Real Solutions for “our change of life” crisis

re: Chris Nelder – Real Solutions to the Energy and Climate Crises posted on Energy & Capital

Yes, the overweening influence of corporate lobbyists has effectively neutralized policy and confused the public debate on our most serious problems. Yes, the capitalistic system favors short-term concentrated profits over long-term public good. And yes, the simple human preference for happy talk over sad stories plays a role in our denial. The real problem is much more pervasive. Those actors cannot explain more fundamental questions:

Why has our economic theory failed us?
Why is the reality of climate change so hard to accept?
Why does climate change dominate public dialogue while the more proximate threat of peak oil remains far off the radar?
Why do we have such resistance to change?
Why would anyone ever think Dubai World was a good idea?
Why is talking about population control — arguably the only real way out of our predicament — taboo?


The issues you raise (12/11/09 “Energy and Capital”) are rather close to what I’ve used as conceptual levers for understanding the deeper problem for some time. The simple part of our cognitive difficulty is fairly easy to state and understand I think. Continue reading Real Solutions for “our change of life” crisis

China, reducing “carbon intensity”, not carbon emissions

posted to feedback and Dot Earth


Maybe this is a break in the log jam… in disguise, a real opportunity to ask the tough questions.

Take China’s promise to slow carbon release by decreasing its economic carbon intensity. The strange fact, that points to our need to deeply rethink how we’ve been trying to slow down ALL kinds of environmental impacts, is that reducing carbon intensity does not reduce carbon emissions. Continue reading China, reducing “carbon intensity”, not carbon emissions

Recent additions to Concept and Comment list

List of short articles on main website: Concept and Comment.  Here are some recent additions – Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Peak Zucchini – 11/20/09 The story of overabundance and when to give it away for our Thanksgiving…
What in the world is really going on here? – 11/15/09 How our work ethic accidently pushes us up an ever steeper learning curve
How we get out of this – 11/11/09 What to do when it’s your solutions that become the main cause of your problems
Inside Efficiency – 11/10/09 The mystery of why doing tasks ever more efficiently multiplies their services and impact growth
The Missing Variables in Thermodynamics – 10/24/09 The unhidden but missing energy that builds energy flow systems
Lines of Sustainability – research notes on defining the limits of sustainability and points of vanishing returns.
Economies That Become Part of Nature – how we can, why we have to
When = becomes a sign of change – The real “millennium bug” is all the = signs becoming ? marks.
Efficiency Mistake – the main unwanted reverse effects of efficiency & productivity 5/27/09


To end the “rat race” – Chasing our own tail & falling behind

Steve asked on 11/16/09:

Dear Phil and Andy,

If we could choose in this moment to will one thing, that is to say, to take a single step along a new path to a sustainable future (recognizing that one step will be only the first of many more to come), what would that step be?  Other ways of asking this question are, “How do we take the first step forward in a new direction? What does taking that initial step look like? Precisely what first step is required to begin anew?

Any new path appears to be a learning process, usually one we may have already taken many steps on but don’t see it. At the beginning of a learning process there’s a period when all you seem to have to show is your mistakes.

It’s those loose ends that you eventually find a way to connect.  The path is through the unexpected connection of loose parts, so stay open to questioning .  It would help things if more people were willing to question their own beliefs, though.  Not knowing which ones are truly reliable, and which beliefs “just ain’t so”, is one of the main problems. Continue reading To end the “rat race” – Chasing our own tail & falling behind

How to keep your efficiency from speeding up consumption

John Rainbird responded today:

Hi Phil – it is a critical point you make.  Efficiency has to be a core part of the response, but what is lacking are the other measures to prevent the rebound effect of increased efficiency on resource use.  What are your thoughts on what these might be? John


Right, that’s the rub. We need to efficiently use the earth, but at the moment our efficiencies are being used to multiply our uses of the earth. Our most popular mental failing in that regard, though, is seeing the obvious “dumb question” that raises, and then not doing what you just did, asking it.

but at the moment our efficiencies are being used to multiply our uses of the earth. Continue reading How to keep your efficiency from speeding up consumption

Why efficiency speeds up consumption – reported NY Times…

So… how do we get to the bottom of this? The basic dilemma seems to be how many ways we are using conceptual models, often build with cultural values instead of solid observations, to represent how the physical world works and are simply way off.

New School of Thought Brings Energy to ‘the Dismal Science‘” October 23, 2009 (online Business page)

The NY Times seemed to break its silence on what some call “the physical world problem” in nicely covering the BioPhysical Economics meeting I presented to last week. They included mention of my presentation on the surprising problem that our main way of slowing down resource uses has and will continue to accelerate them.

It’s bound to be confusing… that the sustainability movement misunderstood the use of efficiency to decrease our energy and economic impacts, since it naturally has and will continue to multiplying them. See the links below for my presentation. Continue reading Why efficiency speeds up consumption – reported NY Times…

Dot Earth – What if CO2 was “pink”

re: Dot Earth 10/22/09 on Keeping the Gas in the Pipeline

Ah yes Andy…If CO2 was “pink”, then we’d all SEE it. Good idea.

That’s something we might connect to one of the nice clear ways to clearly visualize it, imagining all the “pink gas” you’d need to “exhale” for each choice you make to consume fossil fuels. It’s a shocker, I warn you. This is actually very legitimate math. It’s based on the reality that most spending will naturally have about average embodied energy and carbon content. (see Continue reading Dot Earth – What if CO2 was “pink”

Treating time as an everywhere local process…

Treating time as an everywhere local process is one of the clear links between Mark van der Erve’s “physics of auto-emergence” and my “physics of happening”

On 8/12 Steve replied: “Very clear..among your best.” regarding my reply to Nick:
For related concepts see the notes for Aleks Jakulin’s presentation on my work at the June 2011 Foo Camp “System archetypes & anarchetypes

Nick, Ok, but by saying systems are a “standing wave” is to say they’re mechanically repetitive rather than recurrently creative.   The systems of direct concern to people are most often repetitively creative, not mechancal.  They’re not representable by equations at all, but are observably physical systems, locally evolving.

If what you understood by the way I described “local exploratory development” seems covered by “digital time” and entropy, then I’m explaining it badly.

It applies more to the growth phase of what you’d call “a gradient tunneling” processes.   Continue reading Treating time as an everywhere local process…

When taking the load off you; multiplies it on others… what to do

Efficiency & productivity relieve strain on you, multiply it for the earth. At the limits of the earth they multiply it on others.

on 8/17 Mark had replied: “It never really occurred to me that reducing the dependency of one thing tends to lead to growth in another area, increasing total impact.  The same holding true for businesses.  It occurred to me that over the years I have been a part of companies the expectation was that as my work efficiency increased so did productivity.  [But that adds up to doing] More work at half the time. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how to know where the end of these circular effects are and, if possible, to be successful economically without having negative impacts.

You seem to get the exact point, and the new moral dilemma that a whole systems view exposes. If we each increase our productivity, it takes US less resources to increase our use of OTHER resources. So it looks like we’ve been understanding the effect of our having to do less to get more from our environment backwards, as if the effect on us was the same as the effect on our world. Continue reading When taking the load off you; multiplies it on others… what to do

Would the imaginary realities all please sit down?!

Today Emily responded:

Phil, that is a wonderful way to describe the difference. How perfect! (It should be taught in certain science and philosophy courses.)

Yesterday she had said:
It’s amazing, Phil, that so many people can bypass empirical considerations in favor of comforting beliefs and abstracted versions of happenings. Then again, interpretation of “reality” is never straightforward. There always are difficulties like Rashomon effect, platform problem, other impediments with relativity, no fixed identity, flaws in classification systems that are not absolute, the circular nature of definitions with each set of characteristics connected to others to delineate their qualities and quantities, etc., etc. :-) , Emily

And I replied:

Right,  All those, and others prevent people from agreeing on what “reality” is. Most of all I think it’s our habit of thinking reality is the sense we make of our own information.  That’s something we invent, rather than being the things we don’t invent that our information is *about*.

I think it’s our habit of thinking reality is the sense we make,
of our own information Continue reading Would the imaginary realities all please sit down?!