The 11th Hour

We are actually talking about the last few minutes before midnight; assuming the history of our world is expressed in terms of a 24-our clock, our species only appeared at 23.45, so we weren’t even around at the 11th hour.  And yet, in our short presence, we have catapulted Earth towards the destruction of all life on it.

Leonardo diCaprio produced this film in 2007, almost 5 years ago. For some reason or another I missed seeing it at the time. Last night I took out 3 hours to focus on the film and the 50 or so interviews it contains with leading thinkers and proponents for change that will take us back to becoming re-integrated with Earth. As a Red Indian chief reminds us in the film, the earth has endless time, our species does not..

The film’s sub-title is “turn mankind’s darkest hour into its finest”. By the time you have watched the main film and then the equally long addendum which gives a number of illustrations of what is already working, it becomes clear that we have much of the skill and knowledge to make some radical changes that could well make this one of our finest hours.

What therefore is clearly missing is the collective will and strong leadership towards change. And, as I argue elsewhere, this leadership will not, cannot, come from those currently in our traditional leadership positions. If ever we needed  to encourage the emergence of new forms of leadership and new leaders, it is now. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is arguably such a new form of leadership, where the  massive majority says ‘enough’ and so encourages new leaders to step forward, lead the change and then merge back into their communities.

In meditating on the film, and the viable ideas and tools for change it enumerates (e.g. mimicking nature in the production of glass without huge energy consumption; self-cleaning buildings and cars; using nature’s technology that creates the illusion of colour to avoid having to apply polluting paints; are just a few examples of what was possible 5 years ago – imagine how much more must be around today), it became clear to me that while it is absolutely right to encourage every individual to make their life-style more sustainable, that alone is not enough – we also need to flex our collective muscle and allow the new leaders to emerge : e.g. exercise your shareholder rights, even if you only hold a minimal number of shares; urge institutional shareholders to encourage companies to adopt new technologies and use their lobbying power to influence government. Single and collective action need much more to go hand-in-hand.

If you have not yet seen the 11th Hour, please go and see it as soon as possible – better still, buy it from Amazon or download it, for you will want to watch it more than once. Leonardo diCaprio has undertaken a fine bit of reporting. I would like to see more and updates on the breakthrough solutions and technologies designed to emulate nature and will help take us back towards doing things nature’s way, which ultimately will enable us to re-integrate ourselves with our home planet.

One small statement by one of the interviewees in the film left an indelible impression – a survey of school children in the US showed that even the youngest could recognize up to 1,000 corporate logos, but none could identify more than 4 plants or trees in their neighbourhoods.

 

We need to curb the urge to consume

In 2012 we need to fight the instincts that make us want more

We will always have the urge to consume more than we need, but recognising this as a problem is the first step towards recovery …. Val Curtis for the Guardian Professional Network - guardian.co.uk, 

Val Curtis is an evolutionary psychologist who argues in this recent article that what stood us in good stead in the early stages of our evolutuion is now contributing to our downfall.

Economists are beginning to argue that perhaps the encouragement of increased consumer spending  is no longer a sensible way out of recession.

Are we about to make a major evolutionary leap? I would not hold my breath quite yet.

Linking with Nature

A newly-made friend gave me a book, called Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys, Book One – Watchers. I have reviewed it on amazon.co.uk. It is a great read and combines fantasy with some uncomfortable truths about fictional trends in our society today which skirt close to reality.

This entry is however not about the book, more about the musings it has released in me : from my bed, in our London flat, I can look out on a tree that has suffered badly in recent months, particularly from excessive pruning and damage caused by a scurry of grey squirrels. I look at it daily and think about how much it suffers, and wish I could do something about it. I have become an objective observer, like with so much of life.

What has happened to my childhood ability to emphasize, to merge with what I was observing!  The quiet scream released by a blade of grass, by the branch broken off unthinkingly, were once all part of my reality. As my commitment is to create a model community that can be scaled up to provide the blueprint for out cities of the future, I am vitally interested in how to find ways to linked into & merge with nature in the same manner as I once was able to do and those who live on the land presumably still do.

Talk of living sustainably, and in harmony with nature, is not enough – we need to feel and share in its consciousness. The book I refer to above draws on myths and legends that cross time and cultures and takes us back to when humans felt nature and put these feelings into stories that still evoke powerful memories of this natural harmony.

Does the city of the future have grassy pathways along which its citizens can walk barefoot? Have designated camp-fire areas in which neighbourhoods gather, share food and listen to stories told by professional tellers, while watching the dance of real flames? Plant hugging trees, ready to dispense comfort to those who embrace them?  Make growing fresh produce an easy communal activity? Create orderly environments in which wild animals can live alongside humans without being tempted to become a nuisance and be viewed as a health-threat (e.g. urban foxes)?

What are the ways in which we will be able to make the pulse of nature noticeable in cities? Clearly, looking at nature in cities and lamenting the squeeze under which we are putting her, and talking about becoming more sustainable, is not enough. Her spirit calls, her messengers beckon, I / we need to reconnect to her at the deep, deep level that was once the natural state for us to be in.

As I write these words, the feeling of being linked to our London tree is returning. She stands in our neighbour’s garden, immediately behind my chair and protectively leans over my garden-based office accommodation. A small piece of my childhood at-onement has returned (symbolised by the arrival of these green paraquets which originate from the foothills of the Himalayas, my place of birth)!

 

The End of Political Parties – Summary of the Manifesto for The Last Party.

An easy and highly practical solution for the formation of a government structure based on community and relevant to issues and requirements of the 21st century, and the OWS generation.

Introduction

Democracy does not work, or, put another way, is even worse at working for the 99% now than it has ever been before.

Individuals and communities are simply not represented on the national and international stage; consultation is limited to token door-stepping at the run up to elections or, increasingly, web-based polling.

Our interests are being swept aside by the ambition of those in politics to stay in power for long as possible; by a system in which demands total loyalty to “the Party”, ahead of anything else and enforced, in the UK, by 3-line whips (a term well reflecting the problem here addressed!); policies are formulated with the next election in mind, which means that issues that require a long-term perspective are dealt with in a very short time-frame; and, instead of looking and voting at issues from the perspective of the electorate, the highly skilled and very well funded pressure groups will use every trick in the trade to secure legislation in favouring their particular interests. Little wonder people feel alienated from politics and powerless to help bring about change!

It is not being suggested here that politicians set out to ignore the interests of those who elected them, rather, it is argued that we have in place a rotten, no longer relevant, system of governance that will always favour the few over the many and will compel even the most visionary leader and people’s representatives to legislate to an agenda ultimately not of their choosing. As global and national challenges continue to grow over the period ahead, a period which historically is expected to become known as the ‘Decade of Transition’, there will be even more manifestations of the few attempting to benefit at the expense of the many, as they remain better resourced, have more clout and are well versed at manipulation.  Worst of all, the current system prevents our leaders from speaking the truth about the economic, environmental and demographic changes ahead, as to speak the speak the truth under our current system will make any government un-reelectable.

The only way to change within a realistic time-frame is to change our system of governance.  This paper argues that it can be achieved relatively easily and within the usual span of office enjoyed by a political party between elections.  There are those who would argue that a change in human nature will eventually change the system too. This paper’s author is happy to agree, and indeed sees everywhere signs of emerging consciousness, but the reality is that the evolutionary route will take too long and not put in place the structure that global change is urgently calling for now.  Paradoxically, the structure proposed here will help accelerate this expression of growing consciousness and the consequent development of global community.

The concept described here also tackles the problem of bureaucracy – both at central and local government levels, stuffed with people who have opted to go for security and an index-linked pension sometime in the future; wholly risk averse and terrified of change as it may show up what a rotten system they have been defending for so long (and my apologies for including in this terrible generalisation some of those fine minds that have genuinely tried to bring change into this environment, but have had to give up exhausted and defeated by “the system”).

In ancient Greece, the inhabitants of a city-state, the polis, were encouraged to participate in the affairs of the polis, to play an active part in politics, to be political. Those who opted out (in phonetic Greek idi -ot) became ‘idiots’.

This proposal, which has been some time in the making and whose time now has come, invites us all to take back our lives, run our communities as we wish and get rid of the excessive layers that have developed above us and make life an administrative nightmare, rather than a lightly lived experience. It gives us a chance to re-engage.

The Proposal

The EU had a term that we don’t hear much any more, and certainly see little evidence of – the term is “subsidiarity”.  A tongue twister no doubt, but a simple concept nevertheless : it means ‘placing responsibility for issues at the lowest practical level’.

Who knows best where the potholes in the street are; where the pavement needs fixing; who is in need of help because elderly or sick; what public facilities a community needs; etc. – the community itself. The proposal is to give the community the means to tackle all local issues. You don’t need to belong to a particular political party for the local community to know who is best suited to do what needs to be done at community level!  The community would meet as often as it decided in the Community Council.  India already has a system like this in the form of its 265,000 Gram Panchayats operating at village-elder level.

Any community-based group will readily know who in their midst is best suited to argue and defend their interests at a next level up, at Area Level, which in turn will be responsible for a number of issues that extend across a number of communities, which together constitute an Area, e.g. road renewal and building; local planning policies; potentially primary & secondary schooling; school transportation; etc. A given number of communities make up an area, with each community’s representative making up the Area Council.

A grouping of Areas would make up a Region, with Area Council represented on its Regional Council, which would have responsibility for a wider drawn range of issues, including regional planning; greenbelt policy; etc.

Regional Councils would then elect their representation to the National Council, or, if we stick with the current designation, Parliament.

Under this structure, any major legislation Parliament intended to introduce could be passed by the entire nation as only 3 levels would need to be consulted – Regional, Area and Community Councils. In the age of the Internet, Social Media and other almost instantaneous means of communications, this would create a nation of involved citizens, or at least give everybody an opportunity to get involved, to opt in, to no longer being an idi-ot.

Sure there will be issues about which each Council will require informed advice before arriving at an informed decision – voila, suddenly we have a practical role for universities and other places of higher knowledge : each will be given the brief to become a centre of excellence in a given subject and to make this knowledge, potentially coupled with advice, available on demand to any officially registered Council, and to maintain highly informative presences on the Web.

Simplicity of Implementation

The UK’s postal system (and that of many around the world) represents the ready-made answer to the introduction of this community-based system of governance :

Some simple maths -

a.            Essentially each postal code group contains around 120 households, each household is presumed to have 2.5 residents.  Assume 2 postal codes are grouped into a political unit called ‘community’, with its own Community Council. This will create a community of between 500 to 600 residents as the basic unit of local government. This is a very manageable number and will allow most people to get to know one another both in person, as well as via a community website.

With a UK population of around 62 million, this means that there would be around 103,333 communities in the UK

Community Council = 500-600 voters per community = 103,333 Community Councils across the UK
Area Council = 50 Community Councils per area = 2,066 Area Councils across the UK
Regional Council = 10 Area Council per Region = 207 Regional Councils
National Council / Parliament = 2 Regional Councils elect 1 member of the National Council / Parliament = 104 representatives       PLUS                                         = 104 representatives of every trade, skill, profession in the UK

b.            Assuming a grouping of 50 communities constituted an area, and they collectively elected their representative to the Area Council, this would create 2066 Area Councils.

c.             10 Area Councils would elect a representative to the Regional Councils, of which there would be 207.

d.            Each two regions would elect a representative to Parliament, which would consist of 104 parliamentarians, who would be augmented by a matching number of representatives from each profession / professional body in the land. Representatives of the people sitting in a circular chamber with representatives of every skill and profession in the land would provide for well-informed and democratic debate. In key instances decisions would be required to be deferred until all the nation’s Community Councils had taken a vote or expressed a view on the proposed legislation.

Could this be any simpler?  A new party, the Last Party, could at the next elections, present itself as one that by the end of its term it will have introduced the structure here proposed. The need for politics as currently practiced will have become obsolete, with political parties and massive national elections no longer required and activists free to tell the truth, plan long-term and be immediately accountable to their immediate community. Perhaps the OWS movement is making is possible for us not even to have to wait for a next election!

The details of this plan, of which this is a summary, are pretty spectacular too and will get rid of much of the administrative class we currently know, and generally loath.  Cost savings will be considerable.

A system of governance built on the community as basic political unit will make it much harder for overt and hidden interests to drive nations into monolithic blocks, or a politicised One World. It is difficult to imagine a majority of Community Councils voting to take their nation to war!

London / 11-11-2011

 

Playing for Change

One in a series called “Playing for Change”. The voice of the 99ers.

This one reached particularly deep and evoked strong feelings of a world to come -

Geo-Engineering – Poisoning the Planet to Save It!

Rarely do I permit human folly to get to me – I am aware of too much of it already!

Notwithstanding my clear view of collective human stupidity, arrogance and greed, this film had the potential of catching me unawares! Finally we have a credible and documented rationale for “chemtrails” something I had nonchalantly pigeon-holed as another one of those many conspiracy theories. I no longer do so, particularly as my preventative health advisers and I have been wondering where the excess aluminium in my body might have been originating from – from the sky!

Please set aside 1h 37mins to watch this, and endure the boring bits. At the end there is no denying by politicians that this is happening, alongside agreement by the scientists that we know too little about the effects, both on global climate as well as human and all life. And the suspicion lingers that some pharmaceutical company is potentially working on products that will counter the effect of these “trials” on human, animal and plant life.

 

Note, this film was funded by private individuals from all over the globe!

Profitability re-defined for One World

The Omnius Manifesto argues that in a model in which the world needs to be seen as one shared space, all productive capacity has to be accounted for in terms of ecological balance, with rewards and penalties for those not in balance.

This is one of those proposals that seeks to re-shape, at fundamental level, one of the great anomalies that shape global society in the 21st century, loss of proper accountability by the corporate world. I appreciate the fact that it is based on down to earth insights into the nature of human beings, and involves steps that are immensely practical and for which precedence exists. And it is based on the still not put into practical action fact that we all share one tiny planet and therefore each have the right to demand that nobody puts its ecological balance at risk, or more at risk than it already is. It is one of very few whole-planet solutions currently in circulation.

As we are unlikely in the short term going to be able to change certain fundamental aspects of human nature, the Manifesto suggests we leave the elements required to satisfy current human desires in place, and simply change the parameters that deliver and measure what these desires seek.

The author, Dr Jeffrey Eisen, lucidly argues that we are applying false accounting criteria to evaluating the profitability of companies and corporations : at the moment the make-up of figures on either side of a balance sheet does not take into account what the effect of the organisation’s activities (that produce conventional profitability) are on the planet as one single unit of “Lebensraum”, or in his terminology, the humansphere, the space humanity occupies with nature.

He proposes that in future companies be judged by their consumption of resources, both natural and human. ‘Resources’ are defined to include – fresh air and clean water, as well as the more usual items and the cost to repair any damage caused (assuming possible). Once these new accounting elements are agreed, a company would then be assessable as ecologically in surplus, in balance or in deficit. While all natural life is ecologically balanced, capitalism and its economic tenets are currently decidedly negatively balanced. Society will under the new proposal be expecting at least ecologically balanced delivery of goods and services; corporations achieving this will be awarded by an adjustment in taxation rates, ranging from tax credits where the output is achieved is ecologically positive, to penal taxes the greater the ecological negativity. Balanced output will potentially be awarded with zero taxation. The author even suggests that because it demands balance or positivity, global society might even go as far guaranteeing a profit to companies that achieve the required balance [potentially for a number of years from start-up, commentator’s addition].

To be truly effective such a measure of profitability would need to be introduced globally, which in turn would require not just an international treaty, but also a global standardisation and monitoring body, with potentially executive power.

There is a central idea to this proposal that is overdue for implementation; it deserves support and further development, go to http://psychonoetics.com. The entire Omnius Manifesto is available for download from here (9-pages).

Remembering the Future

Today is Remembrance Sunday. As I write these words, I am able to hear and see on BBC TV the ten thousand representatives of various military and civilian groups parade past the Cenotaph, in London, in memory of fallen comrades, friends and family members who gave their lives in past and present conflicts. Inevitably the drum-beat that accompanies the left heal of the marchers hitting the ground brings back memories of my own endless hours spent on drill squares learning to precision march.

But overriding the emotions that come from watching those thousands whose mixed memories have brought them on to the streets of cities, towns and villages everywhere in the English speaking world, is a dawning as to why remembering is particularly important in today’s rapidly changing world : in the events remembered today, there was a known enemy, even if it might be difficult to recognise some of these as ‘enemy’ today, then there was a certainty. And this made it possible for ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things, to become heroes and heroines, to come up with unusual ideas and solutions, even to be willing to lay down their lives.

The yearning that exists today is for that same degree of certainty that existed in the past, the certainty that made it possible to know ‘the enemy’. Today’s major enemy is something much more elusive – it is hidden inside each of us and in all our beliefs, practices and institutions. Such an abstract enemy is much more difficult to identify, to go up against. So frustrated we strike out and create ‘enemies’ in banking; big business; transnationals; those of other religions; government; the system; etc. and yet no one of these is an “enemy”. In a world based on a real understanding of Oneness, there are only victims – of immature ideas; wrong assumptions; false ideals; poor understanding of the purpose life; etc. Until we collectively develop a real understanding of what a One World view means, and then develop the skills and courage required to remodel our world, we will go on seeking out the enemy and remember the days in which it was simpler to do so.

I live with the convinction that, given direction, the same dedication and bravery of the past is alive today and available to make the changes the world is clearly calling for. Because there is so much that requires change, movements like Occupy Wall Street (OWS) appear to have diverse objectives. Yet OWS’s diversity reflects the wide range of areas in which change is overdue : the structure of government; a re-definition of the role of corporations and the determination of profitability; the role and nature of banking; the puropose of real education; healthcare v. disease prevention; agriculture in alignment with natue’s laws; an economic theory relevant to this age; etc.

What has yet to emerge is an integrated programme of radical change covering these key areas that shape our world. Those who heroically gave of themselves in a simpler age, will not have done so in vain if we collaborate in creating the future we want, always based on the recognition that we are all in this together. The future will need to be different, no doubt; the danger lies in us believing that it is too complex to try and do anything about shaping our futures, and in letting it just ‘happen’ to us. The big lesson of the past being remembered today is that where there is hope and determnination, there will emerge solutions.

Positive Money Conference London – Part-2

Some practical alternatives to aspects of banking mentioned at this valuable 1-day event included (this does not aim to be a comprehensive list) -

In the UK

www.uk.zopa.com
peer to peer lending, with a less than 1% default rate

www.abundancegeneration.com
launching shortly, with the same founder as UK Zopa

www.bankofthefuture.com
launching in March 2012, will offer 4 different options of service and will embrace all the elements an ideal banking system would presently contain

Internationally

Hong Kong’s Octopus Card
highly successful, adopted by another province in China

Vodafone’s M-pesa (m=mobile, pesa=Swahili for money)
adopted by users for money transfers, it caught almost Vodafone’s African subsidiary by surprise to find itself become one of Africa’s largest money institutions, and aims in partnership with Citibank make this a world-wide payment service

Vodafone UK
making charity-giving via the mobile phone very easy (to charities that register with them)

Facebook Credits
nobody at Facebook is denying the existence of peer to peer banking plans

Google Points
Google does not deny working on its own payment system

Twitpay
Twitter is rolling out this service

www.PayPal.com

All above systems are however linked in one way or another linked to the banking system. The following 2 are genuinely independent -

www.bitcoin.com
genuinely has no links with banks

www.kiva.org
is another peer to peer lending system, concentrating on small loans to poorer countries

For UK readers of this blog there is an interesting offer on the table – contact your MP and ask whether s/he knows where money comes from, revealing that a survey has shown that only 4 out of 600 do and offer to provide them with a copy of the book “Where does Money Come From” co-authored by one of the day’s speakers, Josh Ryan-Collins (with Tony Greenahm of NEF), and published by the New Economics Foundation, www.neweconomics.org. If your MP has the courtesy to respond in the affirmative, NEF has offered to send them a complimentary copy of this eye-opening book (which to my mind ought to include the phrase “… really come from ….”

This Old Warhorse recommends you register with http://www.positivemoney.org.uk so that you are kept abreast of their work and have an opportunity to attend their next annual gathering – or invite them to something you are organising and for which you seek speakers.

The issue of what money is and how it may be made more relevant was briefly touched upon by speakers as the day’s focus was very much on how to remove the near monopoly powers we have given banks, which they have consistently misused to the detriment of most of the world, and about which governments simply have no idea what to do. The entire day was marked by the absence of any strident attacks on any parties, rather there was a sombre recognition that as a global society we had allowed a monster to develop that none of the parties threatened by it know how to control.

The bigger issue that this Old Warhorse considers will need to be addressed soon, but was outside the scope of this one-day event and still lies in the future, is agreement on what money is and how the currencies in which money is expressed can be given value objectively. One of the MP speakers at the event made reference to money as a commodity, which is precisely where our problem lies – we need to agree that money is a unit of measure, nothing else, and then start treating it as such. Coupled with the practical solutions offered by the event here reported on, the role of banks would quickly become redefined as a service industry to the real wealth generators of modern society.

Positive Money Conference London – Part-1

On Saturday, 29th October 2011, the UK pressure group, Positive Money, arranged its second annual conference in one of UCL’s lecture theatres.

This Old Warhorse was reminded of attending similar events 40 years ago, most notably the annual TOES conferences (The Other Economic Summit) timed to precede the G8 (or whatever the number then was) event.

Yet, there was a fundamental difference between then and this day – today everybody can see that disaster is heading our way unless we reform our financial and banking systems, then only the far-sighted thinkers could see what has now finally caught up with us. And today we have the internet, and, most importantly, Social Media.

It is not my intention in this blog to keep referring back to the past (when banks were controlled and bankers were paid salaries only), it was simply this contrast that struck me as I sat through a day of interesting revelations and practical proposals (all the while drugged to keep my man-cold under manful control).

The most striking bit of information was that of the 600 MPs, who are the UK’s legislators, not more than 4 can be presumed to know what money is and where it comes from; similar research conducted amongst Treasury officials, bankers and economists, reveals the same high levels of ignorance; and similar levels of ignorance are found amongst almost the entire public. This is a particularly appalling figure as only about 3% of money even remotely equates to what everybody appears to consider money to be, whereas the remaining 97% consists of simple computer entries which any licensed lending institution is authorised to make.

How come that the one measure that impacts on all our lives is so little understood, or worse still, so misunderstood?  How badly are we failing in our education! How docile we have become to allow every step of our lives to be controlled by something only the tiniest number of people understand? I knew it was bad, but had no idea how bad it has become.

The focus of the day was to highlight this ignorance and how this had made the control of banks fundamentally impossible until governments truly understood the nature of money.  The two MPs, who were amongst the speakers, had no difficulty in sharing this view.

Being a solutions-oriented event the speakers variously listed items for immediate banking reform, including the requirement to change the law that currently turns your and my money into bank-owned money from the moment we make a deposit with them.  This change in ownership perception immediately makes it easier for the introduction of genuine customer choice – s/he would opt to use the bank either as a convenient storage and transfer place for money, and / or to be an investment agent for the customer in certain approved areas.  In the event of future bank failures money in the storage accounts would still be there and would simply be transferred  to another bank; money at risk would most likely be at reduced risk as few, if any, bank customer would allow investments in some of the mad schemes banks currently participate in.

Research has shown that banks currently lend only about 8% of their money for productive purposes, and the other 92% is used non-productively.  The importance of banks with such a lending record is further questioned when their tax contributions to UK government coffers in the last financial year were at £23.8 billion in comparison to £60.0 billions from the manufacturing sector.

Recognising that even these simple and logical changes in legislation will take time to get through Parliament, the joy of this event was the presentation of schemes that can be implemented without changes in legislation having to be put in place.  A shining example of this is Hong Kong’s Octopus Card – originally designed to facilitate travel on the public transport system (London followed with its Oyster card), it quickly became accepted by local traders. Needless to say, the banks quickly complained that these pre-paid cards were effectively turning the company that ran them into a deposit taker, which had to remain the sole prerogative of holders of banking licence. Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority looked into the matter, concluded that indeed deposits were being taken and promptly awarded the Octopus company with a deposit taking licence! It is now a widely used pre-paid card that can be used in an endless choice of situations. Its symbol and the name are reminiscent of the figure eight, which in Chinese is of course a most auspicious number.

In part-2 I list some of the practical applications designed to by-pass the banks.