Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Intro continued: The Problems We Face

Throughout history, societies have been continually beset by multiple problems and have responded by continual change. In other words, society operates most of the time in dynamic equilibrium. People believe that these equilibrium periods of relative stability are actually static and unchanging, an illusion that results from long-term problems and gradual change operating below most peoples’ radar. This equilibrium is on occasion destroyed by converging and/or rapidly worsening problems and large unforeseen events (the so-called Black Swans) and a period of considerable change results. Because people perceive times of dynamic equilibrium as static and set in stone, they tend to act very negatively when the equilibrium is upset.

There have been any number of people on-line and elsewhere who have foreseen enormous problems for society in the not too distant future.  My perspective is that these problems did not just suddenly appear and are not problems for the distant or even near future.  I think that right now we are in the midst of these challenges and resulting unavoidable changes. These problems only appear to be converging in this new decade because many are interrelated and all are acting synergistically.

OK so what, IMHO, are these problems or challenges? Some are global, some I look at from an American perspective. These are how I define them and I could expand on them; others may have different ideas.  But these are the broad themes I’ll tend to keep to:

1)      Energy. The end of cheap oil and the consequences.

      Climate change. The developing consequences. Is abrupt change occurring?

3)      Economics. How an economy that has become excessive consumption for the sake of consumption is destroying itself.

4)      Education, in particular higher education. Marketing, the unchecked growth of non-educational administration and the demise of colleges and universities as places for education and research.

5)      Destructive reactions to challenges. By this I mean denialism, anti- rationalism, reactionary politics and doomerism.

A few last things:
-I don’t believe in doom and I’m not into the end-of-the world fetish. If you believe all hope is lost and find fault with every proposed solution, don’t waste your time here. Just curl up into the fetal position somewhere and quietly wait to the end. Private Hudson was an amusing character, not a role model.
-Conspiracy theories are for those too lazy to learn history or acknowledge the complexity of the world. Some are funny as hell and I like to pick on the wackos who promote them. You’re not going to win me over to any, so don’t waste your time
-Don’t look for mystical cycles for random natural events and call it science.
-Just because an expert is occasionally wrong doesn’t mean an uninformed crackpot is right.

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