[I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, and the September issue of Scientific American finally provoked me. They talk about exceeding our evolutionary limits, living beyond 1oo, manipulating ourselves to be smarter (but no mention of wiser), and so on. So, another long essay.]
The term appropriate technology was popularised after E. F. Schumacher’s pivotal work Small is Beautiful. Schumacher argued against the modern economic pathology of endless physical growth, which of course cannot continue on our finite planet. He argued further that some technology only promotes endless growth, or it distracts us from more important things in life, and is therefore not beneficial. Technology that supports a fulfilling life and is compatible with a steady-state or slowly shrinking physical economy he called appropriate technology.
As for technology, so for science. A common assumption by scientists is that if a challenge is there then it is fair game to address it. In fact it is commonly presumed that freedom of enquiry, a central ingredient of an open democratic society, justifies such an attitude. However we need to recognise that such freedom comes with responsibility. This seems to be recognised regarding human cloning, for example, where strong legal and social restrictions have commonly been imposed.
I have plugged along with trying to get my message out for many years now. I created this blog over three years ago so my deathless prose wouldn’t just vanish into the aether, and have slowly built a modest following for it, getting occasional pieces published in more public places along the way.
This past week I have had an episode of doubt, including feeling depressed for a day and a longer surge of bodily stress indicators. This was triggered by a confluence of events that I’ll get to. The result is I’m not sure it is worth the effort and aggravation – the effort to provide an alternative to failed mainstream economics, to raise awareness about global warming, and to maintain a voice of informed decency amid the growing cacophony of brutish, ignorant ranting. The aggravation of feeling ground is being lost. Perhaps I should reduce my aggravation level by stepping back and letting things flow for a time.
I am writing this because I don’t mind connecting with you at a personal level, but also to suggest that if you think you see worthwhile things here then perhaps you could help to spread the word, or make serious suggestions to that end. More about that below.
More about ANU and its School of Music, this time published in the Canberra Times.
What is a university supposed to be? GEOFF DAVIES wonders if Ian Young knows
The determination of Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young to downgrade the School of Music leaves serious doubts that he understands what a university is. His stated reasons are still unconvincing, and leave the suspicion of an unstated agenda. The rest of ANU must be concerned.
English: ANU School of Music, LLewellyn Hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
[Although this is a relatively local issue, it is symptomatic of the venality of the neoliberal dominance of Australia and much of the world. The Vice Chancellor of ANU recently proposed to downgrade the School of Music from top-class performance to vocational training. Published in City News 5 June.]
Defenders of the Australian National University School of Music have come up hard against the utilitarian attitudes of the ANU Council, which refused last week to question the Vice Chancellor’s plan to gut the School. The Council is a politicised body, and Australian politics has itself largely lost interest in excellence.
The Nature of the Beast: how economists mistook wild horses for a rocking chair.
Mainstream free-market economics fundamentally mis-identifies the nature of market economies. Its record is of retarded growth followed by disaster. It counts costs as positives instead of negatives. It is blind to how the present banking system destabilises the economy. It is relentlessly materialistic and adversarial. It ignores most of what we know about real people and the real world.
The result is pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, and the unstable, inequitable, undemocratic, destructive and unsustainable mess known as the global economy.
The Nature of the Beast draws out the real nature of market economies using modern knowledge of systems, human behaviour, ecology, biology and physics. It points the way to stable, prosperous, democratic market economies that can support people, societies and the living world into the indefinite future.
[We happened to witness a demonstration last Thurday, “Australia Day”, which commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet, with convicts, and so of course also marks the beginning of the dispossession of Aboriginal people. I gather pictures of our Prime Minister being dragged by a security man have gone around the world. I have sent this account to media, we’ll see if it gets a run.]
The bias, hysteria and divisiveness of our public political conversation is never far from view, but this week I encountered it first hand. I watched the Aboriginal protest unfold at The Lobby restaurant. The event reported in the media and reacted to by many commentators is a lurid parody of what actually happened. Perspective and balance are hard to find.
A complete manuscript of The Nature of the Beast is available for comment. It is under a password, so as not to upset potential publishers, and so I can keep track of who is looking at it. I would love to have feedback of any kind.
Use the Books and Downloads menu above, or go here.
A sample, the first 16 pages, can be downloaded without password.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has at last begun the effort to explain her carbon price policy, but all agree she has a lot of ground to regain after scoring yet another spectacular own goal for Labor, this time by announcing a price on carbon without having any clear policy on compensating households. This while facing a Leader of the Opposition who will say and do anything for a populist scare campaign, his biggest bogey of all being a great big new tax. It is not so hard to think of how to present the issue to the public, as a journalist and a blogger demonstrate. Why cant Labor?
Labor has form, as former PM Kevin Rudd also scored a spectacular own goal last year by walking away from the greatest moral challenge of our time, global warming. Then there were the running sagas of home insulation, green loans and so on, which could and should have been explained, fixed and continued but which became such a political liability they too were abandoned. Labor has displayed staggering ineptitude.
The big winners in this election are the Greens and Informal. The informal vote rose by more than the Liberal vote, and between a fifth and a quarter of first preferences (counting informals) did not go to the major parties. Clearly the message from many voters to the major parties is a pox on both your houses.
The reasons for this alienation run much deeper than deposed leaders, poor communication, shallow spin, backroom boys, misleading and mendacious claims and stilted performances. These are all symptomatic, but the real problems are the ossification, lack of principle and systemic corruption of both major parties.
You might say our present dire condition is just the consequence of human nature, about which not much can be done.To this I say yes, but its due to the worst of human nature, not the best of human nature, and that implies there is something we can change: we can shift the values by which we live.