Daniel Quin’s Ishmael

to JB 12/22/06 w/ minor ed.


I’m writing you from south Florida between trips into the Everglades and out on the Keys. It’s fascinating how many ecosystems you can fit in a small place when you really try! The weather has been cloudy by very pleasant, 80 deg., warm sun & rains that don’t get you wet, no crouds!, lots of beauty, and we have a simply marvelous place to stay. More later.

I mostly want to thank you for getting me to read a little more ‘useless pop psychology’… Of course, now that I’m at least up to the point where he defines his natural laws of competition I’m really wondering why you or someone else didn’t mention Ishmael to me before, too. Didn’t you notice that this approach to the subject, the use of natural laws of how to live that are readily read from the physical world but missing from the popular discussion of [how the world works], is precisely what I’ve been so patiently exploring and talking about for the last, yep, count-em, 30 years?? Continue reading Daniel Quin’s Ishmael

Yet another test model

posted to FRIAM 12/16/05

We definitely need better models of complex system events. Here’s another, to help imagine growth as a spontaneous evolutionary process, as if an organizational ‘fire’ that begins with a ’spark’ of change.

It’s obvious enough that growth systems produce rapid change in complex systems without a template or discrete determinants from the outside, but growth is often so smooth, fast, and ’sure footed’ that it’s hard to imagine it as evolutionary. Maybe this alternate model helps, by

telling the story of a complex system step change by growth as if in QM notation ‘before||after’, with the period between the marks consisting of an evolving internal process discovering its place in an unknown

world. It starts with the generally unobservable ‘earth shaking boom’

of an unstable pattern of change forming that will multiply dramatically, zooming to a point of discovering it’s own limits and a ‘big wow’ as the future comes into its view, to perhaps then be transformed by that reversal in the environmental responses into a sustainable system.

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` *ahhh*`–

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` x

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` x

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` x

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` x

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` *w`O`w*

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `m

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `o

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `o

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `z

` ` ` `–`*boom*

before | B o o m, Z o o m, W o w, Ahhh– | after

something clicks, takes off, discovers it’s place, and settles in

During the ‘zoom’ the environment appears limitless from the perspective of the growth cell, and in the ‘ahhh–’ the stabilization of new form becomes satisfying by resolving the start-up cell’s unstable contradictions. Humanity’s institutional rules that the ‘zoom’ is never to be allowed to stop…. seem to be a natural misunderstanding coming from our being swept up in a vast change in reality.

It’s good to note that in living systems what comes ‘after’ is often unequivocally the best part.

Phil Henshaw ¸.·´ ¯ `·.¸


e-mail: id@synapse9.com

explorations: www.synapse9.com


Surprises in the works I think

to AIA C.O.T.E. Forum 12/01/06


I’m really delighted to be among a group of idealists, and to hear the frustration with the efforts that fall short and the failure of many people to reach high enough in setting their goals. We definitely need more of that, for all the reasons of our not doing enough, and also for a special reason. I think we’re getting huge help in changing the world from Mother Nature, and we should probably consider, seriously, the need at some point to ramp up faster than expected in delivering coherent ideas and methods to others.

Sometimes things collapse of their own contradictions, like the Soviet Union, and the NeoCon revenge. I think what the sustainability movement sees as unassailable enemies, like the economic forces of endless selfish growth, could more or less abruptly loose their credibility and collapse around us. There are lots and lots of signs, things like the large amount of ‘red’ money going into buying ‘green’ design. It’s easy to think it’s all for show, but it’s also because the people who run exploitive businesses see the writing on the wall and feel real guilty about their involvement.

Continue reading Surprises in the works I think

We are saved!

To: ‘overpopulation@googlegroups.com’
Subject: RE: We are saved!
Doespopulation collapse solve population explosion? I call that quandary the game of intellectual ‘pin the needle’, arguing by extremes that are all off the chart. You see it all the time, like the Republican abhorrence of taxes because 100% taxation would slow down the economy. It’s amazingly seductive, apparently because people are so heavily influenced by fear, and lots of people who should know better are shameless in exploiting it. Continue reading We are saved!

Can ‘intelligence’ have an impact?

From: phil henshaw Wednesday, September 23, 2006 8:09 PM
To: ‘overpopulation@googlegroups.com’
Subject: RE: religion and overpopulation


Perhaps if you thought of each kind of intelligence as a different language, only capable of receiving and interpreting certain kinds of nature’s phrases, you’d get the meaning of ‘cultural’ that I intended.  There’s women’s intelligence, for example, often quite different from men’s.  They may not be so hot on controlling things as men are, or even care about the kinds of devious schemes we dream up to bend the world to our will, but boy! wouldn’t we all live impoverished lives without their different way of seeing things, their fundamentally different intelligence? Continue reading Can ‘intelligence’ have an impact?

Where doing good is the harm we’re fighting

From: phil henshaw Sent: Saturday, September 23, 2006 1:38 AM
To: ‘overpopulation@googlegroups.com’
Subject: RE: Another good link to ponder


One reason I see to criticize a great organization like NRDC (I’m a long standing member too) is that one of their effects is to divert the effort to heal the planet away from dealing with the central problem.  They and other genuinely well intended efforts to protect the earth are, in their physical effect, really just putting on a show of addressing the problem, diverting attention to various immediate ‘newsworthy’ issues and away from the relentlessly widening impacts of our fundamentally unsustainable development process.

There’s a growth turning point for any natural system where multiplying good becomes bad, that we passed for most things, say 50 to a 100 years ago, and are bounding merrily along thinking that we’re still multiplying good, though the net effect has become the opposite.  That we’re not watching and these turning points sneak up on us is obvious, and that we need to learn to look for such things should be too.  On our road to infinity, where are the tipping points?  It’s a good question, that’s never been widely asked.

It may be a bizarre truth, but nearly everyone trying to effect change is caught up in multiplying what used to be ‘good’ that now has the actual effect of multiplying harm.  NRDC’s approach would work fine if there was not a growing cause of environmental impacts…. the institutionalized growth imperative of business, that they explicitly avoid mentioning, fixing its smaller impacts as bigger ones relentlessly develop. It’s not from malintent in any way.  It’s from a shared mistaken perception held by both the ‘do-gooders’ and the ‘do-badders’ , that good intentions are good enough, even when the actual whole effect, fairly easily traced from a self-critical approach, is the opposite.

Phil Henshaw

Responding to:Frank Vraniak
Sent: Friday, September 22, 2006 9:52 PM
To: overpopulation@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: Another good link to ponder

Let me get this right. The NRDC statement is lacking in insight but they are doing something and not just throwing ambiguous e-mails back and forth. We are making feeble attempts at making sure that we survive and it is better to “watch the world go round’” and do nothing. The fight against global warming is for the protection of us against the devastation of nature but lets not save nature because it really doesn’t support us in any way, shape or form. Got it. We are own best enemy but we are just now starting to look in the mirror and should destroy ourselves because we don’t like what we see. I am complicated but I am only the enemy if I choose to be. I know who my enemies are and they are ignorance, selfishness, greed, as well as a few others. Those are the enemies that cause the problems. They reside in people but not all of the people. The enemy is pretty simple if you ask me.

Responding to: Espey, Lawrence L.
Sent: Friday, September 22, 2006 7:59 PM
To: overpopulation@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: Another good link to ponder

Although a mission statement is important, the NRDC statement is lacking in insight.  Nature (not mankind) ‘knows’ best how to “safeguard” itself.  This is the precise reason Homo sapiens is threatened with extinction.  Most, if not all, of our efforts to be “stewards of the Earth” are, in fact, only feable attempts to save our own habitat.  It is “us” that needs protection, not Nature. As the cartoon character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us!”  We are a terribly complicated enemy.
I wish you well.

Responding to: Frank Vraniak
Sent: Fri 9/22/2006 6:36 PM
To: overpopulation@googlegroups.com
Subject: Another good link to ponder

This is a mission statement from the NRDC.I just thought maybe we could move forward a bit and see if we are going to come up with one. Or am I just whistlin’ Dixie? Here is the link. It may be a good framework for something that I thought we were doing and not just talking about. “My opinion”,
Frank http://www.nrdc.org/about/mission.asp

Frank Vraniak’s Motto: I accept myself as a kook and a dreamer. Are there more of us than there are of you?



Religion and Overpopulation

To: overpopulation@googlegroups.com

I can hear that having a clear direction would be a relief and its own reward. The direction I hear being taken, though, is one that sounds the same as the ones taken many times before with much effort and commitment, and I don’t hear any sense of curiosity about how the others might have gotten lost along the way and why they failed to accomplish what they set out to do, or perhaps made matters worse.

Natural systems are so incredibly complicated. They frequently do things quite backward from how we think, and don’t come with any instruction manual… and we ARE talking about further interfering in natural systems that we appear to have made a mess of already. I’ve spent a lifetime closely observing them, all kinds. I developed a rigorous observation method. It’s my sig. ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸. · ´ ¯ ` ·. ¸ ¸ ¸ ¸ Continue reading Religion and Overpopulation

Better examples 2?

Bruce, Great extra questions!

> Phil,
> Concerning growth systems that killed themselves, why
> not just look at a few major corporations (which are in
> essence, growth systems) and see what happened to them?
> Anyone remember Montgomery Ward? Where are they now?

Like most classic American businesses it grew quite large and then
stabilized, became a ‘cash cow’ for feeding investments in other things,
and by the time it’s owners recognized the shape of threatening new
competition it was too stuck in old habits and couldn’t adapt. It had
to be broken up for parts.

> How about General Motors (”What’s good for General
> Motors is good for the USA”)? How are they doing now?

GM is a more modern company. My sense is that it’s been remaking itself
about every 20 years, more or less successfully. Modern businesses try
to encourage new ventures within their own organizations, trying to
remain ‘forever young’. That’s very hard to do when whole industries
come and go ever more rapidly with continuously multiplying amounts of
money feeding into investments to replace everything doing the
production… (That’s one of the weirdest one’s to me! You wouldn’t
want to stop change, but it’s worse to endlessly accelerate it.)

> Let’s go back further to the East India Company or the
> Hudson Bay Company. What’s happened to them?

I’m sure there are great books on each. It’s always a compelling story
of visionary people doing great things that turn out not to be so useful
anymore down the road. Time passes them bye.

> Look at Ford, IBM, or a host of other companies that
> made up the Dow Jones industrials just 50 years ago. Most of
> them are gone or in deep trouble.

There are a number of the giants companies that are struggling, and a
number that are adapting to become more versatile and creative.

> Or, perhaps look at dynasties the once ruled the earth
> (or some significant portion of it): Persia, Rome, Greece,
> Egypt, Babylonia, the Norse Vikings, the Ottoman Empire,
> Spain, England, China (which is the only one on the ascent
> again at this point), etc. They all had their day in the sun,
> and where are they now?

Come and gone… It certainly is curious why each of these long stable
ways of living seemed to loose interest and vanish. Good modern
examples of this that are just a little more dramatic, but the same
thing I think, are the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and the
sudden collapse of the NYC crimewave. In both cases it strongly appears
that the social cultures turned off to their former way of life and let
it just fall to pieces.

> Will any of those suffice for your purposes? If not,
> let’s all try again.

Well, actually, you picked wonderful examples, but not a one that had to
do with failure caused by uncontrolled growth (from growing competition,
yes, but not from its own growth). A couple from history would include
the Biblical reference to a Tower of Babel and multiplying languages and
the California gold rush disasters.


> Bruce Barnbaum


What do we do now?

Eric & all,

Kitty offered a great question about a historical scholar friend who argues that life is so much better now we shouldn’t complain.

From my view there are lots of things you could point out to him.  He probably understands that there’s a limit to any one thing.  You can also have too much of any ‘good’ thing.  An endless explosion of ‘good’ is the most sure way of getting you there.  Everything begins with growth, but things that end with it end in sudden disarray.  Any of those examples I gave of natural systems that get in trouble with growth essentially do the same thing, keep multiplying what’s ‘good’ until it overwhelms their internal or external relationships.

One of the common descriptions of the phenomenon is the ‘Fairy Tale’ about “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.  Do you see any sign of our having unleashed a run-away phantom producing wealth for us, and now going totally out of control??   The most stunning thing about this is that the endless multiplication of ‘wealth’ is the world consensus plan of all the ’smart’ people.  Clearly nature is throwing us a major curve, turning our ingenuity against us in a profound way, and we should be both in awe of what’s happening as well as angry and active in questioning everything about it. Continue reading What do we do now?

Good ideas, so far, more still needed . . .

Eric & all,

>Stan said:
> >Frank said:
> >I agree wholeheartedly that there are way too many people on this
> >planet using way too many resources. As far as what to do
> >about it, I think we should do nothing.
> In my opinion this should include doing nothing to help
> people live longer. Use medicine to alleviate pain, but not
> to prevent dying.

I don’t have time tonight, but I think this is a very important part of
the puzzle. How to do what we can and know how to feel about the
tragedies we’re unable prevent. The outside interventions in other
people’s societies that have been failing us for a long time, sometimes
just multiplying the tragedy to come, need to be stopped by a
combination of being reinvented, and the wisdom of accepting the things
we can’t change. Continue reading Good ideas, so far, more still needed . . .