Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Big Issues: My 2 cents on Newtown CT

I haven't been blogging lately but I am sickened to the stomach by attempts to stop the conversation in the wake of yesterday's massacre, so I want to entrain my little corner of the Web to the avalanche of public outrage.

Yes, I understand why these dangerous fuckers want to stop the conversation, but I don't have time to scratch the surface of my thoughts on this whole armed civilian militia thing in the US...

Instead, I'm going to quickly respond to the gunnies who disingenuously claim that there is no point regulating guns in the US because massacres happen everywhere, even in highly regulated Norway.

Any rational person can see that this claim willfully misses the point. It misses the point because since Breivik, there has been a serious discussion in Norway about how to stop a similar crime from happening again. The Norwegian legal system has been consciously reconfiguring itself to deal with the new reality that there are seriously dangerous people at large in their midst. Norwegian society, and the Norwegian public psyche has been doing the same.

After Martin Bryant, a similar conversation led to a reconfiguration of the Australian legal system and of Australian society/psyche.

After Marc Dutroux a similar conversation led to a reconfiguration of the Belgian legal system and of Belgian society. (I admit that Dutroux was not a shooting massacre, but I could go on and on - I just picked those two examples because they are close to my heart, for obvious reasons.)

An open and honest (and yes, bloody emotional) public conversation is absolutely necessary at times like this! That conversation has been shouted down by NRA trolls and Tea Party crazies after every previous massacre in the US. Those children are dead today because the American legal system and American society has not managed to reconfigure itself, as it must. 

America, please have the conversation this time - please don't let those children's deaths be in vain.

President Obama - It is simply not possible for your side to lose votes on this issue, and as this picture demonstrates, it is really not hard to explain gun regulation to a rational person!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

World Changing Ideas: Occupy goes into debt

This week, our friends at Occupy Wall Street launched another paradigm changer to run in parallel with their amazing ongoing efforts to help the worst affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Consistent with their ideals of mutual aid rather than charity, Occupy Wall Street has just launched a Rolling Jubilee

What's a Rolling Jubilee? It is the next phase in a growing collective resistance movement against the debt system. (If you want to know what the "debt system" is, then you really need to read this amazing book by David Graeber [1], which will change the way that you view the world.)

From the Website:
A bailout of the people by the people
Rolling Jubilee is a Strike Debt project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal. Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.
What Occupy is doing is pretty much the same as many good capitalists do - They are raising money and using it to buy other people's debt.

The only difference is that instead of sending in the heavies to collect on the debt like good capitalists are supposed to do, they simply erase it. 

Gone... Just like that...

Their slogan is simply beautiful - “You are not a loan, you are not alone”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who Picks the Winners in the Australian Electricity Market?

Last week, Reuters published an interesting piece about Australia's progress on renewable energy - For those who can't be bothered reading the article, I'll summarise it for you:
  • The Aussie government recently committed to generate at least 20% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. To support this goal, it put in place a scheme called the Renewable Energy Target (RET).  
  • Although it is still early days for the RET, it appears to be working pretty bloody well. So well in fact, that we seem set to beat the 20% by 2020 target (perhaps even generating as much as 25%), if things continue.
  • Because of this success, "The Australian Coal Association (ACA) has argued that the RET should be abolished completely because it unfairly picks winners in the electricity market."
I do not intend to write another scathing post about the hypocrisy of the ACA's position - Blind Freddy can see that a highly profitable industry that still sucks billions of dollars from Australian taxpayers every year is taking the piss to argue that their competitors shouldn't help themselves to a small serve from their feeding trough…

I'll try not talk about the ACA at all actually, because I think it's time that Aussies started to talk about the big picture...

Australia is one of the richest countries on the planet and we have a tiny population. Our land abounds in Nature's (renewable energy) gifts. We have boundless plains on which to harvest solar, wind, and geothermal energy. For fuck's sake - hasn't anyone noticed that our home is girt by sea? Maybe we might look into some marine and ocean energy? 

Nature and history have picked the winners in the Aussie electricity market, not the RET!

What is wrong with Aussies these days that we just let the ACA get away with spouting that kind of crap? We should all march down there and tell them to shove it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reductionism, Globalization and Faith

Sorry that I've been so down on religion lately, but to be honest, religion has not been showing its best side and so it has deserved a good scolding! In this more positive and helpful contribution to the blogosphere, I'll explore an idea that I hope we can agree on whether we are religious or not...

We must stop fighting each other over how life was created, and start fighting together to stop those destroying it...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Big Issues: Anyone up for a Game of End-Times Bingo?

I'm an avowed atheist, but apart from occasional lapses, I try to limit my anti-supernatualist "preaching" to light-hearted piss-taking of thick-skinned religious friends.

Wherever we sit within the many spectra of faith systems though, a conscious concern for Sustainable Human Flourishing forces reflection on the positives and negatives of religion… For me this is especially true at times like this when such madness is again on display in places like Cairo and Benghazi - insanity that has reached my adopted home of Belgium and even as far away as my erstwhile secular homeland of Australia. At times like this, I must pause to reflect on the potential for religious extremism to affect those that I love.

I have to say though, that while I consider religiously motivated terrorism to be a real danger, it seems a massively over-hyped threat when compared with two elephants that quietly share a room with today's most popular religions, specifically:

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Big Issues: Is Organic Food a Sham?

A good friend asked for my thoughts today about this Gawker report (about a USA Today article about a meta-study and a University of Oxford study) which claims that organic food is no better (and in some cases worse) than non-organic food.

I get variations on this theme all the time, so this time I have actually written my answer down for posterity and for future reference - I will also tell you definitively whether I believe that Gawker is correct in its conclusion of "Science Suggests That Organic Food Is Largely a Sham". 

First though, I will frame my response to this specific article with three four observations:
  1. (Edit) I believe that most studies, meta-studies, and popular discussion on the topic of "organic vs. conventional" miss the point entirely (including, disappointingly this recent TreeHugger article)
  2. As someone who aspires to live sustainably, I don't give a shit about "organic food". I only care about "sustainable food".
  3. As someone who aspires to live rationally, I trust scientists to report results correctly and factually, within the parameters of their study.
  4. For the same reason as 3) I do not trust USA Today to report scientists' results impartially.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Religion, Fascism, and Norway

Last week, we heard the Norwegian courts sentence their country's worst ever mass murderer. We all know who he is and what he did, and everyone also knows the verdict and sentence. Everyone also has an opinion on it.

It is my opinion, however, that very few of those opinions reflect positively on the potential for Sustainable Human Flourishing. Most, in fact, have left me shaking my head sadly for our poor, oh-so-human race.

Even normally rational secular humanist groups have been seething with old testament "eye for an eye" insanity since the verdict was announced - Comment threads like this one left me feeling very disillusioned and more than a little pissed at my fellow "humanists".

In my funk, I unfairly lashed out at an old high school friend who posted his opinions on his Farcebook wall. This old school mate who I'll call Max (because he approved that I use his real name) also happens to be a pastor at a "Bible Christian" church in my old home town of Perth in Western Australia… As always, Max was gracious and patient with me, and our extended exchange took some interesting twists and turns over the course of almost a week. Despite my many uncharitable anti-theistic barbs, we remain friends, and he has graciously assented to our conversation being re-published here for (potentially) wider scrutiny than it received on our little corner of Farcebook…

Below is the thread as it appeared on Max's wall - apologies in advance from both of us that our logic lacks crispness in parts, but we were both time-stressed and just chatting amongst friends. Apologies also that it is so long - feel free to read it a bit at a time, over the period of a week to recreate the original experience if you wish ;-) I'm publishing it here in this form because I really want to continue exploring some of the issues for myself, and I find that writing stuff down helps. I left Max last right of reply on his wall and promised to stop bombarding his poor parishioners with my religion bashing, but I respond below and re-open the conversation to Max and anyone else who would like to pick up on the many threads we've left dangling…

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Big Issues: What are the rich and powerful saying about our future?

Dystopia, the opposite of a utopia, describes a place where life is full of hardship and devoid of hope. Analysis of linkages across various global risks reveals a constellation of fiscal, demographic and societal risks signalling a dystopian future for much of humanity.
That quote is from the executive summary of this year's Global Risks 2012 - Seventh Edition out of the World Economic Forum last month in Davos, Switzerland.

IMHO the Global Risks Report is consistently one of the most useful and enlightening things to come out of Davos. It is easy to read and has lots of graphics that make a very complex topic digestible – This year it also has a cool new interactive microsite to help you to explore the data.
Graph of identified risks, focusing on the "centers of gravity" and "critical connectors"

Some profound insights for any student of Sustainable Human Flourishing - Check it out!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Big Issues: The Greatest Challenges of Our Time

I think that the most deliciously idiosyncratic thing about Belgium is that we are right at the heart of all that is good and bad about Europe. So many interesting and potentially world-changing discussions happen right here.

Living close to Brussels also means that I can gatecrash some of these discussions at the various European institutions based there. I have no affiliation with these institutions beyond the fact that my tax dollars help to support them, but I honestly consider "Europe" to be an amazing achievement - even more so because normal people like me are encouraged to participate occasionally.

On Wednesday, for example, I went to the European Parliament with a couple of friends to watch a presentation based on the book "The Greatest Challenges of Our Time" by László Szombatfalvy.

Important note: You can and should get your free download of this enlightening book (or read online) in EnglishFrenchSwedishSpanish, and more languages coming...

Before we go any further though, I should warn you that this is a pretty straightforward wrap-up post. It contains lots of information about a fascinating presentation, with many interesting links, but I apologise that I don't have time right now to add too much of my typical rambling, opinionated commentary.

Also, since the link between the presentation and this blog should be self-evident, I won't waste too much of our time tying everything back to Sustainable Human Flourishing.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Little Things: My favourite way to eat slugs

The Web shrieks with hysterical rantings about how awful slugs are, accompanied by "Buy two get one free" offers on high powered chemical cocktails and "natural" remedies to rid you of their scourge forever.

This blog does not swim with the tide though, so I won't try sell you anything and I will not join the slugophobic chorus. Quite the opposite in fact - I intend to rant about how wonderful and important slugs are to Sustainable Human Flourishing.

I'll also explain how you too can add delicious-tasting slugs to your low-impact, sustainable, organic diet...