By: Zachary Pettigrew
I cannot and will not tell or force anyone what to do or how to act. But I can and will forward and present critical trends, ideas and data.
When it comes to policy decisions, I will argue, the United States should almost always have a team of independent scientific advisers. Perhaps, this could be optimized by placing these advisers on a payroll (in the form of a transparent “Manhattan Project” open to public discourse). Preferably, these researchers and innovators would be for/supported by the public and/or state/federal governments. This would be to avoid the “revolving doors” of the government/special interest complex. This team is altruistic, dedicated public scientists and servants can study and help guide public policy in a more progressive, peaceful, and sustainable direction. Here, I will use one set of examples. The past and present issues with financial speculation (and subsequent bailouts of the “too big to fail” financial sector), as well as the subsidies we gave corn factory farmers for ethanol up through 2008.
The ethanol subsidies were sold to the public as a supposedly “green solution”. But any scientist that is fluent in mathematics and thermodynamics could – see well in advance – that neither government scheme was “green”, or even viable (Albino et al., 2012: arXiv:1210.6080 [q-fin.GN], or http://necsi.edu/research/social/foodprices/foodforfuel/foodforfuel.pdf).
While working as a Research Neuroscientist at one of the top 20 research universities globally, I happened to have a friendly disagreement with my boss concerning these issues. He was (and is) a brilliant researcher and human being, but was incapable of seeing the pitfalls in these policy choices for some reason. However, perhaps due to my physics, systems engineering and cellular automata work, I was able to easily see how both policy decisions were going to be disastrous all the way back in 2010 – apparently before other researchers (Lagi et al., 2012, arXiv:1203.1313 [physics.soc-ph], or http://necsi.edu/research/social/foodprices/update/food_prices_update.pdf).
Clearly, with ethanol subsidies, the shear lack of efficiency of turning a food product into a fuel to be burned is laughable in term of “efficiency”. Intuitively, I knew it was anti-synergistic.
For instance, it has an energy flow of: Sun + water + fossil fuel energy + fossil fuel fertilizers + chemical pesticides + land use + labor (all cost massive amounts of currency and energy) –[friction]–> plant growth (subtracting more time and energy) –[friction]–> manufacturing process (subtracting more time and energy) –[friction]–> ethanol (a very weak fuel additive that very, very modestly increases efficiency when burned in an internal combustion engine – e.g. your car). If you calculate this energy flow, you will see there is an enormous NET LOSS of energy. One specific calculation I did was over (-) 800% (minus 800%, a NET LOSS of 800% of what was initially invested). That is, it took 800% MORE ENERGY to successfully produce one “crop” (per hectacre) of ethanol to be produced in a mere liter of fuel. So, it would have been better to drink the ethanol and smash the bottle over our collective heads. This would have had less of an environmental impact. Note: this calculation does not include the burning of more fuels and labor for transport and distribution.
Here, we have an government plan that sounded like a good idea for many, and an advertised “green” “solution” to fossil fuels that was, in fact neither. Look at the data (above). Due to this policy, food riots developed and people actually died (above). This could have easily been predicted and is therefore unacceptable. This blind policy has turned out to have secondary and tertiary negative effects locally and globally and has cost approximately $5 billion annually to US tax payers (https://reason.com/archives/2010/11/16/congress-let-ethanol-subsidies). Imagine if that $5 Billion annually were invested in wind and solar power? Education? Research and Development? These poor decisions could have been substituted or replaced by other, more efficient, wiser strategies (solar is fantastic option for local energy distribution) if the right empirical analyses and thought had gone into these decisions that effect everyone.
As another example, it was/is the financial/monetary system and bailouts that are just as bad – if not much worse (I have evidence that suggests this is the real genesis of the global terror threat). If we consider this as another “energy” flow problem, it becomes very clear. Just equate CURRENCY (USD) – an abstraction of LABOR (“work” = force/distance) – as a form of “energy” (the ability to do work – kinetic and potential respectively). Labor, by definition burns calories (a form of energy) and time (a finite commodity for humans). If we look at “trickle down economics”, it is clear this is opposite to the actual flow of energy in any economic system. As an analog, lets use an ecosystem. Ecosystems are thermodynamically, computationally, and structurally the same (or for sake of argument analogous to) economic systems. Now, what happens when you increase the population of the apex predators and parasites in an ecosystem exclusively – while not letting the population or biomass of the autotrophic producers (plants and microbes) increase proportionally and at the same rate? Any ecologist will tell you that the system collapses. The predators over hunt the prey. The prey either go extinct, evolve defensive mechanisms (something the middle class should take note of), migrate to another system, or decrease in population to the extent where the apex predators and parasites (which depend on the prey) eventually starve themselves, dye off and trend toward extinction. This is a perfectly natural (and ingenious) process that allows ecosystems to be “resilient” and “self correcting” (Lovelock et al., 1989, http://www.jameslovelock.org/page37.html). In this way, the entire system moves toward decay and collapse.
Just think of the dinosaurs. They were the largest, and most ‘dominant’ life forms at the top of the food/biomass/energy web-pyramid. Yet, they were the first to die off when pressure was applied to the ecological system (through an asteroid and subsequent nuclear winter). This allowed smaller, warm blooded rodent-like creatures and birds to survive and prosper through this evolutionary bottleneck.
Now, consider the total United states unemployment, and unemployment rate since 2008. The middle class has been shrinking since. Global instability is palpable to most (per internal DoD and CIA documents). I will suggest to the reader that this largely has it’s genesis in US policy – especially when one considers that the banking system creates and disseminates the global reserve currency – the US Dollar. With respect to unemployment and system instability, this “economic-ecological” collapse is clearly already taking place. The problem here is the 1% of 1% (0.0001%) of Americans own all the functional wealth in the United States. This ecological model suggests that this will (and has) undoubtedly generate(d) massive instability toward an inevitable tipping point (my calculations show this will take place in 1.3 – 3.8 years from now – perhaps less). Yet, we still refuse to take action on these archaic and destructive policy decisions that threaten our very civilization and species – not to mention our quality of life. Nature, simply will not allow this sort of system to remain. One look at the archaeologic record, historic phylogeny, and even human history (Roman Empire, French Revolution, The Great Depressions in Germany and the US etc.) supports this as a structural-thermodynamic law of nature.
Let us be honest here as well – the financial sector does not even PRODUCE ANYTHING. They “do” “something” (speculate and gamble) that is entirely unnecessary to human function, wealth, well-being and life. Therefore, in an ecological model they qualify as functional parasites on human innovation, labor, and system health (not to mention the biosphere). Especially in the United States.
What does this mean?
This means legislation should be passed, and people should collective apply pressure, to where the lower and middle classes should have the surplus, (dare I say even the profits?) given to the financial sector returned back to them. All of it. Think, if the middle class pays the majority of the taxes, then who rightfully owns both the currency and the government? Aside from ethics – functionally this would have – and would still – create a domestic boom in innovation, quality of life, and an economic transformation we likely would have never witnessed in human history. With this, crime, and public welfare would be unimaginably improved. Further, the inflation “The FED” has targeted (2%) could be easily attained, which would cause for US export markets and manufacturing to increase. This would act as a positive feedback loop, again elevating the standard of living for US citizens on various metrics and scales (education, public health, economic stability, innovation, and quality of life). Since this would also increase consumption, as well as facilitate a “halcyon” period for small businesses, it would significantly reduce the national debt (through an increase in tax revenues paid by the middle class).
Now, how can I make these assertions?
[NOTE: IF you are not part of the ownership class – DO NOT READ THE BELOW UNLESS YOU WISH TO GET VERY ANGRY]
Let’s consider the “bailout”. The banking sector in 2008 was just handed, just given, 2.9 Trillion US Dollars without the consent of the people. And we all suffered for it – globally. We were told that this was necessary since they were “too big to fail” right?
Now, what would it have looked like if that sum were given to the lower and middle classes in the US instead? That is, if $2.9 Trillion (2.9 x 10^12 or $29,000,000,000,000 were divided by each US citizen equally)? We would have: $29,000,000,000,000/321,729,000 (US citizens) = $90,137.97/US citizen. That is, every single US citizen would have gotten a check in the mail for at least $90,137.97 easily. Imagine what kind of new businesses would have been founded? How many people could pay off debt? How many students could finally pay for college? How many independent scientific researchers could have started a concerted effort toward renewable energy and cancer research? Instead, all of that was wasted on gambling “parasites” – a whole sector that does nothing of use to anyone except cause harm and systemic risk. Detractors will say, “Who would invest then?”. The answer is simple: the people with 90,000 + dollars in their pockets, local credit unions or safes. Imagine what would have happened if a fraction of that $2.9 trillion were invested in renewable energy sources and infrastructure? Education? Housing? Public Health? Here, it seems the worst of all possible public policy decisions was chosen. And these policies continue to be furthered by both parties.
Now, I guarantee this will continue until we elect and support good, altruistic, innovative research scientists into office, and/or somehow position them as advisers with substantial authority and clout. The fact that climate change denial is even a thing does not even deserve discussion at this point (I have personally witnessed the coastline of Florida erode and the water level rise). In fact DoD has stated that climate change (not Edward Snowden) is the #1 threat to national security, since it furthers global instability (http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/612710). Unless an intellectual, ethical, social, cultural, and political revolution starts now – none of this will change. And our quality of life and the fitness of our very species will suffer and eventually perish. Just like the trilobites and dinosaurs – we too may soon be a relic of the past.
There is hope. With the advances in science, medicine, technology, systems thinking and social networking, we have the tools presently to choose a path that will avoid the numerous catastrophes that threaten human kind. All that is required is the social and political will to collectively move in a better, informed and progressive direction.