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.
Even scientists tend to switch back and forth between words and phrases that refer to physical things and those that express emotional or cultural values. The often don’t clearly distinguishing one from the other.
So it’s quite easy for us to “dream the impossible” when it’s clearly impossible, or put all our efforts into accelerating growth as a way of escaping our growth limits…. These and your list of conundrums are indeed real problems, for sure, but they’re also great levers for tracing down their source!
Nature is simply chock full of uncontrolled physical systems. However human culture has been nursing a magical idea that everything in the universe is controlled by either gods, priests, laws or environments for at least 5000 years it seems.
That’s now getting in our way, as we try to understand a planet going completely out of control… ! To start seeing the solution you might just begin to list the many kinds of things we rely on that need to remain uncontrolled, and individually learning about their own environments, by themselves.
There’s the weather, ecologies, friends, associates, all of life, etc, etc. Nature is chock full of independently learning systems. Their learning is not controlled, it’s discovered or enabled or prevented and things, but not controlled.
Nature’s systems learn for themselves. Science, though, is based on modeling all things in the world as mathematical relations between controlled variables…. I think in a case of discovered error like this the good “due diligence” choice is to just say “Oops… back to the drawing board!”
I went back to the drawing board this one over 30 years ago, and have made a lot of progress. I still meet many of the same barriers you mention, but am getting better at tearing them down or slipping through.
The core problem, though, is that our cultural construct of the world fails to distinguish between physical things and cultural values. That’s how even scientists fail to keep track of whether their words refer to things or values of beliefs, we make a basic learning mistake. We let consciousness represent our own imaginations as reality.
Given the deep natural confusion, and that my own writing is not that good, you’ll need to poke around my website for things that strike your fancy. I developed a whole new scientific method for using physics as a tool for learning about uncontrolled systems, reversing the purpose of models from representing the learning systems of nature as machines to helping you discover what they are learning.
That’s one way to say it. I guess the short piece I’m most pleased with at the moment is “Peak Zucchini”, about the learning tasks that sudden overabundance naturally brings up.
The fact is that in building uncontrolled systems nature uses growth, and quite frequently comes perilously close to wrecking everything, leaving only some narrow path of escape for them to discover. Consider a seedling when it switches from explosive use of it’s little seed of carbohydrates, finding itself a spindly little shoot with only two little almost useless leaves.
That’s when it’s exponential growth ends. Consider an infant in he womb, having multiplied from 1 cell to 1 trillion, doubling in size every 7 days for 9 months. Then it’s REALLY time to leave!! (and be nearly helpless as you start to learn about a whole environment of other living things to interact with).
So… apparently that’s what we need to do mentally, but we’re making the mistake (since we don’t really distinguish) of trying to do it physically, trying to sustain physical growth to escape from our physical limits… Boy, do WE have another thing coming!!
Thanks for bringing it up!!