HELP SAVE THE PLANET: Please forward this letter to everybody you know
Humane Civilization Worldwide humanecivilization.org
The climate crisis keeps getting worse and worse – we all have reason to be extremely scared about the near future – we are rapidly moving towards worst-case scenarios. However, the misguided, disastrous developments can be halted – there are alternatives.
To reach real progress, we believe that scientists, organizations that are concerned with ecology and climate change, journalists, and politicians must stop acquiescing to the deceiving notion that there is significant progress; they have a responsibility to inform and educate:
The people must learn that the situation is desperate but also that it is possible to halt spewing out greenhouse gases within years; we do not need decades. Only if the people are informed and understand what is possible will they demand immediate, effective climate actions from their governments, actions that decrease atmospheric CO2 levels and halt – reverse global warming, while improving people’s quality of life.
The climate crisis is out of control – we must stop fueling global warming now; not in a few decades. (Our institutions are failing, we must work to reform them – we should not focus on and blame individuals.)
• Compounding vicious cycles are spinning out-of-control and global warming has been accelerating: Polar ice caps and glaciers are rapidly melting, and there are less snow fields that reflect sunlight; the melting of permafrost and damaged peatlands release much CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide; unprecedented forest and brush fires raise CO2 in atmosphere. Natural balances are lost; climate unpredictability will make it impossible to adapt.
• Today’s ‘most progressive’ plans would lead to decades of increasing, worsening heat waves, droughts, floods, storms, very large numbers of poor people dying, mass migrations, worldwide violence, and a mass extinction. Present plans appear grossly irresponsible; they are unnecessarily inhumane.
Is there a reasonable alternative to decisive government action? Governments must, within years, stop most greenhouse gas releases and sequester much carbon, while improving ways to meet people’s basic needs. Governments must act – ‘business as usual’ with some incentives and government subsidies has and will not work. We must stop pretending that we are doing everything possible: Scientists, organizations dealing with climate change, and governments must inform the people about the dire situation and about what is possible, and the people then must demand that governments act:
• Governments must bring much of the present profit-driven, largely credit-based consumption economy to a halt by severely restricting bank lending and high taxation of all greenhouse gas releases. Governments must establish guaranteed incomes and a good safety net.
• Governments must fund public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises that will completely restructure the transportation system, industries, agriculture, and land management; must plant bamboo, duckweed, algae, and over a trillion trees for industries, reforestation, shade, and carbon sequestration; must sequester enormous amounts of carbon, preventing organic material from burning or rapidly decomposing by burying it in up to the surface water-soaked ground, sinking it into anoxic lakes or ocean areas (dead zones) including waters with very high salinity, or sinking it into open water and covering it with rocks, sand and clay. People must also transition to mostly plant-based diets and save energy and resources in every way possible.
• We must increase people’s quality of life by reforming our failing institutions. People readily adjust to major changes if they are recognized as meaningful and urgent, and if virtually everybody is involved. People will be happier when pursuing healthier and simpler lives – much vegetarian food tastes great; compared with cars, buses, or planes, trains are more comfortable, and they enhance social contact.
Urgent tasks include:
1. Distribute highly reflective and infrared radiating white paints or ‘cooling paper’ for roofs and sun-exposed walls to cool buildings and minimize the need for air-conditioning.
2. Build electric trains, including very small narrow-track light-rail lines reaching all neighborhoods and settlements. Develop and mass-produce many types of ultra-light electric vehicles.
3. Use mostly wood, recycled materials, and also bamboo in the construction of buildings, light vehicles, bridges, dams, and wind turbine towers.
4. Minimize the use of concrete, steel, aluminum, and of tinted glass for siding – cross-laminated timber and bamboo can largely replace steel and aluminum.
Humane Civilization Worldwide (HCW) [humanecivilization.org] grew out of our lifelong pursuit to understand what is important in people’s lives and what guides people’s emotions and behaviors. We, Heinz and Walter Aeschbach, Swiss-American psychiatrists, identical twin brothers, are the founders of HCW. Since the 1960s we have been reading about and studying ethology, anthropology, psychology, brain research, socio-political and economic institutions (which largely guide human pursuits and behaviors); and in recent decades also ecology and climate change. HCW is working on comprehensive plans and blueprints for model economic and political institutions which bring the best out of human nature, promote humane cultures, and protect the environment. Our goal is to spread knowledge and to initiate a movement; we must work to improve our institutions, since institutions influence people’s character and behaviors more powerfully than inborn factors and moral teachings. (We started our website [previously humane-civilization.org] long before incorporating as an educational non-profit organization.)
At this time, the climate crisis demands extraordinary efforts – much more radical changes are needed than what has been discussed and planned.
Much of what we describe may not be original ideas, but this is a unique effort to put much knowledge into a fairly comprehensive, realistic proposal for action. A few ideas are our invention, or ‘re-invented’ by us:
• Governments must rely on public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNPE). It is important that the scientists and engineers work for the common good, guided by scientific knowledge concerning human’s needs, not for investors; profits distort the goal setting of projects.
• New money can be created to fund the PPPNPE projects, without causing inflation, if bank lending is severely restricted.
• Sequestration of enormous amounts of carbon by preventing organic material from burning or rapidly decomposing: burying organic material in up to the surface water-soaked ground, sinking it into anoxic lakes or ocean areas (dead zones) including waters with very high salinity, or sinking it into open water and covering it with rocks, sand and clay. Organic material may include anything that is not commercially usable and for sequestration cultivated fast-growing plants, including trees, bamboo, duckweed, algae, and other plants that grow in brackish and salty water. Research may also develop solar energy use for pyrolysis, producing biochar that can be used to improve soils.
• Transportation systems must stop relying on cars, trucks, and buses running on roads, and planes flying within continents. The combination of a dense network of trains of many sizes, slow and fast, and of ultralight vehicles, mostly electric, is much more efficient, practical, and comfortable. Additionally, there need to be ships that go slow enough to be highly efficient, and in very hilly or mountainous areas also airlifts. Airplanes should rarely be used.
• To halt and reverse desertification, at the edges of steppe, savanna, and oasis, mounds or ditches, several feet high/deep and wide, running East-West, will prevent the earth from heating up during daytime to where rainwater may evaporate before reaching the ground. The cooler ground prevents an up-draft of hot air, possibly allowing cloud formation and rain. Forests and oasis are more likely to get rain than dry land because there is not the updraft of hot air that dries up humidity and may dissolve clouds.
• Water desalination: A black sheet of metal, slightly tilted towards North, will get very cold when exposed to the ight sky; if above the ocean’s relatively warm water, there will be plenty of condensation – distilled water – running down the metal sheet on both sides, to be collected in gutters.
Summary describing the situation and some urgently needed actions
The Secretary-General of the U.N. António Guterres said: “The world, our only home, is on fire, and we are the arsonists.” We now produce more greenhouse gases than ever. Consumerism moves us at full speed towards a climate catastrophe, towards worst case scenarios.
People must be informed and understand what is possible so they will they demand immediate, effective climate actions from their governments, actions that halt global warming and improve people’s quality of life.
Compounding vicious cycles accelerate global warming far above earlier projections. The melting of polar ice and glaciers and the decrease in snow cover, which reflect sunlight, lead to increased warming of the earth’s surface and atmosphere. Much greenhouse gases are released by the melting permafrost and damaged peatlands (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide), and by forest and brush fires that now even occur in arctic areas and rain forests. There is in many regions increasing desertification that contributes to heating ground and atmosphere; heat waves, storms, and floods lead to the loss of much topsoil. Changing wind and weather patterns have many unpredictable consequences. Contributing to the vicious cycles, in addition to the unprecedented burning of fossil fuels, are methane leaks, which are not appropriately addressed; and we must expect increasing leaks of today’s ubiquitously used refrigerants, which are powerful greenhouse gases.
Present commercial activities are destroying the relative stability of the climate of the last ten millennia that allowed high cultures to evolve independently in many parts of the globe.
Local heat production in populated areas lead to ‘heat bubbles’: nuclear and conventional power plants and solar farms produce much more heat than electricity, all energy use creates heat in cities, particularly air-conditioners, and most man-made surfaces such as roofs and roads, become very hot. The hot air may prevent the formation of shading clouds and increase evaporation; the humidity is a local greenhouse gas that further heats the metropolitan areas.
The increased mining of minerals for electronic and electric equipment and batteries leads to disastrous, for local populations very toxic pollution.
No propagated form of carbon sequestration is broadly used. Most trees grow slowly, some release greenhouse gases from their bark, and when rotting or burning release the carbon that was sequestered when the trees grew. CO2 capture and sequestration techniques are problematic and not broadly applicable.
It is no consolation that costs of renewable energy and batteries dropped much faster than anticipated. Worldwide, misguided growth, corporate greed, and consumerism wipe out all progress. Private corporations’ piecemeal approach with government incentives does not work.
Governments, cooperating with scientists and engineers, must enact radical changes.
• Compassion must move us to act decisively without delay: people are suffering and dying now. With compounding vicious cycles now spinning out of control, we are reaching points-of-no-return. Fulfilling the Paris agreement and enacting the America’s “Green New Deal” would obviously not prevent worst-case scenarios with unimaginable suffering. We must not slow the increase of atmospheric CO2 levels in the coming decades, we must aim to actually decrease CO2 levels within years.
• Climate change is not like the cold war; we should compare it with America’s recognition that Hitler was about to win the war and that Japan was a real threat – without delay, the U.S. revamped industrial production and women who were homemakers worked also in defense industries.
• The profit-driven growth of the economy and much of the production programs must come to a halt. If bank lending is severely restricted, governments can, without causing inflation, create new money to fund the public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises that must completely restructure the economy and improve the quality of people’s lives.
• The promotion of consumerism and the debts that people assumed have led to much misery: depression, anxiety, and all types of abuse-addiction disorders. We must recognize that the psychological-behavioral addictions to consumerism, to conspiracy theorizing, and to the pursuit of wealth and power are serious mental disorders; they require treatment and prevention efforts. How tragic and perverse is it that powerful artificial intelligence algorithms, rather than working to improve peoples’ lives, serve to stoke consumerism, a root cause of global warming, and to enhance wealthy investors’ profits?
• To halt global warming, we must use known, broadly available technologies while developing additional approaches.
• America and all highly industrialized countries must lead; then China, India and the rest of the world are likely to follow soon.
Important actions needed to halt and soon reverse global warming:
• The restructuring of industries, transportation systems and land management must be accomplished by government-funded projects.
• Governments must rein-in our financial institutions, which are a root cause of the climate crisis: governments must severely restrict their lending – banks must not have the power to create and allocate much of the circulating money supply.
• Governments must create new money and establish public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNPE) that will restructure transportation systems, industrial production, agriculture and land management, and improve buildings to save energy. Governments must recognize that profits misguide and distort developments and assure that for-profit enterprises stop promoting addictive consumerism. Researchers and engineers must be employed to help stop global warming and improve people’s quality of life, not to enhance profits of investors.
• Governments must establish guaranteed incomes as a human right and comprehensive safety nets. This is particularly important as there will be major economic disruptions.
• We need taxation of all energy consumption and particularly high taxes on all greenhouse gas releases. Powerful incentives and disincentives must guide developments in the private sector.
• Public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNPEs) must build electric trains, including very small narrow-track light-rail lines reaching all neighborhoods, settlements, and places of interest; and they must develop and mass-produce many types of ultra-light electric, human-powered and hybrid vehicles, based on bicycle technology, up to the size of subcompact station wagons. Regenerative braking must be further developed and widely used. Planners must consider the dangerous pollution from mining minerals that are needed for electronic devices, electric cars and trucks, etc.
• PPPNPEs must mass-produce highly reflective and infrared radiating paint and films or ‘cooling paper’ (as developed in U.S. universities: Purdue and Northeastern University) to be applied to most roofs and sun-exposed walls in hot climates worldwide; this will minimize the need for air conditioning. Roads and paths should use bright, light-reflecting rock and, where feasible, dark dry land without vegetation should be covered with bright, light-reflecting sand.
• PPPNPEs must realize effective ways of carbon sequestration by 1. Burying organic matyerial in up to the surface water-soaked ground, sinking it into anoxic lakes or ocean areas (dead zones) including waters with very high salinity, or sinking it into open water and covering it with rocks, sand and clay. Organic material may include not commercially useful organic material, including trash lumber and brush removed from forests to minimize the spread of fires, and for this purpose cultured fast-growing plants (trees, bamboo, duckweed, algae, etc.) 2. Utilizing wood and bamboo in buildings, vehicles, etc.
• Energy use and fossil fuel taxation must deter the broad use of concrete, steel, aluminum, tinted glass siding in commercial buildings, and carbon fiber. Bamboo and cross-laminated timber can replace most uses of steel and concrete. Plant and recycled material must be used for buildings, including high-rises, light vehicles, wind turbine towers, bridges, dams, etc.
• PPPNPEs must address methane leaks.
• Conventional refrigerants (hydrofluorocarbons, etc.) that are powerful greenhouse gases must be phased out and safely disposed of; safe refrigerants must replace them, and there should be much less use of conventional air-conditioning.
• Textile and garment production must be greatly reduced and transition to mostly using plant fibers.
• For ecological and ethical reasons, beef production must be stopped and we must significantly decrease the use of milk products, eggs, etc. Food waste must be effectively addressed. Land management must focus on protecting and expanding natural forests, wetlands and peatlands. Planting legumes, protein-rich foods that are to replace most animal-based food, should also serve to replace nitrogen fertilizers, which lead to nitrous oxide release.
• The extremely wasteful abuses of the internet and artificial intelligence must be severely limited or outlawed: this includes most data gathering and analyzing, which serves to promote consumerism, and bitcoin, which has no backing and works like a Ponzi scheme, deriving its value only from new investors.
People must move towards living closer together, simpler with minimal waste, largely vegetarian, and generally healthier. To increase quality of life, people should live closer to parks and nature, with more human contact, and with more free time. Many vegetarian dishes are delicious; trains are more comfortable than cars, buses or planes and enhance social contact.
The realization of many other approaches must be government-*supported; see humanecivilization.org and drawdown.org.
PLEASE HELP SAVE THE PLANET: Please forward this letter to or contact your friends and acquaintances and spread this message in every way you know; and particularly contact organizations that work on issues of ecology and climate, but presently acquiesce by supporting present failing policies that protect businesses; please also address new media and your congress person and senator, cabinet members and agency leaders.
Letter of August 2021 (with later editing)
The climate crisis has reached a critical juncture, and we must acknowledge that
Broadly propagated plans are ill-conceived and grossly inadequate.
A goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 makes little sense.
We can and must start decreasing CO2 levels within years, not decades.
Many scientists agree that far too little is being done. What we do not hear is that, to prevent inconceivable suffering in the coming decades, needed actions will be vast and wide-ranging, involve most parts of the economy, and require significant sacrifices. We can and must not rely on piece-meal efforts by municipalities, corporations, NGOs, and idealistic individuals. CO2 levels are already like before the ice ages that shaped our countrysides. After 11 millennia of relatively stable climates, we cause climates to become much warmer, unstable, and unpredictable, leading to weather events that have not been known in millennia and to which few can adapt.
For change to happen,
• People must learn about the urgency of the climate crisis and what can and must be done – this is the worst crisis in human history. And people must demand that leaders halt today’s insane economic developments. The profit-driven economic system cannot resolve this crisis; industries’ production programs must be reformed – changing more thoroughly than when, during WWII, car factories had to build tanks and bombers.
• Scholars of all disciplines, educators, pundits, journalists, and all influential people must participate in demonstrating to the world what serious juncture we are at – knowledge obliges. Scientists and engineers must cooperate in executing comprehensive plans. We have to agree on goals and what actions must be taken. Leaders must not argue as to why such steps may not be possible, or let themselves be held back by personal goals, powerful interest groups, and considerations about a plummeting stock market.
• In addition to start enacting specific plans, such as very high taxation of greenhouse gas releases and taxation of all energy consumption, we must improve our institutions, particularly our economic institutions – they are a root cause of the climate crisis. Institutions are pivotal in shaping behavior patterns and character of people.
Humane Civilization Worldwide (HCW) wants to help initiate an education campaign that may save us from the disastrous consequences of our leaders’ short-sighted complacency.
We hope you will review our proposals and communicate – with us and with everybody that may benefit from better information and may become an advocate: please distribute this information widely.
In our democracy, the people must demand the radical changes governments must enact. HCW formulated a fairly comprehensive outline of needed actions- the radical changes that appear necessary
To save energy, stop greenhouse gas releases, and sequester carbon, we must utilize and improve effective, proven technologies while advancing research.
We believe that, without delay, we must
• Agree on goals, how our civilization must look in a few years, then initiate actions.
• Stop building cars, trucks, weaponry, rockets, roads, parking garages, and conventional buildings; instead start building comprehensive rail systems that include small narrow track light-rail lines to all neighborhoods, settlements, and points of interest; and industries must develop and mass-produce many types of ultra-light human-powered and electric vehicles.
• Minimize the use of and/or largely replace concrete, aluminum, and steel with bamboo, wood and recycled materials – it is feasible to build high rises, light rail cars, and ultra-light vehicles with very little metal.
• Reform agriculture and land management, rapidly transition to mostly plant-based diets, plant bamboo and over a trillion (mostly useful) trees, restore natural forests and wetlands, etc.
• Highly tax fossil fuel use and any release of greenhouse gases; tax all energy use.
• Support all small and large projects that help decrease CO2 levels.
While jump-starting changes, scientists and engineers need to keep working on detailed, additional plans. We must work out needed legislative actions. We, hopefully followed by all countries, must become leaders, establishing action plans that can be applied worldwide.
• Legislation must reform our credit-based, profit driven consumption economy, which breeds corruption, leads to mental health problems, fosters detrimental business cycles, and interferes with democratic governance.
• The circulating money supply should belong mostly to the people, enterprises, and agencies that work with it, not to financial institutions.
• Laws must severely limit lending activities by financial institutions and investors. Elected officials, not investors, must guide the allocation of resources.
• Governments must create, not borrow, new money for climate-related projects and universal basic incomes. Projects designed to halt global warming must be executed mostly by public-private partnership enterprises which cannot patent products and processes they develop.
• We must replace false conservative ideologies and traditional-religious beliefs with scientific thinking.
• All conflicts are to be resolved with mediation and diplomacy; when sanctions appear necessary, the international community must be sincere and accept sacrifices, such as stopping trade, which hurts all involved countries. Wars hardly resolve conflicts, they mostly prolong them.
• People are generally happier when living simpler, healthier, closer to nature, with less stress, more socially connected, and with more free time. Civilizations are to bring out the best in people and create humane conditions.Additional thoughts:Perceptions about what people need are broadly changing in light of the climate emergency with worsening weather disasters, living through a pandemic, worldwide demonstrations concerning racism and economic inequalities, concerns about the abuse of artificial intelligence and the internet, escalating government debts, business failures, and a recession that is likely to become the worst since the Great Depression. These events not only offer a rare opportunity for politicians to realize major reforms, they DEMAND responsible actions by all governments and the U.N. NOW! To effectively address this crisis, we must reform the dysfunctional, profit-driven, bigoted, extremely unstable financial institutions. Then we can address the wasteful transportation infrastructures, problems in agriculture and food production, many other known factors that contribute to global warming and also address urgent humanitarian crises.https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/28/opinion/climate-change-risks-by-country.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/opinion/sunday/surveillance-capitalism.html
Regarding the economic system:
To improve the chances of success in preventing catastrophic climate change and to enhance people’s safety and well-being, the following appears most urgent:
- The federal government must be able to print new money that is not based on loans and government bonds, not adding to the debt (inflation is prevented by tightly regulating bank lending). This new money is to be used to realize what is necessary to minimize greenhouse gas releases, and sequester large amounts of carbon, while addressing people’s basic needs. Examples of projects: developing and mass-producing many types of human-powered and ultra-light electric vehicles; a very broad network of trains, high-speed, freight, and light-rail lines that includes very small narrow-track trains (60-100cm); improved agriculture with rapid shift towards mostly plant-based foods, along with planting trees and bamboo; also reevaluation of nuclear energy options.
- It is recommended that the U.N. (World Bank) develops an international currency – this new money is to be used to rapidly change production programs and redirect research projects with the goal to minimize climate change and fulfill people’s basic needs, particularly basic nutrition, shelter, and healthcare.
- Banks must be required to have much more reserves than what they hold in checking accounts; only money that has been in savings accounts for more than 45 days can be used for loans.
- The federal government must tax any security trade (1% sales tax or more).
- Complex derivatives and other financial instruments that sellers and buyers cannot easily understand must be outlawed.
- Particularly farmers and other enterprises that fulfill vital functions of society must be insured by cooperative non-profit insurance plans or non-profit branches of conventional insurance companies. This is particularly important for farmers that move from meat production to primarily food crops and reestablishing forests. Such plans may also be used by any start-ups that aim to produce and improve critical products and services. Farmers’ insurances covering climate-related damages must be subsidized by governments.
- Governments need to focus on giving contracts to non-profit enterprises, particularly public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises, which invest all profits in further research and development, to support other non-profit enterprises, and to aid in the cooperation of many non-profit entities.
- Governments need to issue a guaranteed income to all inhabitants; the amount should be adapted to cost of living in the region.
- Governments need to rein in abuses of the Internet and artificial intelligence, particularly cryptocurrencies and the collecting, storing, and analyzing of personal data from TV, cell phone-, and computer-use monitoring.
- Governments need to work with international bodies to address all known factors that greatly increase global warming, such as methane leaks and releases, holding cattle, the leakage of conventional refrigerants, and deforestation. Conventional refrigerants must be phased out, safely disposed of, and replaced with safe refrigerants.
- Goals must include less stressful living: having more free time and valuing what was good in the past but can be improved. We must aim to have less commercial globalization and digital communication, and more cultural exchanges, time in natural environments, and personal contacts.
There are many important reasons why we must evaluate and change our economic system. It is largely based on outsiders’ investments, bank loans, and other credit. However, business debts lead to unnecessary instability. For individuals, being severely indebted interferes with cognitive functioning and leads to depression and/or abuse-addiction disorders; debts severely harm people and families. On the other side, material success often brings out the worst in people. There is much anecdotal evidence that successful people often act in sociopathic and mean-spirited ways. Often addiction to wealth and power develops. While psychopathy and sociopathy may contribute to some people’s success – outside a capitalist system, they would be less likely to act as unethically.
In seeking progress, we must acknowledge, treat, and prevent the widespread addictions to consumerism, to wealth and power, and to conspiracy theorizing. Additionally we must address humans’ dangerous propensities, particularly
- “us-against-them” thinking, which essentially erases sympathy and compassion towards the ‘others’ and allows cruelties; a milder form of “us-versus-them” thinking leads people to ignore the needs of the others.
- following unethical traditions, which may be combined with the impulse to pursue humans’ fascination with and perverted enjoyment of cruelties,
- holding on to multiple realities, believing something on one level while most of the time acting as if it were irrelevant, knowing that reasonable, educated people do not accept such beliefs as having validity in advancing insights, sciences and technologies. Beliefs people often hold on to include ideologies, specific religious beliefs, and/or rumor-based and invented conspiracy theories.
Regarding the danger of local terrorism and civil war in the U.S.; problems of conspiracy theorizing, abuse of ‘free speech,’ disproven ideologies and religious teaching, international conflicts:
We must remind each other that almost all of us basically wish to be peaceful, not vindictive and violent, accepting others, not judging them, loving, and generous towards the poor. We wish that our countries honor human rights, and that they pressure those who are violating them to work towards ethical ways of living together. People must learn to recognize what are worldwide considered scientific and historical truths; and they must learn to be broadly empathetic, making efforts to understand others’ circumstances, emotions, fears, aspirations, etc. Leaders, particularly church leaders and politicians who supported extremists and promoted conspiracy theories must atone and apologize, leading people towards tolerant attitudes and peace. People who keep believing in conspiracy theories must acknowledge: the world is not perfect, not all injustices can be stopped and compensation is usually not possible, but democracies must continue to seek the best or least bad outcomes in all conflicts.
“Free speech” must not allow defamation with intent to mislead and sway the electorate, to undermine our democracy, and even to incite sedition. Malicious lies with similar intent must also be outlawed. The responsible state or federal attorney general has to pursue such “speech” as state or federal crimes; this is in the public interest. If consequences of free speech” may lead to harm (e.g. if an official or health professional states that immunizations are unnecessary and harmful leading to severe illnesses in children), and the injured could sue the speaker, we must consider that speech illegal – attorney generals should stop it, we should not need law suites. If we want to be a model federal democracy for the rest of the world to emulate, we must improve our institutions, not allow them to be abused or destroyed.
Education has to address the dangers of
- specific religious, dogmatic teachings that are not based on a compassionate, tolerant attitude, and
- conspiracy theorizing.
Progress is only possible by focusing on sciences, on what constitutes commonly held truths, and on ethics; avoiding us-against-them thinking; and embracing broad compassionate empathy. Truths refers to our models of reality which explain things and have predictive values.
Conflicts must always be addressed with peaceful negotiations, diplomacy, sometimes involving foreign mediators and arbitrators and/or international agencies. No outcome of negotiations is worse than warfare. If sanctions appear needed, all involved parties have to accept the sacrifices that may be consequences, for instance when halting trade with rogue governments.
Further Comments added 2/22, later revisions
Why printing new money not necessarily leads to inflation:
Today’s circulating money supply depends to a large part on bank loans and credit and to a small extent also on cryptocurrencies, particularly ‘bitcoin.’ The quantity of bank lending and issued credit varies considerably depending on whether financial institutions fear defaults or believe they can earn high profits. Lending more leads to inflationary pressure, holding back on lending and defaults on loans lead to a recession. The production of bitcoin, which requires complex computer systems and much energy, is like privately printing money with no backing, and it may add to inflationary pressure.
As productivity increases, the circulating money supply that is needed for smooth economic transactions has to increase, or money has to circulate faster. Increases in the supply of circulating money have been to a large extent the result of increased lending. Consequently, businesses and average people are much more indebted than in previous generations, which adds to economic instability and stress in people and in families.
Governments should print new money for government contracted work that minimizes global warming, increases people’s quality of life, and increases the economy’s productivity. If at the same time credit and bank lending are adequately restricted, this will not lead to inflation. Forbidding cryptocurrencies also decreases inflationary pressure and stops the waste of much energy and electronic resources.
A guaranteed income for all is needed. There are dramatic disruptions in today’s economy, partly due to automation and major demographic shifts. Major shifts towards production programs that are halting global warming add to the disruptions in the economy. These disruptions results in many people being temporary unemployed and/or in need for special training. Without major reform of economic institutions, a very serious recession appears all but unavoidable.
Will people accept the dramatic changes, very little car use, much less meat, etc.?
People are very resilient and generally readily adapt when changes are perceived as meaningful and virtually everybody participates in the changes. Sometimes it is easy to change many things at the same time, as when moving into a poorer country with a different culture. In the case of changing transportation systems, people may keep their cars, but since new light rail lines are convenient to use and fuel prices rise significantly, cars will be used much less. Electric bicycles are quickly gaining popularity and more types of practical, fun, ultra-light vehicles, with and without aerodynamic bodies, should be developed. Good alternative foods along with greatly increased prices of meat products will lead people to switch to a mostly plant-based diet.
In recent decades, people have been ambivalent toward the major changes associated with new technologies middle-class people now rely on. Older people tend to be nostalgic about the less complicated life of earlier times, smaller houses, less furniture, more reliance on outdoor spaces, communal areas and parks for children to play and for people to meet others,. Many younger people have difficulties coping with today’s technologies, demands, and conflicts, and mental health problems are frequent. Many older people like to move from houses into much smaller condominiums. The ones who stay in big houses may rent out rooms and/or feel burdened by the unused space and furniture. Naturally people are drawn to small spaces, alcoves, booths in restaurants; in cultures where houses are built very cheaply, families generally do not build large houses.
Will massive economic disruption lead to much unemployment?
We have been in a time of considerable economic disruption with major, contradictory concerns.
Many people are losing their well-paying jobs more because of automation and robotics than due to jobs being outsourced. The population of most countries is rapidly aging with much less young people reaching their productive age. There will worldwide be ratios of retired people to workers as never before.
In highly industrialized economies most jobs require a high level of education. Particularly in the U.S. there are too many under-educated adults that have been minimally paid and form an underclass.
Guaranteed incomes and new jobs related to the climate crisis, should secure reasonable incomes for most people – many jobs will be created by the changes in land management, planting trees and bamboo, building rail lines and trains, etc. Generally reasonable salaries in all forms of employment, and service needs should help everybody reach or maintain a middle-class status. People enjoy the luxury of restaurants and coffee shops. Repair specialists, plumbers, electricians, etc. will be needed as long as people live in older and where buildings are remodeled with the goal of more dense living; and these specialists need helpers. There will be some jobs helping families with child care and as teachers’ aids.
There appears to be a need to change many production programs and improve services, particularly education at all levels (preschool to adult education) – this in itself leads to major economic disruptions.
Will people trust an economy that is not based on private for-profit entities?
People forget that successful entrepreneurs are rarely inventors and engineers. People who make progress possible, scientists and engineers, are salaried workers who do not own the patents for their inventions. They work for who pays them, be that a military-government contractor or a start-up enterprise. Today, entrepreneurs and CEOs come up with ideas about what is likely to sell with high profits, not what is best for people. People look for goods on the Internet, in stores, and in catalogs; they learn about products from advertisements and neighbors or peers. People rarely figure out themselves what would make their lives better. People readily become attracted to the idea of owning goods they learn about.
The free market is not a good way of allocating resources and setting reasonable prices. Stock markets behave in erratic ways. Investments are not driven by science. Salaries do not reflect the value of labor, they result from cultural judgments. People are hardly rational in their choices, what to study, what work to pursue, and what to buy – today’s upper middle-class is richer than ever and benefits from excellent healthcare, access to unimaginable information, art, and a great variety of good food, opportunities to live healthy while enjoying nature; still, most people are neither very healthy nor happy.
Valuations in economies are not rational. In the market, there is an asymmetry in knowledge: buyers know much less than sellers and often sellers do not know their products well either. People are driven by emotions. Valuations are strongly influenced by traditions and prejudices of a culture. All aspects of an economy are influenced by an elite subculture that is driven by an irrational pursuit of profits and by people who suffer from an addiction to wealth and power. In successful routine surgeries, is the surgeon really more valuable than the infection control nurse? Is a lawyer who speaks for you to a judge worth more than plumbers and their helpers who keeps fresh water and sewage systems functioning? Is childcare really one of the least valuable work in our economy? In jobs where knowledgeable, reliable helpers are needed, as in construction work or in dentistry, are large differences in incomes within a team justifiable?
The Zambian-American, British trained economist Dambisa Moyo observes that historically progress was only possible with economic growth, which has recently been threatened. Many developments lead to disruptions and may interfere with growth:
- Demographic shifts, more old, retired people, fewer children, smaller workforce.
- Economic disparity with many children under-educated or otherwise not fit for modern complex jobs; development of underclass.
- Automation with first loss of mainly jobs for people with little education; gradually decreasing need for workers of most levels, including in finance and banking, in medicine, and in much of research and development work.
- Politicians try protectionism in attempt to lower unemployment with at best short-term gains.
- With growth, resource shortages, limited supply of rare metals needed in electric-electronic installations and devices, rare earth minerals.
- Shortages of energy, water, sand for construction, etc.
Will these factors decrease growth and consequently halt progress, preventing countries from taking care of the urgent needs of the poor?
Our interpretation of findings:
- Progress must be defined as increasing quality of life, not increased material production and consumption. Education should be meaningful and enjoyable. Health and mental health should be addressed by improving preventive measures and treatments – goals must include decreasing competitiveness. As automation increases, unemployment must be prevented by having more workers working less hours in the fields that can or should not be automated Governments also must facilitate the teaching of ethics and conflict resolution to avoid violence and the breakup of families and friendships.
- World economies must work without delay to halt global warming, protect environments, and prevent a mass extinction.
- Wars must be prevented and their illegality must be enforced: countries and the international community must effectively deal with dangerous conflicts, within and between countries, and all perpetrators who incite and execute violence must be subjected to severe consequences, that may include limiting their freedom but also receiving treatment for their pathologies.
- An important aspect in improving developments is recognizing the dangerous ‘addiction to wealth and power’ as a mental disorder which, when recognized and diagnosed, must disqualify a person from holding any public office. Addiction to conspiracy theorizing must be similarly addressed. Addictive consumerism. which is promoted by corporations, must be addressed.
- We must strive to decrease work hours with more automation, particularly replacing menial, dangerous and boring work. Obviously, much in medicine and in the care of sick, disabled, and old people should be automated, particularly attending to minor but frequent needs, trash removal, cleaning; transportation within and between facilities should require less drivers and staff. Family structures and designs of building and communities should strive to integrate people of different generations. Robots and robotic pets may be designed which can serve as company for old, hard of hearing, blind, and demented people.
- People should have more free time – in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that economic growth and ‘technical improvements’ would lead to a 15-hour workweek by 2030. Europeans generally enjoy more free time, North-Americans have less. Institutions must avoid manipulating people to get into ‘The Meritocracy Trap’ as described by Daniel Markovits.
- A universal guaranteed income worldwide is needed – people must be able to survive while temporarily unemployed, work should be for improving quality of life and for some luxuries.
- Financing economic activities must change: Elected officials should determine what research, development work, and productive activities are to be be paid for by grants and interest-free loans from development banks. Projects and production is mainly to be executed by non-profit enterprises which must re-invest all profits in research and development or transfer them to other non-profit entities (education, charity, other non-profit enterprises with which an enterprise is interacting).
- For-profit investing, credit, and particularly bank lending, must be severely limited to avoid inflation, instability, and negative effects on individuals. Being severely indebted interferes with people’s functioning and mental well-being.
- A secondary change is more local production of industrial and agricultural goods; particularly less transport of containers by trucks, when transportation fuels are highly taxed and when highways are party converted into rail lines and lanes for slow human-powered and ultra-light electric vehicles. Also worldwide ‘living wages’ or taxes that support basic incomes encourage work for local consumption. Outsourcing must lead to much less saving and/or profits.
- Leaders must devise a vision of more natural lives, saving much energy, avoiding waste, and decreasing greenhouse gas releases, first mainly by addressing transportation systems, food production and supply chains, general land management, energy saving in housing, and largely using recycled materials, wood products and bamboo instead of concrete, steel, and aluminum, etc. Goals should include that all people have good social contacts, contact with nature, and spending time meaningfully with economic-productive, artistic, or educational activities; entertainment, reading, scientific pursuits, all types of hobbies, and all types of sports that avoid intense competitiveness. We may not agree with David Brooks who described: “The nuclear family was a mistake” – “We are living through the most rapid change in family structure in history; the causes are economic, cultural, and institutional.” Children are most vulnerable. (The Atlantic Magazine 3/2020) – but we must revise our institutions.
- We must invest worldwide in education that teaches what is generally agreed to as being “reality” or “true,” that is models that are useful to explain things in ways that everybody can agree to, and that is useful to predict aspects of the future; and education must fosters pursuits of ethics and real progress, building on scientific ways of observations and on mental and actual experimentation.
- Education must be in stark contrast to some religious teachings; and we must limit religious freedoms. A major problem with religions is that they usually incorporate myths, superstitions, ancient false beliefs, inhumane cultural traditions, and sometimes mandates to use violence in their pursuits of unethical goals. Religions also exploit and reinforce people’s ability and propensity to simultaneously hold multiple, contradictory beliefs. Religious beliefs, claiming to be absolute truths above sciences and experienced evidence, prevent real tolerance between cultures. Religions often impede progress towards economic growth, acceptance of refugees, and more humane civilizations. Obviously, people should not be accepted to join immigrant communities within a more enlightened culture, if they rigidly adhere to religions which limit the freedom of women and condone or mandate abuses. Immigrants must accept human rights as they are internationally understood (actually, in many Western cultures, women’s rights that include access to safe abortions, are still not universally accepted – many people do not understand that life acquires value through its development and the investments by others; a fertilized ovum is not a person). People should have a legal right to follow religious rituals but religions must not be free to teach ways that contradict reality and human rights. Religions should promote the spread of science-based ethics and they may offer humane, beautiful rituals for passages and celebrations of historical events; they must not teach children about misdeeds being punished by tortures in an afterlife, in hell, or that virtuously tolerating abuse and suffering in this world will be rewarded in an afterlife.
- Ideologies that are based on obsolete theories and conspiracy theorizing are very dangerous. They should be treated in ways similar to cult-like religiosity.