Greta Thunberg inspired letter to politicians, organization leaders and scientists
(with appendices on economic issues and a sketch of our vision for the near future)
Dear friends – to all young people and all who care about younger people and future generations:
Vicious cycles and humans’ continued large-scale greenhouse gas releases accelerate moving the world towards worst case scenarios: increasing intensity and frequency of heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms, and fires worldwide; rising seas levels; millions of deaths, mass migrations of climate refugees, violence worldwide and a likely mass extinction. We can and must act much more decisively and effectively than what is presently discussed and planned. We do not have decades for gradual changes. We must not allow global temperatures to rise another 0.3°C to 0.8°C.1
What all of us can do to work towards halting the disastrous developments:
• Become fully aware of the brutal reality about climate change and learn about radically different alternatives (as described below) to today’s irresponsibly inadequate climate action plans; inform as many people as possible, ask them to broadly pass on this email message, and pressure politicians to enact the needed radical changes with letters, petitions, demonstrations etc. Compassion for the severely affected should move us to do what we can to change course – our leaders must be compelled to act.
People need to understand that weather catastrophes are not related to CO2 that is spewed into the atmosphere at the time, they are consequences of increased temperatures of the earth and consequent dramatic changes in patterns of storms, precipitation, heat waves, etc. and of vicious cycles that developed. Only a radical decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, decreased use of energy and permanent sequestration of immense amounts of carbon may reverse global warming and help to return the world to the relatively stable climate that we had for about 10,000 years.
• We must demand that organizations dealing with environments and climate, media, researchers, teachers, and progressive politicians stop acquiescing to industries’ self-serving misinformation: continuing to spew out greenhouse gases while creating an all-electric luxurious future and further promoting consumerism will not halt the rapid deterioration of the world’s climate.
• Our demands for government actions must be quite specific: governments must establish public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNE) that will restructure the economy. Government funded PPPNEs must, without delay, work to greatly reduce consumerism and energy consumption, minimize greenhouse gas releases, and sequester immense quantities of carbon.
• Governments (PPPNEs) must immediately start planting hundreds of billions of trees for commercial use and to sequester carbon; we must address the wasteful transportation system; as feasible build with lumber, cross-laminated timber, bamboo, and recycled materials in place of steel, aluminum and concrete; and we must move to mostly plant-based nutrition.
We have to improve our institutions and visualize simpler, healthier, more natural lifestyles; we must pursue ways to rapidly move towards an economy that reduces atmospheric CO2 levels and starts to decrease global temperatures, while improving people’s well-being. Intuitively people sense: with simpler healthier lives we would feel better.
We greatly appreciate the work of many organizations and individual people. However it is alarming that most people do not understand how, as the U.N. secretary general António Guterrez declared “we are on a highway to climate hell with the foot still on the accelerator.” And, individual actions cannot stop the developments. Sadly, it appears that most people either hold on to misguided optimism, feel hopeless, or try to ignore or distract themselves from all bad news about our future.
The people must learn that developments are extremely dangerous and should scare everybody, but also that there are alternative ways, realistic proposals that governments can implement immediately, if there is a political will. And the people must work on creating that will.
Again, please help spread this information widely, contacting everybody you know, NGO leaders, journalists, politicians, and scholars; please also ask your friends and acquaintances to forward this email further with everybody helping to create the political will to act and develop a worldwide movement.
Thank you very much for paying attention to these urgent issues.
Heinz and Walter Aeschbach, co-founders of Humane Civilization Worldwide.
We are Swiss-American psychiatrists, twin brothers. Since adolescence we have made efforts to understand human behaviors, what guides people’s emotions, thinking and acting, how institutions and cultures evolved and could be improved – many institutions appear inhumane and corrupt. Our goal to spread information and to motivate people led us to found the educational nonprofit organization Humane Civilization Worldwide (HCW) [humanecivilization.org].
HCW is working on creating comprehensive plans with blueprints for model economic and political institutions which are to bring the best out of human nature, promote humane cultures, and help save the environment. Our goal is to initiate a movement; we must work to improve our institutions, since institutions influence people’s character, thinking and behaviors more powerfully than inborn factors and moral teachings.
Regarding the seriousness of the climate crisis:
Compounding vicious cycles accelerate global warming and are ending the relative stability of the climate that has lasted ten millennia and allowed the development of settlements, agriculture and complex societies. CO2 levels are as high as millions of years ago, prior to the ice ages; unpredictability of weather events make adaptation impossible.
Vicious cycles that accelerate global warming:
• Polar ice, glaciers and snow cover in cold season, which reflect sunlight, are rapidly decreasing.
• Melting permafrost, damaged peatlands, and forest and brush fires release large amounts of greenhouse gases.
• Sea levels are rising and with warmer air absorbing and holding much more water, quantities of rain with cyclones and monsoons will greatly increase; both factors add to intermittent inundation of large areas. In addition, as oceans become warmer, they absorb and hold less CO2; and warmer oceans and atmosphere lead to an increase in the air’s water content, which is a greenhouse gas, decreasing infrared radiation into the sky.
• There are changing wind and ocean current patterns that have many unpredictable consequences.
• Humans add directly to vicious cycles, for instance methane leaks are not appropriately addressed and there is continued drilling for oil and natural gas. Cattle releases much methane but beef consumption is only slowly decreasing.
• People use more and more air conditioners, which heats the city environments, requiring more cooling for comfort and to avoid heat-related illness and deaths. We must also expect increasing leaks of ubiquitously used hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, which are extremely powerful greenhouse gases.
Basic conclusions and proposals
• Form Public-Private Partnership Nonprofit Enterprises to restructure industries, transportation systems, and agriculture and land management.
• Create, not borrow, new money for needed actions, and severely restrict bank lending which stimulates consumerism and tends to lead to inflation.
• Highly tax all greenhouse gas releases and review other taxation: tax all energy consumption, major waste, wealth, real estate and securities transactions, and advertisements by large for-profit corporations, on internet and in print. Taxation must address income inequality – wealth itself must be highly taxed (the 10% richest people create and estimated 50% of emissions; if they would live at average European standards, global emissions would be 35% less. Powerful incentives and disincentives must guide development in the private sector.
• Subsidize many approaches that save energy, add renewable energy, and sequester carbon (many are described in humanecivilization.org and drawdown.org.)
• Establish guaranteed incomes; improve safety nets, with comprehensive health care that includes contraception, abortions, and palliative care.
Public-Private Nonprofit Enterprises shall:
• Build comprehensive rail systems, including high-speed trains and light-rail lines, mostly small narrow track trains (70-100cm) that reach all neighborhoods and villages. Develop and mass-produce many types of ultra-light 2-4 wheel electric vehicles, most with light, aerodynamic bodies.
• Reform agriculture and land management: plant over a trillion trees, bamboo, and other fast-growing plants; protect and restore forests and wetlands; prevent plant material from burning or soon 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 rapidly transition to mostly plant-based diets (Pursuing mostly plant-based nutrition is an ecological and ethical issue – the treatment of most chickens and large farm animals is strictly efficiency-based and often cruel; there are also ethical issues concerning whaling, fishing, and the processing of seafood. Planting more legumes for nutritional protein and rotating crops will greatly decrease the need for nitrogen fertilizers; the energy-intensive production of nitrogen fertilizers and releases of nitrous oxide add to global warming).
• Minimize the use of concrete, steel, aluminum, and man-made fibers, replacing them with wood, bamboo, natural fibers, and recycled materials as feasible.
• Improve energy efficiency of buildings in many ways; generally improve insulation, cool and heat mainly most-used parts of buildings’ utilize highly reflective, infrared radiating paints to cool buildings. Further develop old and new approaches to heat and cool buildings with much lower energy use.
While there has been much progress in sciences and technologies, our institutions are not serving us well. There is much misery – anxiety and depressive disorders and addictions are frequent. Consumerism and the overvaluation of what we buy and of material and financial assets are basic problems and root causes of climate change. We must address these societal ills. Simpler, healthier lives, closer to nature and with more social connectedness would improve people’s well-being.
Additional relevant information:
It is not broadly understood that the instability of the climate and worsening weather events are a consequence of the average global temperature, not due to the quantity of greenhouse gases that industries and people’s activities release at the time. Greatly reducing the release of greenhouse gases is important to slow the worsening of catastrophic weather events and climate instability, but additionally immense amounts of carbon must be sequestered to counter vicious cycles, such as greenhouse gas releases from melting permafrost, and to actually start decreasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels with the goal of reversing global warming. We cannot trade CO2 releases with carbon sequestration by planting trees; we must halt greenhouse gas releases while sequestering carbon by massive plant growing efforts and preventing plant material from burning or soon decomposing. We must also pursue ways of stopping methane leaks from present and abandoned fossil fuel drilling sites, and halt large-scale beef production. There are many feasible ways to decrease energy use and greenhouse gas releases – all have to be pursued with no delay, if we want to avert overstepping points-of-no-return and stabilize the world’s climate.
Regarding economic aspects of proposals; questions about public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises:
We must recognize that scientists and engineers generally work as employees, not as independent entrepreneurs; if they are entrepreneurs, they usually rely on venture capitalists that will compel them to focus on profits. Governments and their contractors must employ scientists and engineers in work that focuses on the common good, addressing climate change and people’s well-being.
Regarding public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNE): public and private universities have often done the groundwork of major developments; no profits have been involved and often they hardly get credit for their work. The rapid developments of COVID vaccines involved multiple universities and private agencies and agencies that were considered public-private enterprises, however the whole project was a public-private enterprise with governments paying most of the development costs. It is wrong that these vaccines could be patented instead of the U.S. allowing poor countries to produce them themselves.
Public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises may consist in organizations that bring branches of universities and corporations together, however the branches of for-profit corporations must work without profits in their work as part of a PPPNE
Governments may also subsidize projects with grants and interest-free loans. However, a law must be instituted clarifying that whatever technology and new products are needed world-wide to slow global warming or deal with its consequences, with poverty, diseases, and accidents, must be as broadly and rapidly spread as feasible without patents or profits, that is, that excess income (profits) must be reinvested in research and development, expanding enterprises, or investing in other nonprofit enterprises, such as schools or other PPPNEs. Governments may have to buy patents.
More detailed proposals – summary:
• We must halt our economy’s pursuit of profit-driven growth. While much of our economy consists of small businesses and governmental and nonprofit institutions, such as universities, the big profit-driven corporations are largely responsible for the climate crisis.
• Governments must improve, not primarily grow, the economy; newly established public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises (PPPNEs) must work on saving energy and resources in every way possible, greatly reducing greenhouse gas releases, and sequestering large amounts of carbon, while also focusing on people’s basic needs, a guaranteed income, and a comprehensive safety net.
• Governments must restrict bank lending, which fosters consumerism and tends to cause inflation; instead, the federal government must create new money to fund the PPPNEs that work to halt climate change. Most scientists and engineers should work for the common good, guided by scientific knowledge concerning people’s needs and the climate crisis, not for profits of investors – profits distort priorities of enterprises.
• It is important that most circulating money belongs to the individuals, agencies, and enterprises that work with it. Banks must not create, own and allocate much of the circulating money supply. Our economic system is largely based on bank lending and credit; however, significant debts lead to economic instability and severely indebted people tend to experience high stress, impaired cognitive functioning, and often depression, substance abuse, criminal thinking, and suicidality.
While we need to pursue very different ways, history shows that people readily adjust to major changes if the changes are recognized as meaningful and urgent and if virtually everybody is involved. People will also find that they become happier when pursuing healthier and simpler lives – walking to places feels good; much healthy vegetarian and vegan food tastes great; compared with cars, buses, and planes, trains are more comfortable, and they promote social contact.
Many projects, as described in humanecivilization.org and drawdown.org, must be executed by government-funded PPPNEs or subsidized with grants and possibly interest-free loans.
Specific proposals that are hardly ever discussed (partly our own ideas or re-invented):
• Sequester large quantities of carbon by 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. The critical factor is that no new oxygen gets to the material, no flowing water, no exchange of gases in the deposits. Plant material may include anything that is not commercially usable, dead wood and brush removed from forests to decrease the spread of fires (avoiding controlled forest fire programs), and for sequestration cultivated fast-growing plants, such as bamboo, trees, duckweed, algae, and other plants that grow in all types of soil. Dead animals’ carbon may also be sequestered. Wetlands are most efficient in naturally sequestering carbon; the greenhouse gases that leak to the surface may be absorbed by plants that, when dying, sink into the water-soaked soil; wetlands must be protected and expanded. Half of the earth’s land should be preserved or returned to a natural state.
Other forms of safe permanent carbon sequestration must be pursued, such as exposing and breaking up rocks that absorb CO2, particularly powdered basalt and other volcanic rock. Research may develop solar energy use for pyrolysis, producing biochar that can be used to improve soils.
To minimize greenhouse gas releases and to sequester carbon, we must use mostly wood, recycled materials, and also bamboo in the construction of buildings, including high-rises, light vehicles, bridges and overpasses, wind turbine towers, and dams (bamboo combined with clay). The use of concrete, steel, aluminum, and tinted glass for siding must be very limited – cross-laminated timber and bamboo can largely replace steel and aluminum.
• Transportation systems must rapidly decrease the use of cars, trucks, buses, and planes that fly 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. In addition, there need to be ships that go slow enough to be highly fuel efficient, and in very hilly or mountainous areas also gondolas, cable cars, or aerial tramways. Airplanes should rarely be used. The electric trains must include high-speed, freight trains of different sizes, regular and small narrow-track light-rail lines reaching all neighborhoods, settlements and areas of interest (narrow track lines may be 70, 80, and 100cm). Light-rail narrow-track lines may be built on existing streets. Important lines may have multiple sizes of cars that are used according to needs: two-story cars, standard, and cars the size of narrow-track street cars. Newly developed and mass-produced ultra-light human-powered, hybrid and electric vehicles, based largely on bicycle technology, should include models with 2, 3, and 4 wheels, most with aerodynamic light-weight bodies, up to the size of a subcompact station wagon. Special lanes are needed for the light vehicles and streets that are shared with conventional vehicles need low speed limits – there must be no interruption of safe lanes where people commute in ultra-light vehicles.
Where electricity is needed for long-distance transportation, in trains, cars, buses and trucks, there should be a few standard size batteries that can be exchanged at filling stations and train stops, as an alternative to fast charging.
Regenerative braking and electrolysis for the production of hydrogen must be further developed and widely used.
• “Heat bubbles” often develop in populated areas; they can and should be avoided. 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. Solar collectors and condensers of air conditioners and refrigerators should be cooled by producing hot water. Man-made surfaces, such as roads and squares should be light in color. In many places, fast growing shace trees should be planted. Fossil fuel power stations should be phased out.
• Buildings’ sun-exposed surfaces should be highly reflective (using cooling paints and cooling paper, developed in Purdue University and Northeastern University), minimizing the need for air-conditioning. Generally buildings’ insulation should be improved and heating and cooling should focus on most used areas which may have lowered ceilings or form alcoves.
Generally, one family houses and apartments should be smaller than is common in the U.S. Novel and old approaches for heating and cooling with very low energy use should be pursued and developed. Examples: Heat produced by solar panels and many other installations can be used for hot water and for heating. For cooling, infrared radiating metal sheets over a roof become much colder than the air; running at night water over them and storing the cold water may serve to cool a building during day time. Evaporative cooling with heat exchanger may produce cool dry air. In winter, ice may be produced in cold areas, stored and in summer shipped to hot areas for cooling. Heat pumps may produce hot and cold water, whenever there is excess electricity production. Insulated tanks underground may be used to store ice, cold water, and hot water. Geothermal principles and time delays of heat penetration in the ground may be utilized. Approximately one foot below the surface, the ground is cool during afternoons and warm in the early morning; at a deeper level, the ground is relatively warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Even deeper, the temperature is constant, the year-round average of ground surface temperatures.
• To halt and reverse desertification, particularly 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. This will prevent that rainwater evaporates before reaching the ground. The cooler ground prevents an up-draft of hot air, possibly allowing cloud formation and rain. Vegetation-covered areas should be expanded: oasis and forests 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.
• Local small scale water desalination may be accomplished by placing infrared radiating metal sheets, slightly tilted towards North, over ocean water. The plates will become much colder than the water saturated air and condensation water can be collected in gutters. This principle may be up-scaled for broad use.
For a transition period, simple approaches could greatly decrease vehicle fuel consumption and avoid the greenhouse gas releases at factories with every new steel vehicle that is built: Public-private partnership nonprofit enterprises need to develop kits that workshops can install locally, to
• Make locally used vehicles electric, to be charged at night (for instance delivery vehicles, mail trucks, trucks of workmen, and other vehicles that are used in-town only – gas and diesel engines should be removed for metal recycling). The size of battery packs may be adjusted to the area where the vehicle is used each day.
• Make conventional vehicles into plug-in hybrids; in front-wheel drive vehicles, an independent electric drive with regenerative braking may be installed on rear wheels.
• Improve gas mileage of cars by adding a highly efficient overdrive and possibly by modifying the car’s engine, and/or modifying its body to make it more aerodynamic.
• Solar panels may be installed on roofs of vehicles.
To increase traffic safety and car fuel efficiency, there should be general speed limits; lower than car speed limits for all types of trucks and large SUVs.
The option of small, safe nuclear power plants that can be built rapidly, must be explored in a major international pursuit. However engineers must consider that such power plants heat the surroundings and are likely to cause evaporation and humidity.
For more information please see humanecivilization.org and also drawdown.org.
1 The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C or even 2°C is arbitrary. There is no data indicating that at 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures vicious cycles will not keep warming the earth uncontrollably, and that we will not have overstepped points-of-no-return, leading to unimaginable catastrophes. It is hardly a compromise between industries and financial institutions with scientists. It is rather that reason has capitulated, partly because scientists appear to have failed to present a vision of reasonable, feasible, though radical changes that are necessary.
APPENDIX 1: Regarding the economy. 
Few economists appear to recognize the extremely serious problem of private banks, rather than governmental banks, creating and allocating much of our circulating money supply by issuing credit.*
The government must reclaim a primary role in creating and allocating money that will belong to the people, institutions and agencies that work with it.
While the economy is growing, that growth has to be backed by an enlarged money supply; but we and our governments must stop borrowing and restrict, rather than enable and encourage, bank lending; newly issued money, not increased lending, must expand the money supply. If lending by financial institutions is properly restricted, issuing appropriate amounts of new money does not cause inflation.
Banks have mainly increased the money supply by brazenly lending wherever they hope to profit, but they often are not lending where incentives to invest are needed.
Severe levels of indebtedness destabilize the economy. Maybe more importantly: People’s indebtedness causes impaired functioning and crises for individuals and families. Indebted people tend to discount their futures, engage in illegal activities and substance abuse, become desperate and commit suicide.
To improve the economy, the following steps appear indicated:
- The federal government has to issue new money to pay its debts and to pay for needed actions to minimize climate change.
- While scholars and elected government agents plan and governmental banks fund public projects, execution should be done mostly by private enterprises, preferably non-profit enterprises which have to reinvest profits in education, research and development, or in promoting other non-profit enterprises which work in similar ways.
- A guaranteed income, possibly a minimum basic income or a negative income tax, should be part of a ‘safety net.’ Basic incomes have to be adjusted to local costs of living. With a basic income, minimum salaries could be below ‘living wages.’
- Bank reserve requirements on money held in demand deposits – (checking accounts) must be increased to 100%. Banks must not be allowed to use money of demand deposit accounts for loans. Reserve requirements for saving accounts must be substantial (gradually increasing).
- Consumer credit, offered by corporations, must also be regulated.
- Securities trade should be taxed (with increasing rates).
- Unearned income, mainly from securities, real estate and venture capital investments, must be taxed at a higher rate than earned income; a wealth tax and taxation of luxurious consumption are needed (the 10% richest people create and estimated 50% of emissions; if they would live at average European standards, global emissions would be 35% less).
- In place of “hedging” against major losses by way of derivatives, non-profit insurance corporations or cooperatives should protect investments of farmers, small businesses, etc.; risky loans, particularly to new, small enterprises, may require to be insured.
- The composition of any ‘financial instrument’ must be transparent to sellers, brokers and buyers. Complex, essentially unintelligible securities must be outlawed.
- As lending decreases due to new, stricter regulations, the government can issue new money and invest it in the economy, by realizing projects needed to halt climate change, infrastructure projects, such as building rail lines, education, etc., while phasing out income taxes for average and below average earners.
- While people save more, rather than using credit to replace appliances, etc., newly issued money and other governmental funds may be allocated for grants and federal low interest loans for industries in order that they can move from continuous high levels of production to more research and development, particularly developing products and production methods that minimize greenhouse gases, are safer, etc.
- The federal government may distribute some newly issued money to specific groups who are heavily indebted and cannot continue borrowing due to bank regulations and must change production, e.g. farmers that must significantly curb meat and milk production; the government may buy land for reestablishing natural forests; etc.
- Since money tends to flow from economically suppressed rural areas to metropolitan areas and wealthier countries, areas affected by new policies and other poor areas may need local currencies. Local currencies may serve economic activities such as teaching, child care and care of sick, disabled and elderly people; all types of repairs; building, remodeling and improving energy efficiency; new forms of agriculture and horticulture; and cottage industries.
* Low interest rates and banks’ increased access to money they can lend should, theoretically, increase the supply of circulating money and increase investments. However, middle-class people who counted on compound interests find that retirement savings in savings and money market accounts or CDs earn less interest than the inflation rate; and small investments in securities may not earn much more than brokers’ service fees. These factors are powerful disincentives for people to spend part of their savings thus decreasing enterprises’ eagerness to invest.
APPENDIX 2: Summary describing today’s dysfunctional situation [added 3/2020], and
A sketch of our vision for the near future, if political and industry leaders act rationally.
Summary describing today’s dysfunctional situation:
- The threat of rapidly accelerating climate change is a crisis of comparable or greater magnitude than WWII and responses should be as bold and decisive as the USA’s war preparations in the early 1940s. Vicious cycles appear to develop much earlier and more dramatically than expected.
- There are many Green New Deal proposals, projecting recent progress according to growth curves. However, renewable energy production that is being installed wordlwide does not yet cover the increase in energy consumption; the expectation is that fossil fuel production and use will expand for a few more years before starting to decline. Part of the plans include improving energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, gradually moving towards more plant-based diets, and saving energy by Internet-supported efficient sharing of most resources: local energy production and distribution to where energy is at the time most needed, sharing transport containers and available space in ware houses, etc.
- Current plans appear to be grossly inadequate: too little, too slow, too late. Plans and projections ignore major problems and they are accepting disastrous developments. They ignore the fundamental problems of our irrational greed- and growth-driven economy.
- Proposals appear to assume that there is unlimited space for wind turbines and solar farms – only the cost of building and installing them are calculated, while many are clear that they do not want the installations in their backyards; and there is rarely mention of pollution and destruction of ecosystems when needed metals and other minerals have to be mined in large quantities.
- Hardly considered is the problem of increasing efficiency by having censors everywhere which goes along with huge investments in data mining, storing, and analyzing. While “the Internet of Things” with all its sensor surveillance and artificial intelligence-algorithm-driven efficiencies can help save some energy in the areas of transportation, warehousing, and climate control of buildings, it is combined with an absurd drive to increase consumerism, unacceptable invasion of people’s privacy, and plans to exploit the data for profit. The value of data mining and storing apparently consists in some institutions controlling the data. Corporations and political entities that buy data, including results of complex analyses, will have the power to target people individually and bombard them with personalized misleading messages and advertisements that are designed to manipulate people to buy products and services that they will hardly appreciate and to make other important decisions according to goals of institutions that abuse the data. Investments in data collection, analyses and storage are huge, and the utilized computers are expected to use a significant part of all produced energy.
The Green New Deal proposals are integrated in a capitalist, economic growth oriented template that is obsolete. The world economy cannot simply keep growing and out of control increases in consumption are destructive and contrary to the goals of:
- Saving ecosystems and increasing natural land – a goal being to maintain or restore 50% of land to a natural state (today, about a quarter of ice-free land is used for cattle, and land covered with buildings, lawns, and highways keeps increasing).
- High quality of life for all people. An increase in material living standard is helpful only to a certain point; above it, benefits of increasing consumption are minimal or zero; and we must consider secondary effects of increased consumption. Physical health and psychological wellbeing suffer when people avoid exposure to physical stress, such as walking uphill, carrying goods or a child, bicycling, exposure to seasons with high and low ambient temperatures, etc. If exposure to stress is within a meaningful context, it feels good; exercising only for health reasons is usually a neutral or negative experience. Global warming and increased need for air conditioning create a vicious cycle. Solar farms heat the air above the very hot collector surfaces, which has secondary effects on local weather.
Bold decisive steps must address:
- Restructuring the economic system: activities of financial institutions must be restricted; governments must direct investments in infrastructure with nonprofit enterprises executing them.
- Disincentives by way of high taxation to reduce greenhouse gas production and advertisements; in addition, ‘unearned’ investment income should be taxed at higher rates than ‘earned’ income (from work). Wealth needs to be taxed.
- Abuses of computing systems and the Internet: data collection and analysis need to be restricted; the creation and the use of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies should be outlawed:
A sketch of our vision for the near future, if political and industry leaders act rationally:
- People must be informed – understand and consequently compel leaders to respond with urgency: start broadly using known technologies for highly efficient transportation and other ways of saving energy, and implementing bold plans.
- Cities with pedestrian zones and many safely designed human-powered, electric hybrid, and ultra-light electric vehicles (HPVs, HPEHVs, ULEVs) two to four wheel with or without light bodies.
- On streets and highways, HPV-HPEHV-ULEV lanes and rail tracks, 60cm to 100cm and standard gauge; many small to standard size electric and hydrogen driven light-rail cars; high speed trains; freight trains; river-canal barges; few rental cars and work trucks.
- More personal contact; parks, meeting places; less electronic communication; less consumerism.
- Solar panels (for electricity and hot water combined), integrated in building roofs, shades, sidewalks, and HPV lanes, along train tracks, on train roofs, etc.
- Wind turbines with land between them used as feasible.
- Widespread planting of crop trees, trees for construction lumber, natural reforestation, etc.
- No large cattle, pig, chicken farms – nutrition mostly vegan, traditional vegan dishes, ‘fake meat,’ etc.
- High fossil fuel/pollution taxes; very little long-distance transport by trucks and ocean liners.
- Former car, truck, airplane, and large ship manufacturers may now build rail cars, ULEVs etc.
- Many new manufacturing nonprofit enterprises: providers of human services; workshops and small factories building products locally; repair shops; energy-efficiency related work; research laboratories (robotic devices, etc.)
- Larger existing houses to be divided into smaller apartments/condominiums; building smaller units.
- Non-profit manufacturers and researchers work with interest-free loans and grants from governmental or cooperative development banks.
- Financial institutions highly regulated; lending is greatly decreased.
- Creation and trading of financial instrument highly regulated; taxation of securities’ trade, etc.
- Government expands the money supply by creating new money; creates dependable safety net for all; guarantees minimum income; etc.
Governments’ goals include fighting climate change, creating a sustainable economy, and improving people’s quality of life.
SHORTER LETTER to politicians, scientists, organization leaders interested people, 4/2021
Letter to politicians, scientists other influential people, anybody interested in protecting our planet [April 2021]
Humane Civilization Worldwide [humanecivilization.org] is the resultof our lifelong pursuit to understand what is important in people’s lives, what guides people’s emotions and behaviors, and why so much in the development of homo sapiens has been disastrous: why humans so often are cruel; how developments can be understood and how adverse developments today can be redirected. (‘Our’ and ‘we’ refer to my identical twin brother and me, we are Swiss-American psychiatrists.) Important conclusions are: There are good and bad qualities in everybody. Our instinctive-emotional system slips easily towards inconsiderate, even cruel thoughts and actions. However, we hardly can directly advise individuals to behave ethically; we must address bad institutions that influence people powerfully. Cultural and particularly economic institutions are comparable to bad behavior modification programs.
Humane Civilization Worldwide attempts to develop comprehensive plans and blueprints for model institutions that promote humane cultures and protect the environment. At this time the climate crisis demands extraordinary efforts.
We believe the following needs to happen to halt the catastrophic global warming, within years, not decades:
A broad, high-level education campaign must emphasize:
– All present proposals to deal with climate change appear flawed and grossly inadequate; we already are close to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial temperatures; the CO2 levels are now like 2,500,000 years ago and rising; and vicious cycles are speeding up climate change.
– If progress is not much more thorough and rapid, heat, droughts, loss of arable land, and floods will force 500 to 1,000 million people to migrate. Global planning, cooperation and generous actions are needed. Otherwise, disputes concerning migrants’ rights and control of resources, particularly water, are likely to result in devastating wars.
– The root cause of the climate crisis is our economic system that promotes profits at the cost of people’s well-being and the world’s ecosystems; and the most detrimental institutions are protected and subsidized by our government.
– People must be properly informed and demand changes. 1% of the population practicing voluntary simplicity has negligible effects; 25,000,000 people demonstrating and demanding bold actions may halt “business as usual” very rapidly. We all must start living differently, not drive SUVs with different engines.
– We must envision rapid changes in how we live, how we move around places, and what we produce and consume. We need more humane conditions, halt our consumerism, and lead much less wasteful, healthier lives. We need a comprehensive model with detailed plans for sustainable institutions that can be implemented worldwide: for better institutions, for saving energy particularly in transportation systems, for sustainable agriculture and improved land management, and many other viable approaches. Our government may need to promote bold changes by enacting the War Powers Act.
– Our economic system must be reformed as expediently as possible: it is dominated by highly profitable, parasitic financial institutions, and it does not allow rapid changes. Problems include: much of the circulating money supply is borrowed from financial institutions that are profit-driven and not competent to beneficially allocate resources. Debts are detrimental for individuals and destabilize businesses and economies. The circulating money supply should belong to the people, enterprises, and government agencies that work with it. While severely limiting lending and other activities of private financial institutions, governments must create the money that is needed to rapidly change industries’ production programs, the direction of research and development, and our educational institutions.
– Rather than focusing on ‘living wages’ and minimum salaries, we need government issued basic incomes worldwide.
– Most productive enterprises, particularly corporations that do contract work for governments, should be non-profit corporations which are obliged to re-invest all profits into research and development, education, and/or other non-profit enterprises. We can no longer afford competing corporations that are driven by greed and patent what employed engineers and scientists develop. Enterprises need to compete in working efficiently while cooperating with universities and other enterprises – it is not ethical to allow patents for vital products and technologies that are needed worldwide.
– We suggest replacing income taxes with universal sales taxes that discourage wasteful buying; high ‘dyseconomy’ taxes must target any products and production processes that harm the environment and/or people’s health and quality of life (‘dys-’ means ‘bad,’ ‘ill-,’ or painful). A universal basic income serves partly as reimbursement for taxation of basic goods. Unearned income may still be taxed.
– The sale of securities must be taxed. Extraordinary wealth should also be taxed.
– America must become a constructive model for China, India and other emerging and underdeveloped countries. Their pursuing our present model of middle-class living has catastrophic consequences. It is neither desirable nor sustainable that people of a world-wide rapidly growing middle-class commute in cars, eat much meat, pursue Western-style consumerism, and heat and cool large spaces in luxurious houses.
Many factories and enterprises must retool and start to produce energy-saving, more functional products. We must stop building cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, highways, parking garages, skyscrapers, large one family houses and condominiums, weaponry, etc. Today our culture exemplifies unhealthy developments in a wealthy economy with great potentials. Being severely indebted greatly contribute to people’s poor functioning, to anxiety, depression, chronic pain, substance use disorders, property crimes, violence, and suicides; families are destroyed. There are widespread addictions to consumerism, gambling, conspiracy theorizing, and to the pursuits of wealth and power. These problems are aggravated by us-versus-them thinking. Religions and ideologies often exacerbate dangerous propensities. While the climate emergency is extremely critical, we must recognize and address institutions of our society which further the destructive developments, and we must make efforts to rapidly enact comprehensive changes.
While working to decrease world-wide inequalities of income, we must start saving energy and resources in every way possible – there is not enough land for solar and wind farms as required by present projections, much less plant a trillion trees. Shortages of balsa, used for blades of wind turbines have led to illegal logging and violence. It would be very problematic to mine the mineral resources to expand world-wide consumerism, build and power all-electric SUVs, heat and cool large houses for the growing middle-class, etc. And we cannot compensate for the methane releases in the current agriculture and CO2 release from bad land managements and sea floor trawling.
Urgent projects must include:
– Transportation: We must design and build rail lines: freight, high-speed, and light-rail trains. Light-rail lines, mostly narrow track, 70-100cm, are to reach all city neighborhoods, towns, settlements, and points of interest; many can be built on existing roads. Where standard size rail cars are used, lines should also have much smaller trains with cars the size of vans, that run relatively frequently in times of low use. Equally urgent is the development and mass production of many types of 2-4 wheel human-powered, electro-assisted, and ultralight electric vehicles, with and without aerodynamic lightweight bodies; and we need everywhere lanes for these slower vehicles. Barges and relatively slow, highly efficient ships are important, for transporting goods and people, and as simple cruise ships for leisurely tourism.
– Food production and land management: We must minimize meat production and decrease milk and egg production: cows, sheep, goats and chicken may be raised in some areas that do not lend themselves to other agriculture, under fruit trees and in forested and mountainous area; the animals must be treated humanely. Diets must become mostly plant-based. Land management research and promotion of best practices is extremely important: the soil contains much more carbon than the atmosphere; draining wetlands and agricultural techniques have led to much carbon release. Issues include rice production that minimizes methane release, reforestation in many areas, care and extension of wetlands, recreating prairies, and possibly reestablishing the ‘mammoth steppe’ in tundra areas (the Pleistocene Park projects by Serge and Nikita Zimov in Siberia, appears to stop the melting of permafrost). Bamboo farms and algae farming may help sequester carbon (bamboo grows fast and is an excellent building material that can often replace steel; dead algae sinking to bottom of water binds much carbon; some algae are nutritionally valuable).
– Buildings: We must heat and cool buildings less, build small housing units in small lots, and/or use large houses for extended families and families with ‘adopted’ strangers. Buildings need to be well insulated, use solar panels and passive solar principles, as feasible; and heat or cool mostly small areas with lowered ceiling where people work, eat and relax. New constructions should use mainly lumber and recycled materials, much less cement and steel – it is possible and relatively cheap to build wood structures with over ten stories. Discarded containers may serve as frames for basic housing. Living in smaller places, people should not accumulating temporarily and rarely used items that can be shared or rented. Living more densely, using libraries, parks, and public transportation has significant social benefits.
– In some areas people may re-introduce split sleep schedules, few hours in afternoon and after midnight, or sleep mainly noon time to evening, while working and socializing at night and in mornings.
– Other known factors that contribute to global warming and to dangerous pollution must be addressed with no delay. Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants must be phased out and methane leaks stopped worldwide.
– Carbon capture at fossil fueled power plants is inefficient and polluting, and sequestration by pumping CO2 into the ground at old oil, gas, or coal production areas is not safe; major leaks are lethal to humans and animals (CO2 is invisible, odorless, and heavier than air; leaking CO2 can form ‘lakes’ with no oxygen).
– Safe ways of carbon sequestration include, 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. The critical factor is that no new oxygen gets to the material, no flowing water, no exchange of gases in the deposits. Also, making charcoal, and using wood and bamboo for buildings and vehicles. Some rock formations bind carbon firmly.
– Research and development must focus on greenhouse gas saving products and production processes; further development of renewable energy sources, for instance vortex-type wind generators and geothermal installations, maybe turbines driven by ocean currents; and also small, safe nuclear power plants. Simple ways of storing energy may include storing hot water, heated in summer, to heat buildings in winter; storing ice, produced in winter, for cooling buildings in summer; and producing hydrogen as clean fuel that can be compressed, easily transported and stored.
Research and development should encourage automation in production; robots may help in the care of the disabled and elderly: people should work less and have more time for family and to relax; to develop ideas and pursue personal studies; to garden, create and enjoy art, and spend time in nature, hiking, bicycling, camping, and traveling leisurely.
– Overuse and abuses of the internet and of artificial intelligence must be addressed; people’s habits and their reactions to imagery on screens must not be monitored, stored in data bases, analyzed, and exploited. Cryptocurrencies must be prohibited. These activities are unethical and dangerous, and they waste unconscionable amounts of energy and resources, material and human. (The use of cryptocurrencies has also an inflationary effect.)
The present disruption of the economy will become much more intense, and a much worse recession is not unlikely. People demand that the pandemic and recession are effectively managed, that there will be more equitable distributions of incomes and wealth, and that all forms of discrimination end, particularly racism and condoned abuses of women. Governments not only have a unique opportunity; they have an obligation to respond with broad and bold changes in many areas.
As production jobs are lost and automation replaces workers, unemployed workers must be employed in new projects and programs that are contracted by governments. During the disruptions, governments must assure that food production is not interrupted, that housing and social networks improve in quality. Transitions must be rapid but gradual. Cars must be used much less, healthy diets should integrate many traditional recipes from poor countries.
More efforts must encourage worldwide studies and education in ethics that is based on science and broad compassionate empathy without us-versus-them thinking, rather than religions and local traditions. World-wide efforts must also promote high-quality media, broad education, and ready access to health care, including contraception and abortions – obviously, population growth must be minimized. Efforts must address emotional problems. Hardly appreciated is the need to prevent and treat devastating psychological addictions: many forms of gambling, addiction to conspiracy theorizing, and addiction to wealth and power. Extremely problematic and wasteful are preparing for and fighting wars. Much more investments are needed in international courts, in negotiations, mediation, and arbitration, and in worldwide disarmament efforts. Wars do not solve conflicts – they prolong them.