warrants very serious cogitation, so you can bet that I'll share some thoughts on biblical end times prophecies in later blogs - today though, I want to share an interesting hypothesis that I came across in my search for “the truth” about all those earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc...