Archive for December, 2011

The future of urban societies

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

We live in a city now – more than 50 % of us – and the percentage is increasing fast.

There will be more and more cities, and they will be bigger and bigger. In many countries the movement towards cities is slow – e.g. Norway, England – where big movements took place many years ago, but is still happening. In other places – China, India – there is huge movements off the land into the cities, and all in all there is a strong tendency toward urbanization. The biggest cities now has tens of millions of inhabitants.

The problem of slums is huge in many places, the conditions are not good, infrastructure  like clean water, drains and sewage, electricity is not so good.

So the solution is not to move people back to where they came from, but to improve cities, make them into livable, even excellent places to be.

There is much good thinking about this taking place, and practices will surely follow.

There are many factors involved, here are some:

  • There may be an optimal size for a city, where strains are low, where people are comfortable and can know their city. May be this size is about 1 million people? Or less? Or 5 million?
  • Small scale production should be introduced into cities reducing the need for transportation, storage and giving jobs. For food this could be made more fresh based on day to day consumption, there should be a lot of local production of clothes, mechanical, shoemaking, other handicrafts.
  • Plots and roofs should be made available for small scale agriculture giving fresh fruit and vegetables all the time. Greenhousing should be a normal practice. Communal food gardens should be found.
  • Research and innovation in new forms should take place utilizing the advantages of humans being close to each other.
  • Distribution systems must be optimized, integrating producers locally and far away.
  • Transport systems for goods and people should be tightly controlled, traffic reduced, people should live near where they work, public transport the norm.
  • Social development should take place to develop community feeling and practices, to make people know each other, to function well together.
  • Slums should systematically be removed.
  • Education should be modernised, to let people decide for themselves, more practical towards how you fend for yourself, create small businesses, to be an artist, craftsman, programmer, city farmer or whatever you want.
  • New and more participatory forms of local democracy should be tested out, why must we always accept what central government wants?
  • Develop base stations for activity in production, learning, sports, entertainment … so that it is easy to see what is going on, what is possible, who can be contacted.
  • The role of the sexes should be normalized based on equality principles, and children should be made active participants in the city’s activities as part of their education.
  • Housing including water, heating, power should be tightly integrated and coordinated to increase efficiency, to benefit from living close together.
  • The crime, violence should be eradicated, poverty removed, equality made a principle, drug policy normalized.
  • Noise and commotion must be taken away – we must have a quiet city.
  • Environmental issues should be adressed clearly, waste control a necessity, recirculation a basic practice taking place in the city.
  • Open houses, communal activities are desirable.
  • City planning should be integrated based on holistic principles – you must be able to find it all near you.
  • Green areas, playgrounds should be small scale and found in many places, creating green lungs and diversity, encouraging participation from all.

This also means the end of suburbia which is a thoroughly wasteful way of running societies. The choice is rural or urban, and both will be good.

So let us do it – let us start.

Going to sea for freedom?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The seasteading environment have had a bit of attention lately as we are getting nearer to the realization of the ideas of establishing communities offshore – in international waters, free communities.

The notion of a government that shall rule us all is well established. Although we may have democratic rule it appears that continous long term governance adds more and more strictures, in the end making people uncomfortable. There are too many rules, too little freedom. Also allowing special interests a deep influence is now largely seen as unwanted, even undemocratic. When income distribution becomes serioulsly skewed we have a situation that must be fixed.

It seems that present ideas about seasteading centers around freedom to innovate, less bureaucracy, lower taxes, moneymaking, fewer entrenched interests, no lobbying etc.

So the idea is to move offshore, establish new societies where participants can do what they like, pull together people with the same attitudes and ideas, so that ideas, entrepreneurship, creativity can flourish, even making money from the activities. The seasteading movement is in its infancy, but the growing interest in the movement indicates a need for renewal.

Some say it is merely a good idea whereby international large corporations may establish facilities so that they can do what they want unfettered by anybody. This could be banking, manufacturing, hospitals, hotels and resorts. It could be profitable. You could skip all rules and regulations, get rid of unwanted legal confines, establish superfacilities.

If the most important idea is to create a new and modern society, a society of equal citizens, participation, sharing, deep democracy, then we are on to something good. So far the ideas are not very clear – there is a lot of ongoing thinking in process.

But there is another aspect as well: Must we leave our own countries to live well, the way we want? Or can we change what we have into what we want? Is the dynamics of government gone, locking us all into rigid structures?

It is sad that we must start all over to get what we want. The ideas of seasteding is about frustration. We must surely look into and try to mend our ways – for the thrilling future we could have.

Focus shifting to Asia – are the US and China preparing a confrontation?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Asia is becoming hot – or hotter than it was. Europe is being cooled down as the US shift their attention to other parts of the world – the Asias.  The US military budget is also being adjusted to the new strategy – more air and marine, less army. It is all rather chilling – the thinking is obviously threatening towards Asian countries.

The Koreans keep killing each other, the Japanese are wary in relation to the Chinese, but the biggest activity is in the south China Sea and adjoining waters. China is showing it’s intentions, the US is there. The developments we now see have been brewing for many years. The Vietnamese have found oil in its northern waters and China have found oil near Hainan. Contracts have been given to many companies, and an industry is growing. China have said that if there is more oil they want it – a truly strange statement. This seems to many to be a veiled threat, and the Chinese should explain their intentions like civilized citizens of the world are expected to. The era of landgrabbing is surely over?

The US also wants to find out where Chinese subs are travelling, and check out other military movements – so that they can be prepared. In the South China Sea the Chinese are now publishing strange drawings or maps indicating a wish for confusion about the issues. The strange U people call it.

The islands in the area – the Spratly and the Paracel which are tiny numerous islands, and a few more are partly occupied by China, Vietnam. The world’s policeman the US is checking out the openness of the seas, where they can go by sea and where they can fly.

In 1987 the Chinese entered the area pushing out the Vietnamese. There has already been fights here – in 1988 and 1992 Vietnamese were killed by the Chinese. The seismic cables were cut by the Chinese this summer. The Chinese have built shelters for fishermen on some of the islands.

The newest power game is building up, nations are finding their positions, their allies, putting forward what they want. They have all signed the international convention about nation’s rights at sea, so negotiations are part of the game. All the countries in the area are there: China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Fillipines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan. Australia will take part in the new developments – 2500 US military men will be posted in Darwin in the north of Australia. The US clearly has a new focus area in preparation.

So we are all set and ready to go. Negotiations will undoubtedly start, deals will be made, sharing between countries may be part of it. And the ubiquitous US are always there – their role is about security – their own security. The Americans are increasing their presence, meaning they want to be where the action is, even wanting to initiate some action themselves.

The challenges are great: The marine law is difficult, discussion about economic zones, territories, boundaries, transport lanes at sea, what is in there like fish, oil, metals maybe.

In the Pacific – Sea of Peace – new attention may be bestowed upon its huge waters – a possible  extension of what we see in the South China Sea. The fisheries which are not sustainable are slowly emptying the sea, leaving little for the future rulers, and the extent of oil fields is not known.

There is a commercial side and a security side to this, a short term and a long term. The expanding Chinese are playing a game, the weakening US are joining in – it is all set for a new phase. Powerplay is the name of the game, world domination maybe. Is there really no other way to find what it shall be? Fair and reasonable practice based upon signed treaties and international law so you get what is rightly yours? And reducing tension all over?

Surely there is a “rightly”, a reasonable solution. We should all help to find that, at the same time advancing human culture. We have had the Cold War, War on Terror is ongoing, now a new Great Game is being ushered in.

The valuables of the Earth

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Earth is full of them: minerals, metals, rare earths, coal and more. Manufacturing products  require the use of large amounts of these substances, up to now there has been a good supply. But things may change. A race for resources that may soon be scarce is coming. Big countries like China, India, Brazil are increasing production of industrial goods, and have started the hunt for materials to do it.

Oil is also among the coveted substances, but oil is being run down, we are now heavily into shale oil and tar sands. The oil industry will rather soon be much less than it is today. Lots of oil is still found, but prices are high, the resources are increasingly hard to find. Expensve techniques like fracking, digging up tar sands etc. are being used.

The emptying of the oil fields in the world will have taken place in about two centuries and a bit. It is not all used yet, but we can see the end coming. We used most of it in the course of two centuries! The global warming problem will then take care of itself. This era will undoubtedly be seen by historians as a sad chapter in the book of humanity. We never thought for a moment about what we were doing.

The coming transition will be gradual, it has already started, an era of sustainability is possibly starting now, with new sources and forms of energy, new thinking.

Now the era of  full focus on minerals, metals, earths are opening up. Gold, platinum, zinc, copper, iron, rare earths and all else are in great demand. The powers to be are travelling the world to secure their share of the riches. Nations with these resources are stepping up the mapping and search for what they have. Prices will increase, there will be heavy politics, even fights and wars.

This new era will be the same as the oil era, but the money are perhaps not so big and the diversity is greater. But profit hungry investors will be there as always.

Industrial growth for the next centuries will be fine – and then that will be over too. The ground will again have been emptied, large areas have been damaged – and we will realize once more that we never thought for a moment what we were doing.

It will be futile to try to change this course of events, the forces involved are great, and collectively humanity is clearly lacking in forethought practices, as well as logical development of ideas that are clearly seen. Transition into an oil-less world has already started – see the Transition Network movement.

The battle for minerals will now commence and then heat up, scarcity will build – and in a few centuries we have depleted it all. The devastation of the Earth is a consequence – but by then stark realities will force us into a better world.

The solution is clearly about establishing new values on a global level – sharing, cooperation, developing sustainable local practices – are some of the catchwords we have to put into our world.

This is soft thinking and not very dynamic, even without the element of profit. Yes, but why not? Cooperation among conscious and thinking people can’t be all that bad? Let the new culture grow!

The human way is to sustain the world

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The Earth is bigger than man in the sense that the world has run itself for a long time, lately we could say it has been going in spite of human activity.

It is now becoming obvious that human activity is hurting the Earth, hurting humans, animals, plantlife and may even damage the larger mechanisms of the Earth: the selfadjusting closed loop systems of the the planet.

Our activity is clearly not sustainable, and thanks to the coming peak and gradual ending of oil a transition must come. The end of oil will also make the question of climate warming less relevant – the global warming will just not happen when we stop burning oil on the scale we do now. The huge coal reserves of the world is another matter that nobody talks about at the moment. When oil will definitely find its end is uncertain – there could still be oil in surprising places! In a hundred years everything will be clear.

The recent tar and sand projects are examples of a thinking gone wrong – we are destroying wast landscapes to scrounge the last drops of oil from the Earth. Ref. the ongoing scandal of Canadian Athabasca where permanent damage is being done, 141.000 sq. km. of it.

We have altered the flow of large waterways causing large problems in the deltas of the world.

The world has been – long term – in motion with continents moving, glaciers forming and going, sea-levels changing.

There are a number of cycles taking place on the Earth: carbon, nitrogen including also many processes not fully understood. This lack of understanding, of knowledge, should make us careful in deciding what to do on Earth. Man does not yet fully understand these processes and we should for that reason alone not try to control them. The age of man is not here nor will it ever be. Remember also that we develop with the system – we follow the good development that is taking place over the thousands of years. Respect the vastness of it all – do not tinker. It would be beneficial to man to see himself as part of the natural world and build on its inherent principles.

Humans have changed the world’s plant activity making new monoculture ecosystems based on fertilizer from oil, with hard labour, huge amounts of water, aggravated by raising huge herds of animals that we eat. Large scale artificial production of fish etc. in the waters of the Earth is also taking place. The quality and efficiency of these methods are in doubt, the ethics also.

New thinking in the form of permaculture, sustainability will re-introduce diversity in farming, enhancing yields so that the world can be fed. In about 2070 the world will have about 15 billion people on present trends, and all can be adequately fed using local and natural methods. Large scale agriculture is not sustainable, the food is homogenous, of few varieties and dull. The food cycle is grossly wasteful as it goes through large scale farming of animals to produce food.

All creatures are needed, and man should not willfully let diversity in plants and animals disappear.

Human activity must not let the world tip into instability. Geoengineering is is a prime example of human idiocy. Tinkering with huge systems that we do not fully understand, with no scientific authority, no democratic decision making processes is pure folly.

The action to take now is to build understanding, let the natural systems work as intended, support changes into sustainability. When we have done that we will be on our way to a good future.

15 billion humans can manage quite well by themselves with the help of the good Earth if we let them. Add sound principles of participation, service and sharing and we are moving.

The cancer mystery

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The numbers are there to tell us what is going on: more and more people get cancer, more and more people die from cancer, more and more people are healed, more and more people live longer and longer with cancer. If you live by making drugs and equipment to treat these people, you are in the right place. You will get rich as people die around you.

In Norway there are about 25.000 new cancer cases every year, 60 % are healed and 40% die. There are about 190.000 people now being treated for cancer. The numbers are going up. Proportionally similar numbers can be found in most countries.

DNA and genes are now providing – they say – a means for targeting therapies at many types of cancer. The gene fault or gene mutation of the cancer is known and specific medicines can be made to fix the given gene-fault, all depending on the type of cancer you have.

There is a conflict of interest built into the drug industry: do they really want to get rid of illness? The strongest inclination is of course to keep treating people and getting paid as long as they live – the longer they live the more money. If people die soon or get well there is no money in it.

Amazing research is taking place to find the mutations of cancer – the gene structures of the cancer cells or the molecular composition of bad cells.

The research is based on the wrong principles as it is about how to make more money from patients living ever longer. This is why there is no amazing research into the starting mechanisms of cancer – what creates the conditions for cancer and what starts it? What triggers its development? Why can we not make sure that it is not there after treatment, metastase is still a real danger.

Prevention should be the number one issue of cancer research so that a healthy body can stay that way: What do you do, eat, what is your environment, what do you let come near your skin, the air you breathe, radiation and emissions of many kinds and so on – how do the factors put you at risk?

Why is there no amazing research being done here?

All sorts of advanced techniques are being developed – even how to fool your immune system to get drugs into your body tissue to keep you alive. This should all be part of a holistic cancer research where prevention is important, even permanent cure.

So the techniques are amazing but the focus is wrong – it is to narrow. Amazing research should also go into how you can avoid cancer – scientifically based and more substantial than “keep fit and eat veggies” – then we would have good lives and really save money.

The present cancer regime is absurd. One day we will see amazing research, with the right focus, finding how to avoid cancer – in the future.