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‘Musing’: Local Growth Myth

Giant tailings waste "pond" produced by the Suncor Millenium and Steepbank operations.

Giant tailings waste “pond” produced by the Suncor Millenium and Steepbank operations, Alberta.

I have made use of our local community newspaper (Stouffville Sun-Tribune) to voice my opinion on a number of issues. From a guest editorial to letters to the editor (see this and this  as examples). And, when one of the columns writers threw out a challenge to  readers to share visions of all the positive changes that the Town should envision as we continue to grow at one of the highest rates in all of Canada (see this), I had to respond. The following is the text of that response:

Re your Off the Top column, More to the east, please.
I just want to challenge the implicit assumption in your column regarding input from citizens on future growth ideals. Your framing of the question, with only ‘positive’ attributes as examples of the consequences of growth, implies that growth is solely a positive force, something that always benefits us.
I would have to challenge that presumption. There is accumulating evidence that, in fact, growth is detrimental to the planet and society in general.
The ‘growth culture’ we have as an unstated assumption about how the world works is based on only a couple of centuries of quick sociopolitical and economic change on a global scale. More and more are arguing that this phenomenal growth has been due to the extraction and exploitation of cheap and easily-accessible fossil fuels. The rapid use of this resource has resulted in a number of consequences, some intended and some not. There have been amazing technological changes and healthcare ‘advances,’ but there has also been greater wealth disparity, environmental degradation, and violence on a global scale.
In any kind of discussion on growth, we need to not only be aware of these negative consequences (and these cannot be avoided, otherwise they would have been by now), but we also need to include them in our worldview and question the prevailing assumption that growth is good.
The late Donella Meadows, co-writer of a very respected study in 1972 entitled The Limits to Growth, wrote in a book on Complexity Theory, that humans often discount the negative aspects of growth, focusing instead in the immediate, short-term gains that can be made; and, that we often push growth in the wrong direction, making worse the social ‘issues’ we try to ‘fix’ through increased growth.

So, a question I’d like to pose to readers in this discussion is this: given the other side of the coin, do we really want the growth targets imposed by the ‘state?’ Or do we tell our leaders to stop now, while there is some ‘country’ left in the Town.

Dr. Albert Bartlett (1923-2013)

Copy of a guest editorical sent to my local community newspaper today (Sept 22, 2013):

Al Bartlet, University of Colorado

______

This past month a person of some importance passed away but my bet is that many, if not all, people reading this will have never heard of him. His name was Albert Bartlett. He was a Professor Emeritus in nuclear physics at the University of Colorado.

Why do I say of some importance? Well, he holds a ‘record,’ of sorts, for giving his presentation–entitled Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Sustainability 101–1742 times across the globe. But what I find more impressive are the almost five million hits one of his lectures has received on youtube.

We agree upon little in this world. Did the Syrian government or the ‘rebels’ use chemical weapons? Are central bank monetary policies good for the economy or will they lead to high inflation, possibly hyperinflation? Have we passed Peak Oil or is there nothing to worry about with respect to fossil fuel depletion? Climate change is occurring but is it anthropogenic (mad-made) or a natural fluctuation or both?

However, we can agree that two times two is four and this is the basis Dr. Bartlett uses so convincingly to show, as he puts it, that “the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

Why is this important? The exponential function deals with steady growth, something we have been conditioned to desire, especially for the economy.

Dr. Bartlett simplifies the concept by looking at doubling time (the time it takes for something to grow by 100%) and then shows how quickly ANY steady growth can overwhelm a system.

What is the relevance of this for the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville?  I raise this startling reality as the Town has been the fastest growing community in the country the past few years, growing 54.3% over the five years of 2006-2011, just over a 9% increase per year.

This rate of increase requires just over 7 and 3/4 years to double, 15 and 1/2 years to quadruple, and in one person’s average lifetime of 80 years at this rate, Stouffville will have doubled its population over ten times, from the 2006 number of 24,390 to over 12 million.

Obviously this will not happen in the next 80 years since it would be next to impossible for the Town to host so many, unless we build straight up. However, if we wish to see what the ‘Country Close to the City’ will look like in just a few years, travel into Toronto and you’ll see.

It’s not what I had in mind when I moved into the area almost twenty years ago but I guess I can thank our town’s council, region, and province for the result.

And, if you wish to understand this concept of exponential growth better, watch Dr. Bartlett’s presentation on his website http://www.albartlett.org. It’s worth the time to help better understand some of the predicaments humans will face in the coming years.

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Fukushima

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just wanted to post a copy of an opinion piece I have sent to the Toronto Star for consideration. I do not expect it to be accepted, but one never knows…

Fukushima.
This word should be on everyone’s lips, yet when I raised the issue with a couple of very well-educated colleagues recently both were unaware of how serious the situation is. There may be a number of reasons for this lack of awareness of what some are referring to as “the greatest short-term threat to all of humanity.”
Forget global warming (anthropogenic or not), forget geopolitical tensions in the Middle East over finite fossil fuels, and forget the global economic depression. The events unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may well overshadow all other crises.
There is a very real possibility that the situation is beyond the capability of humans to mitigate. The radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean may be the least of our worries. No one knows where the nuclear cores are; containment of the radioactive fuel has been lost.
I don’t know which frustrates me more.
That our mainstream media outlets have been underplaying the issue—in fact, Project Censored referred to this as one of the top three underreported items in 2012; that Tokyo was awarded the Olympics given the radiation pouring out of Fukushima; that our ‘global leadership’ is not discussing the seriousness of the situation publicly; or, that most people are totally ignorant (perhaps purposely so) of the situation and its dangers.
When you know you can’t avoid the iceberg ahead in the water, is it better to wait until you actually have the collision before reacting or is it better to prepare to your best ability prior to the impact? I would think the latter but our ignorance may force us towards the former. I guess the answer, as to whether you believe this crisis to be ‘under control’ or not, depends on whether you trust the world’s leaders.
Do you?

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Whither Canadian Financial Oversight?

English: Crystaline Gold

English: Crystaline Gold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just wanted to repost a commentary I wrote about this time last year and sent to a couple of Canadian media outlets (Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post) for ‘publication.’ It was not published by any but it seems as relevant today, if not more so, as it did last summer:

Whither Canadian Financial Oversight?
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of months following and reading what I can regarding global economic issues. Not having been educated or trained in this field, I have engaged in trying to make sense of the various opinions and schools of thought.
What I have learned is that economics is an exceedingly complex system with non-linear relationships between stocks, flows, and feedback loops (that vary in timing and impact). I’ve found weather forecasting within the field of meteorology to reflect the complexity of such a system fairly well, but as a ‘simpler’ example.
Most of us realize that the further out in time from the present, the less certain a meteorological forecast is. There is a lot of uncertainty in the forecast ten days in the future. The forecast for 10 hours in the future, however, is far less uncertain. And, there is virtually no uncertainty when one considers the forecast for 10 seconds in the future.
It seems to me that this is true for the economic system and its predictive models as well. However, we are not just dealing with ‘simple’ variables that can be measured (e.g. wind speed, ocean temperature, etc.) when we are looking at the economic system. Economics is also a social phenomenon involving the actions of many individual players and groups (not to mention government intervention and general malfeasance). Add human behaviour, particularly emotions, to the mix and the system becomes so complex there is no model that could ever capture all the various relationships and feedback loops; let alone the unintended consequences and ‘black swan’ events. Making any kind of prediction in this kind of world is like predicting the weather months or years in advance.
Accepting this, I have a question for those amongst the-powers-that-be with regard to Canadian financial reserves: given an uncertain future and the fragile nature of global politics and finances, why do we have virtually no gold in our central bank reserves, and are basically ‘all in’ with a small number of sovereign nation’s currencies?
99.73% of Canadian reserves are invested in 4 areas, the: U.S. dollar (49.87%); Euro (29.69%); Yen (0.67%); and, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (19.5%; 13. 6% in Special Drawing Rights and 5.89% in IMF reserves). Although, for all intents and purposes, the reserves held at the IMF are also fiat currency in nature, being a ‘claim’ to IMF currency reserves of the U.S. dollar, Yen, or British Sterling. Only 0.25% of Canadian reserves is held in gold.
In an uncertain world whose history is checkered with global political instability and a tendency for those in charge of currencies to devalue them, responsible oversight would seem to me to call for the building of reserves in the most certain of financial instruments. Thousands of years of history would point to precious metals over fiat currencies every time. In fact, it is of importance to note that many, if not most, central banks in the world hold far more gold in their reserves than Canada.
The U.S. holds 75.1%, Germany 71.9%, Venezuela 74.8%, Portugal 89.9%, Netherlands 60.2%. Even the IMF holds more than 2800 tonnes, or $144 Billion at today’s rounded price of $1600 per troy ounce. Canada, holds just 0.25% or slightly over 5 tonnes of its reserves in gold.
I’ve played enough poker to know that going ‘all in’ on a weak hand usually ends badly. Even going all in on a strong hand risks losing everything. But I would think we don’t want to go ‘all in’ with our reserves; that we would want to spread our risk, given the uncertainty of the future. The one thing we’ve been advised by the financial industry through their investment propaganda is to spread risk over several asset classes. So why hasn’t Canada? Three particular phenomena worry me with regard to being completely invested in 3 fiat currencies.
First, major central banks have been involved in monetary ‘easing’ policies that have greatly devalued their currencies,  serving to crush the market value of Canadian currency reserves.
Second, knowing that all central banks engage in policies to increase inflation, especially should a deflation risk appear, then it is a given that fiat currencies continually lose their ‘worth’ over time. Looking at how purchasing power has been lost over time reflects this. The volume of $20 worth of gas today (15.4 L at $1.30/L) compared to twenty years ago should demonstrate this point (34.8 L at $0.575/L, Ontario’s average gas price in 1992)—not to mention the amount of silver that was in our coins prior to 1968. Congressman Ron Paul in the U.S. is one of the few politicians I’ve seen truly understand this aspect of economics and watching him question the U.S. Federal Reserve’s chair, BenBernanke, is worth the time.
Third, given the rising chorus of voices pointing to the Ponzi nature of today’s fiat currencies, going all in, as Canada has done with these financial instruments, is as risky as one could get—apart from purchasing Greek government bonds or municipal bonds out of California where municipalities are lining up to declare bankruptcy.
Gold, however, has a long-term record as both a store of and holder of wealth. History and prehistory point to the importance of gold and other precious metals as a hedge against both economic and political uncertainty. Or as Kyle Bass, founder of Hayman Capital Investment and one of numerous peripheral voices who predicted both the sub-prime mortgage and Euro crises, has stated, “buying gold is just buying a put against the idiocy of the political cycle, it’s that simple.”
So, I am both confused by and concerned for Canada in this regard. We could find ourselves in a precarious economic situation with no warning at all and have little or no reserves to speak of.
As is so often the case, the-powers-that-be will claim, after the fact, that it was impossible to have foreseen any crisis. But, they know right now that we have no gold in our reserves and have not spread risk adequately in an uncertain world. The Euro is set to implode, the Yen is a ‘bug looking for a windshield’, and the U.S. dollar will likely continue to be devalued so as to inflate away their debts, or worse yet for the Americans, their reserve dollar status could be lost to a gold-backed Chinese renminbi.
Canada, one of the globe’s ‘current’ darlings amongst financial systems, could find itself far worse off than those nations that have been building their gold reserves should a greater economic crisis sweep the globe—which appears more and more likely.
This concerned citizen would like to know, whither Canadian financial oversight?
P.S.
If you do invest in some gold, Canada, please make sure you get physical delivery. Rumour has it that gold stock has been re-hypothecated so many times that there is literally dozens more times ‘paper’ gold than there is actual physical gold in existence.

Sociocultural Breaking Point: Is There One and Are We Close?

Protest 0068

Protest 0068 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sociocultural Breaking Point: Is There One and Are We Close?

Watching the political class and their plutocratic masters spin events and the messages that come from them in an ever-increasing charade of optimism and self-aggrandizing statements, I can’t help but become more frustrated. Frustrated at the mainstream media for not performing its role as the Fifth Estate and engaging in more investigative journalism to uncover and report on the growing evidence of general malfeasance invading and controlling our institutions. Frustrated at the masses for failing to realise that all is not well in Wonderland and that we are all being fed a continual load of horseshit by the-powers-that-be. Frustrated at myself for not doing more than simply trying to educate and convince others of the growing possibility of a catastrophic, global collapse in finances that will inevitably lead to a collapse of trade and, finally, society; if we don’t find ourselves engaged in a Third World War first (although as some have warned, we may already be involved in the beginning of it).
History is replete with instances of social upheaval and possible turning points that led to such revolts. It would appear, however, that each instance evolves and manifests itself for varied reasons and never the result of a single grievance but a combination of several that build over time. It is like an avalanche building up snowflakes one at a time until that one particular one lands and sets off a cascading event that results in an avalanche of epic proportions (I discuss this in the first chapter of my novel). And, as I recently read in one of the articles I posted from zerohedge.com (see this), it is action on the periphery that eventually leads to social action: a few people start, some more join in, and then herd behaviour takes over and almost everyone follows suit.
Or, as Michael Ruppert discusses in the documentary Collapse, it is not the behaviour of the first couple of monkeys that try something new that changes group behaviour; it’s not even the action of the ninety-ninth monkey; but it is the response of the hundredth monkey that results in the eventual action of all (as an aside, I considered calling my novel The Hundredth Monkey when I first began contemplating its creation).
A current event that demonstrates this is the protest occurring in Brazil. The media has pointed to a rather innocuous bus fare increase as the tipping point for millions of people to fill the streets and protest the government. This, however, occurred within a broader and more complex background context of—wait for it—ongoing government and corporate malfeasance.
I fail to see how a social upheaval could be caused by a single event unless it is so offensive and outrageous that people cannot fathom not being up in arms; although given what I see around me I’m doubtful even that would happen here in Canada at this point in time. It is also unlikely to occur given the manipulation of the message by our overlords. We are spoon-fed propaganda on a regular basis. When lies are uncovered, deceptions laid bare, and malfeasance discovered, our leaders point to others, bang the table for change, and, basically, tell the public what they want to hear, no matter how far from reality the truth is.
If there is a breaking point for us in North America, my guess is that we are getting close, particularly south of the border.  And when that union begins to disintegrate we in Canada can be sure that it will be felt in a manner not pleasant at all. Preparing for this moment is not paranoid; it is precautionary and prudent. In fact, I would argue that it is far more prudent than spending one’s wealth on auto and home insurance that is rarely, if ever, used. Both can help alleviate anxiety and chaos when the moment of truth arrives.
Between my wife and I we spend close to $5000 annually on home, auto, and long-term disability insurance on the off-chance that a fire will erupt in our home, that we will be in a serious car accident, and/or be off work due to a long-term health issue. Spending an equivalent amount, or even half that, in emergency preparedness supplies seems only reasonable in this context and given the growing number of ‘signs’ of collapse all around us: candles, matches, flashlights, water, food, warm clothes, bug-out bags, gardening supplies, wood stove, etc., etc.. There are plenty of websites that provide the knowledge and skills to be self-sufficient.
My advice, for anyone who has doubt about the ability of the-powers-that-be to control an exceedingly complex global system or doubts their mantra of ‘we do this for the good of all’, is that you prepare yourself and your family for the coming collapse. It is better to be years early than minutes late…

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Collapse of Trust and Faith in the System

article-0-1A9F18B5000005DC-299_964x636Collapse of Trust and Faith in the System

I began reading Dimitry Orlov’s recent publication, The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit, last week and it has got me thinking about his thesis with respect to the revelations around the U.S. surveillance system being used globally by the-powers-that-be (both corporate and political), in combination with the ongoing exposure of manipulation of various markets and interest rates.

Orlov argues that “my five stages of collapse…serve as mental milestones…[and each breaches] a specific level of trust or faith in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift” (p. 14).

Here are his five stages:
a) Financial collapse where faith in risk assessment and financial guarantees is lost (think Cyprus).
b) Commercial collapse that witnesses a breakdown in trade and widespread shortages of necessities (think Greece).
c) Political collapse through a loss of political class relevance and legitimacy (think current events almost everywhere).
d) Social collapse in which social institutions that could provide resources fail (coming to a locality near you?).
e) Cultural collapse that is exhibited by the disbanding of families into individuals competing for scarce resources (hopefully we never witness this).

Stage One: Financial Collapse
Orlov states “all that is required for financial collapse is for certain assumptions about the future to be invalidated, for finance is not a physical system but a mental construct” (p. 17). It would appear that we are well into this first stage as more and more people are questioning not only the stability of the financial system, but its very structure and long-term viability.

The subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 has left lingering concerns about the fragility of the global economic system. Add to this the ongoing manipulation of global interest rates and markets that has been exposed (see this). This manipulation has little to do with improving a system for the majority but has a lot to do with enriching the elite minority and transferring wealth to them from the majority (see this and this). Add to this the ever-increasing liquidity injections (i.e. money printing) by the world’s central banks (see this) and the theft of allocated funds by unprosecuted criminals (see this) and we have a recipe for increased loss of trust throughout the global financial system. In fact, there are many who have already lost complete faith in the system and recommend disinvesting one’s savings from these corrupt institutions and investing in hard assets (i.e. gold, silver, agricultural land, art, memorabilia, farming supplies, wine, etc.) that maintain or increase their value over time relative to the government-mandated fiat currency which loses its worth due to central bank malfeasance-inflation (see this and this).

Stage Two: Commercial Collapse
A breakdown in trade is beginning as more and more sovereign nations impose tariffs and/or devalue their currency in a vicious circle: currency devaluation leads to increase in exports for the ‘devaluer’ but a decrease for competitors-it’s a zero sum game after all); the competitor either devalues their currency in kind (see this and this) or imposes tariffs on the nation engaging in purposeful devaluation (see this).

In Greece, a peripheral nation within the Eurozone and a test case for extreme austerity, this type of collapse has occurred in regions, resulting in shortages of necessities such as pharmaceuticals, energy, and food (see this and this).

Stage Three: Political Collapse
I believe we have begun down this path with evermore revelations of government malfeasance. The latest salvo in this ongoing struggle between what we are told by our governments and what is the on-the-ground reality has been launched: the American National Security Agency’s decade+ invasion of privacy through a global surveillance regime. It’s bad enough that the elite have lied about this for more than a decade; what’s worse is their targeting of whistleblowers as ‘traitors’ as this de-incentivises exposing immoral or illegal acts perpetrated by our elite (see this).

We are moving ever closer to Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian world as expressed in his book 1984. One commentator has argued that 1984 was not designed to be an instruction manual but a warning (see this), and others have been warning about this type of intrusion for some years (see this).

There are numerous examples of political malfeasance and corruption being uncovered recently. For example:
a) Toronto mayor videotaped participating with others smoking crack cocaine (see this);
b) America’s National Security Agency’s creation of a global, electronic surveillance state-apparently even used to eavesdrop on other nations’ leaders at meetings (see this);
c) Montreal mayor arrested for corruption (see this);
d) Numerous former presidents/prime ministers/etc. being arrested/charged for various crimes from torture to murder (see this, this, this, and this)
e) The current and former premier of Ontario being linked to decisions cancelling gas plants to save political seats during an election (see this).

Using Orlov’s framework to interpret these concerns, arguments, perspectives, and facts, it would appear that trust and faith in the various systems are collapsing at an incredible rate. Faith in the financial system is crumbling; commercial enterprises, especially multinational corporations, are losing support and trade barriers are beginning to be erected; and, finally, all that is needed for political collapse is for more citizens to come to the realisation that the status quo is no longer working for the benefit of all but for the benefit of the elite. When the masses finally come to better understand the corruption and malfeasance that percolates throughout the political world, collapse of the political class will occur.

 However, even given the various signs that the system is on the verge of collapse, it is important to realise that NO ONE can predict when this might occur. It could be tomorrow, next week, next year, or next decade…one never knows what event, minor or major, could spin us in an unexpected direction. Learn how to protect yourself and your family financially, socially, and practically (i.e. survival skills) to be in a better position to adapt to the coming changes.

‘Collapse of Liberty?’

Athens Riots

Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

May 2, 2012

A number of media articles over the past couple of weeks have me wondering about how quickly liberty and freedom can be lost, even here in Canada. Various levels of government have been legislating changes that can be perceived as quite Totalitarian in nature (i.e. a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary).

First, we see increasing secrecy and closed-door decision-making regarding government actions and reactions. While this is never a good sign in a democracy, in one particular arena the government is giving itself the ‘legal authority’ to engage in ‘investigative hearings’ behind closed doors; and, any citizen that refuses to comply with this ‘authority’ faces imposed conditions on their ‘freedom’ or incarceration. In addition, any citizen can be charged if they attempt to leave the country to engage in ‘terrorist’ activities (however these might be defined). This latter provision is reminiscent of pre-crime arrests in Philip K. Dick’s novel and Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report, where citizens are arrested for even thinking about committing a crime.

The government’s ideology around the issue of terrorism has been succinctly presented by one of its backbenchers, Pierre Poilievre, who on CBC’s Power and Politics stated that “…the root cause of terrorism is terrorists…”. In an attempt to highlight the different leadership styles of his party and one of the opposition parties, where he explained that his party was one of action while the other politicians were busy ‘committing sociology’ (statement by our Prime Minister when an opposition party leader suggested that Canadians need to understand the root cause of terrorism to help eliminate it). Basically, the government’s perspective is that it is evil people and their evil leaders that give rise to terrorism. There is little insight by such ideologues that it is, as Congressman Dr. Ron Paul argues in his book, The Revolution, interventionist foreign policies that see ‘our’ armed forces intervening, often quite violently, in other sovereign nations. He goes on to highlight, quite compellingly, that if we were to follow noninterventionist policies that do not create more chaos, uncertainty, and very often, death in these occupied foreign lands, then we would not see ‘terrorists’ carrying out acts of violence within our borders. The ‘blowback’ we are witnessing is a logical consequence of a people under the thumb of our intrusion into their lands.

Second, we see an increasing trend to silence opposition. Most recently, we in Canada are witnessing this in the form of restrictive policies for scientists. Eminent and world-renowned scientist David Suzuki sums up the conundrum as follows:
a) The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication.”
b) Science offers the best information to help guide us during an uncertain future of climate change and environmental degradation.
c) The federal government is attempting to suppress information, especially when the data runs counter to government policy, on such a broad basis that Canada’s Information Commissioner is investigating seven separate government departments for such repressive actions.
d) Environmental laws have been gutted and the funding for oversight agencies slashed.
e) Climate change reporting has seen extraordinary pressure, being reduced by some 80%.
f) Environmentalists, including Suzuki himself, have been labeled ‘radicals, un-Canadian, and money launderers,’ while also being blamed for opposition to pipelines despite never commenting on them.

This stifling of dissent or opposition is one of the steps taken by Totalitarian regimes. I have witnessed it first hand as an educator when the Ontario provincial government introduced legislation (Bill 115) that gave them the authority to impose collective agreements and working conditions on the province’s public education sector. Teachers’ federations have filed legal challenges to the implementation around this bill, arguing that it is unconstitutional. What concerned me more than the draconian implementation was the clause that stated the government and its decisions regarding Bill 115 were above the rule of law and judiciary; in other words, the courts could not be used to challenge the law, regardless of its unconstitutionality.

Finally, we see greater intrusion into freedom of the press and our public broadcaster, CBC. In its latest omnibus budget bill, the federal government has given itself the power to impose unilaterally collective agreements, salaries, and working conditions for a number of supposed arms-length Crown corporations (see Bill 115 discussion above). In addition, Canada has come under fire for repressive actions against its press, falling on the World Press Freedom Index from the top five to 20th spot. The report cites obstruction of journalists during the ‘Maple Spring’ student protests of 2012, threats to confidentiality of press sources, and attempts to pass legislation to access Internet users’ personal data without warrant.

It appears Canada has begun down a slippery slope with respect to a loss of fundamental freedoms and liberty. I believe the elite are well aware that when the economic Ponzi we live within begins to implode, we may experience severe austerity (see Europe), and social unrest will escalate significantly. Or, if the world’s central banks continue flooding the world with fiat currency printed from air and hyperinflation begins, social unrest will also fare up. Either way, the plutocratic elite will continue to repress the population for its own sake, using the narrative that it’s for our own protection.

For those who accept these changes and think they are for the best, you need to think about the parable regarding boiling a frog. If you attempt to place a frog in a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out of the water; however, if you place that same frog in a pot of room temperature water and slowly increase the heat, the frog will remain in the slowly warming water until it is boiled alive. A great example of how little changes can result in a very significant change overall. As Benjamin Franklin stated many years ago, “those who would give up their liberty for a bit of safety, deserve neither safety nor liberty.”

And, as Noam Chomsky reminds us, control of the population has always been a concern for those in power, and in less violent states the control is there, just more subtle. Thus, it is always important to keep our politicians’ feet to the fire. While there are differences between repression in violent regimes and non-violent ones, there is still repression. And, such repression can take a quick leap forward given the right ‘event.’  It seems foolish and naïve for any of us to believe that our government would not turn on a dime and be far, far worse if they felt the ‘need.’ There are far too many examples of increasing Totalitarian and Fascist moves by supposedly ‘democratic’ governments not to be taking these intrusions and changes seriously, and speaking out against them repeatedly.

 

April 10, 2013 ‘Signs’

I ended my last post with the following paragraph:
“I often believe we are ‘pushing in the wrong direction’ as Donella Meadows laments in Thinking in Systems: A Primer: “…a clear leverage point:  growth. Not only population growth, but economic growth. Growth has costs as well as benefits and we typically don’t count the costs—among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on—the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth! What is needed is much slower growth, very different kinds of growth and in some cases no growth or negative growth. The world leaders are correctly fixated on growth as the answer to all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction,…leverage points are frequently not intuitive. Or if they are, we too often use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve” (emphasis added).”

And, I had to add this Gary Larson cartoon that epitomises this predicament:gifted

While it may not be ‘politically correct’ to criticize two of our most fundamental ‘entitlements’ (healthcare and education), I’m going to suggest an alternate perspective on them. Today, education, my current profession/career (I am a vice principal in an elementary public school) will be viewed.

If you have read my novel, Olduvai, you will know that I question the current curriculum. Here is a passage, during which one of the protagonists is presenting to a group of student teachers:
“I believe there is a perfect storm brewing, which could see a global, social transformation unlike any seen before on the planet. This change will likely hit full speed within the next decade or two, possibly sooner. The shift will be caused by two of our civilisation’s most fundamental systems: our monetary and energy systems.
“These two complex systems have coalesced and created an impact on a third system, our environment. These systems are three very large fronts being blown together by gale force winds and will be the perfect storm in the not too distant future.”
Sam noted that more of the students were beginning to show signs of increased interest, leaning forward and nodding now and again to certain points. He continued, gaining more confidence as time passed.
“If this storm is indeed on the horizon, then you as educators need to consider how best to prepare our future citizens. Will the future resemble the so-called knowledge economy the current system assumes? What if our current monetary system fails because of all the debt we’ve accumulated? What if the energy we rely so heavily upon begins contracting as predicted? What knowledge and skills will be most important in one of these alternate scenarios?” He paused to take another drink and check his time….(pp. 37-38).

You will note that it is the curriculum that I am questioning. Our current system is heavily engaged and committed to 21st century skills that, in general terms, focus on technology and related skills/knowledge. I have heard many pundits argue that if we are to solve the problems of today, we need better technology and more skilled/knowledgeable scientists, engineers, etc.. They follow the herd in this belief without viewing the situation more critically and questioning how our current system has led us to these predicaments. One could argue, for example, that it was the scientific/mechanical realisation of how steam energy could help to further our access to energy resources (coal and then petroleum) that allowed us to get where we are and ushered in all the ‘unintended consequences’ that go along with our journey (e.g. pollution, poverty, resource depletion, etc.); fast forward a century and we are now dealing with nuclear power and the deadly ‘fallout’ when ‘accidents’ occur (it’s important to note here that the crisis at Fukushima continues to grow).

I believe, however, that this is indeed the wrong path; that we are ‘pushing in the wrong direction.’ Not only are we exacerbating the resource depletion and environmental issues (think of all the energy and resources used to get a computer/tablet/smartphone from conception to customer, and the waste products from this production, that, ultimately, include the item itself), but our students will be ill-prepared for life outside of the current ‘paradigm’; a paradigm that may be on its last legs. A future of contracting energy is significantly different than one that is defined by growing energy resources. These different assumptions have huge implications for the education system’s curriculum.

Students in today’s schools learn little about gardening and farming, for example; however, history and prehistory show that societies that lack citizens capable of feeding themselves suffer tremendously during sociocultural transformations. People that rely on a complex system of trade (e.g.  ‘just-in-time’ delivery to avoid large inventories) to feed themselves could easily be looking as mass starvation during any significant upheaval.

When you step back and look at the education system from a different perspective, one that foretells of possible energy contraction and economic collapse, one can only conclude that we are leading our children on a path that suddenly ends with no preparation for what that entails; we are pushing upon them many skills/knowledge that could be quite useless in a post-carbon society, especially if the shift from our current world has been ‘apocolyptic’.

April 9, 2013 ‘Signs’

Signs of collapse?

013I came across the pictured ‘sign’ on the way to dropping one of my daughter’s off at a friend’s house this past weekend and while it may not be an obvious indication of the coming societal collapse it portends to the poor planning that often accompanies complex (and not so complex) projects.

Some twenty-five years ago I witnessed a similar planning fiasco in my native London, Ontario, where a bike path was placed beside a busy east-west corridor; the only problem for cyclists was that there were posts located in the middle of the path every so often.

More recently, I wrote about a related incident in which a number of young trees were planted along a major north-south route in York Region, Ninth Line (see this) only to be removed and discarded a number of months later to lay a gas pipeline in the ground.

A conspiratorial view would be that such ‘miscalculations’ are actually planned to extend the work required and, thereby, increase the costs/profits. Others might contend that such events are an unintended consequence of positive changes; some things need to be ‘destroyed’ in order to ‘create’, similar to the ‘broken window’ fallacy that suggests an economy can be lifted through ‘creative destruction’ (this is the unfortunate view some warmongers also hold).

A major concern, however, should be the amount of energy wasted through such incidents. It’s bad enough that we are rapidly depleting precious, nonrenewable resources through major construction projects that ignore many of the long-term conundrums we are rapidly rushing towards. We are seeing massive infrastructure projects that continue to be based upon a belief that our current transportation systems are also the way of the future. Nothing is likely to be further from the truth (see this and this).

gifted

I often believe we are ‘pushing in the wrong direction’ as Donella Meadows laments in Thinking in Systems: A Primer: “…a clear leverage point:  growth. Not only population growth, but economic growth. Growth has costs as well as benefits and we typically don’t count the costs—among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on—the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth! What is needed is much slower growth, very different kinds of growth and in some cases no growth or negative growth.The world leaders are correctly fixated on growth as the answer to all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction,…leverage points are frequently not intuitive. Or if they are, we too often use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve” (emphasis added).

April 1, 2013 ‘Signs’

Signs of Collapse?

The events in Cyprus continue to evolve. It has become evident that well-connected and informed depositors with uninsured funds  were told of the coming capital controls and withdrew their funds prior to the government’s implementation of the deal with the European ‘troika’ (see this and this) reinforcing the increasingly-held belief that the elite prosper by gaming the system leaving the masses to bear the burden of profligate governments and a malfeasant corporate elite, particularly the ‘banksters’ (see this).

It is also important to note that the amount of a loss for depositors could now be as high as 100% (see this), indicating that losses will be much, much higher than previously suggested (the plutocrats who were foretold of the move and removed their deposits added significantly to the losses). An analogous move used by the state to put down protests by its citizens is kettling, where a cordon of police with riot gear and often on horseback herd large groups of people into areas without an exit and hold them there, catching up non-involved citizens who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an attempt to ‘tax’ the Russian oligarchs, all matter of Cypriot was caught in the E.U.’s unprecedented move in recapitalising its banks. Social unrest is sure to follow…

I have tried to raise domestic concern for these events (see this) but we appear to be stuck in the ‘this-time-is-different syndrome’ (see this). I have recently noted that our own Canadian Federal government is preparing for a Cypriot-like confiscation of depositor funds (see this). It is important for Canadians to remember that history shows that Canada was one the of the most severally impacted nations during the Great Depression of the 1930s (see this)  and while history may not repeat itself precisely, current events can certainly rhyme with historical ones. In ‘kicking-the-can down the road’ and denying the significance of the problems that will most certainly affect us in the not-too-distant future, our leaders are assuring an increased shock for the uninformed and ill-prepared masses (see this).

My initial advice for individuals during our ‘relative calm’ is three-fold:
a) get out of debt as quickly as possible, central banks cannot hold interest rates down forever–this may create the need for a significant drop in your ‘standard-of-living’ but better to do it now and have some control over this realignment of expectations, rather than having no control during a crisis and adding to your stress;
b) after you are out of debt, begin to save your surplus wealth through purchase of physical precious metals (no paper ETFs and held at a very reputable storage unit) or investments that could help you ‘weather’ the storm such as investing in home gardening supplies, updating your home’s insulation, or purchasing a wood-burning stove–get your money out of institutions that carry third-party risk (i.e. banks);
c) begin to supplement your food consumption with local sources, your own if possible–build a vegetable garden, plant fruit trees, find out where your local farms and farmers’ markets are.

Communities should be focusing on one thing: becoming sustainably self-sufficient in as many ways as possible; for example, food, water, and energy, the three foundations of our existence. A good sign is that there are transition movements springing up all across the globe (see this).

There is absolutely no way to predict when a crisis may occur–it could be tomorrow or ten years from now; so it is better to be prepared in the event of one, rather than to be reacting during one; this is why elementary schools practise various drills repeatedly during each school year or why we purchase insurance or carry a spare tire in our cars-just in case. Any consequences of economic collapse could occur quickly with little time to react, or it may occur over a prolonged period, allowing gradual adaptation. As Nasim Taleb argues in The Black Swan, it is the unknown, low-risk events that have the most significant impacts upon us. Being prepared for the coming economic tsunami is not only prudent but the first step towards self-sufficiency.

If you haven’t checked out my novel, Olduvai, please do:) Aiming to sell 422 copies: known sold to date–via FriesenPress, 4 hardcover, 2 paperback; via ebook sales, 2; via Amazon et al not known at this time; via me, 16 paperback and 3 hardcover, for a grand total of: 27 (395 to go…yikes;P)

April 1, 2013
Steve

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