Sun > Earth = Abundance

Between 1927 and 1983, the architect and philosopher Buckminster Fuller wrote and spoke often about the logic of a cumulative and self-accelerating ephemeralization of the products of all encounters between human knowledge and technology. As Fuller explained in his book Critical Path, when Magellan’s crew completed the first maritime circumnavigation of the globe, the journey had taken 2 years; when the first steam ship did it, it took 2 months, the first airplane 2 weeks and the first orbiting space capsule 2 days. We are now a lot faster on all fronts.

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8 Steps to Fuel Free Sustainable Democracy

We can build a 100% fuel free full-spectrum sustainable democracy.

With 8 conceptually simple, and practically far-reaching framework upgrades, we can accelerate the pace of change and motivate a paradigm shift in the way we address climate destabilization, without any command-and-control or dubious financial wizardry:

  1. Full-spectrum sustainable communities (FSSC)
  2. Calculation of climate debt amassed to date
  3. Focus on speeding over the horizon tech to market
  4. Smart grid
  5. Solar highway infrastructure
  6. Maximum flexibility in clean fuel choice
  7. Grassroots-capacitative Fuel Free Media Network
  8. Citizen leadership on federal policy-making

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Answers for Crafting National Carbon Pricing Plan

There is a new bicameral Carbon Fee coalition in the House and Senate. The coalition is led by Rep. Waxman, Sen. Whitehouse, Rep. Blumenauer, Sen. Schatz & their respective staff, and they are asking for public comment.

Here are the four questions upon which the legislators are seeking particular guidance:

  1. What is the appropriate price per ton for polluters to pay? The draft contains alternative prices of $15, $25, and $35 per ton for discussion purposes.
  2. How much should the price per ton increase on an annual basis? The draft contains a range of increases from 2% to 8% per year for discussion purposes.
  3. What are the best ways to return the revenue to the American people? The discussion draft proposes putting the revenue toward the following goals, and solicits comments on how to best accomplish each: (1) mitigating energy costs for consumers, especially low-income consumers; (2) reducing the Federal deficit; (3) protecting jobs of workers at trade-vulnerable, energy intensive industries; (4) reducing the tax liability for individuals and businesses; and (5) investing in other activities to reduce carbon pollution and its effects.
  4. How should the carbon fee program interact with state programs that address carbon pollution?

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The Sandy Chronicle: Our Humanity Matters

Here’s the thing: Superstorm Sandy was water, wind and motion; it was convergence; it was what happens when climate systems come together and collaborate to make the unbelievable happen. The hybrid superstorm altered the entire calculus of local and national government across a region. Our priorities were altered, and many lives will never be the same. The frailty, the vanity, the ephemeral nature of our built environment, came into stark contrast.

There are important ways in which Sandy makes us see what we might not otherwise have noticed:

  • In New York City, for instance, it is now clear that gas stations can sell more gas during a crisis of this magnitude, if they have gas-powered generators to back up their electricity supply.
  • The value of maintenance—especially with respect to 1) transport infrastructure, 2) electric grid infrastructure, 3) mobile communications redundancy, 4) building service supply infrastructure (heat, hot water, electric)—cannot be overestimated.
  • Preparedness Matters.
  • Electrified water not only starts fires and can consume neighborhoods; it kills on contact.
  • As the Roman stoic philosopher Epictetus always already knew: there are certain factors involved in our experience over which we have little to no control; knowing which are which can be a matter of life and death.
  • Tunnels can and will flood; tunnels can and should be sealed in case of flood emergency.
  • Building the electric transport future means we need to build more resilient electric power delivery systems, with more layers of redundancy, more localized generation, more flexible power sourcing.
  • It turns out people want to help people and will do so when motivated—by Mother Nature, by the needs of others, by conscience and by the example of others.

We find that people are the ones who labor to help people. While the natural order puts fragile human lives on the line, and ideologically motivated or materially focused politicians quibble over process and pet peeves and secret deals, ordinary people come to the rescue of ordinary people.

One of the greatest stories of the Superstorm Sandy saga has been the volunteer work. Specifically:

  • Occupy Sandy has arisen as a new operation for the original Occupy Wall Street media outlets, which have been used to not only locate and share information about hotspots of serious need, but also to organize spontaneous pools of volunteers.
  • Volunteers from the Gulf Coast have come with supplies, expertise and open hearts, telling anyone who will listen that they recall the eagerness and aplomb with which volunteers from the northeast rushed to the Gulf to help after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill; even members of Congress have vowed to reinforce that grassroots inter-regional partnership among citizens and communities.
  • People taking interest in their communities are helping to inform the city, state and federal governments, along with utilities and emergency workers, where to go and what to do to maximize or optimize their impact on disaster relief.

The state of New York is now asking for a $30 billion supplemental spending package to help New York City and Long Island recover from the disaster and “harden” the built environment against extreme weather events. Something is happening to the climate, and it is threatening to undermine the normal functioning of civilization as we have known it. Public authorities are waking up, and citizens are demanding government that works.

New Jersey’s governor even talks about raising taxes to pay for disaster relief and future preparedness.

Let’s Build Something

The US economy is struggling to fully emerge from the Great Recession. Even as Wall Street barons and multinational corporations rake in record profits, job-creation is still slow, and credit is tight for most people and most businesses. It is time to start capital flowing by actually building something new, which just happens to be a necessary step toward building a better, more prosperous future.

The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that if we continue to fail to maintain and upgrade our decaying infrastructure, we will see economic output depressed by $3.1 trillion over ten years, and lose over 800,000 jobs. Opportunity costs could be still higher, and some economists believe we have literally millions fewer jobs today than we would were we to invest seriously in infrastructure.

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To Create Jobs, Innovate; Don’t Favor the Least Imaginative

We will not fall magically into a rising tide of job creation, just by depriving ourselves of services and privileges we have built into our way of life and on which our prosperity depends. And we will not create jobs by privileging those industries that are doing the least to innovate. Innovation is the American way; it is what the nation has always struggled to accomplish, and it must be the cornerstone of a new job-creation boom.

It may be that moments of grave economic pressure put grave strain on a culture’s ability to give voice to and to share a common understanding of core values. It may be that after the financial collapse that struck in 2007 and 2008, the US is facing a crisis of conscience and a struggle to regain its identity. We need to remember that we can take the reins of the 21st century economic landscape, and build the economy of tomorrow.

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Oil Subsidies are Not Smart Spending

Oil as a combustible fuel is a 19th-century improvement on the 18th-century paradigm of burning coal to produce steam to run industrial machinery. The efficiency and portability of carbon-based fuels, in terms of the built-in energy they can store and which is released when they are burnt, has long been the driving factor in their popularity as an energy source. But new technologies are now making it possible to produce large amounts of portable energy sustainably, with none of the atmospheric damage resulting from the burning of carbon-based fuels.

In 2008, the five most profitable companies in the world were oil companies, their annual profits ranging from $20 billion to over $45 billion. No commercial entity in the history of humanity had ever made such immense profits. In 2009, two of the top 5 were banks, largely because oil companies’ profits had fallen as prices came back down to earth. In 2010, it again looks like oil companies were the most profitable businesses on the planet. They do not need subsidies to survive.

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Food Security is an Ethical & Economic Imperative

Food security is a central consideration of any intelligent international economic or security policy. Whether the focus of discussion or the trigger for a possible crisis is water scarcity, land use and soil erosion, ecosystem collapse, fuel or grain prices, political legitimacy or military conflict over resources, the systematic depletion of vital resources is a practical deficit no single interest or ideology can solve.

Food crisis, obviously, means human crisis, and so the scarcity of resources needed to provide sustenance puts at risk the stability of whole political systems, spanning nations and regions. We don’t need to be environmentalists to see clearly how such instability affects the security of our own economic opportunity, or even the affordability of our food supply.

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Renewable Energy is Not an Ideological Issue

There is nothing ideological about the issue of renewable energy resources. Proponents tend to care about the health of the natural environment, which motivates their wish to see renewables replace high-polluting fuel sources like oil and coal, but the technologies, the fact of their economic viability and their usefulness for society at large, are not in any way a matter of ideology.

Neither is there anything ideological about the allegiance of some to carbon-based fuels. The considerations are entirely practical on all sides, and we need to remember this as we try to find consensus on how to move forward, responsibly, as a civilization, in terms of our relationship to energy and the environment.

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