When you are standing on the edge of a cliff a step forward is not progress. — Anonymous
Our separation from nature — or should I say, our separation from reality as it really is, in all its fullness that is so hard for us to grasp — has now reached global proportions. Reality’s feedback is now coming in the form of increasingly extreme weather, emptying oceans and aquifers, cancers arising from an environmental chemical soup so complex we can no longer track the causal links any more, new diseases that won’t respond to antibiotics and can span continents and seas in hours on jets, and small groups and networks with increasingly powerful destructive technologies at their disposal.
We are rapidly moving into a realm where problem-solving becomes obsolete, if not downright dangerous — especially at the global level, especially when we are trying to preserve our systems, our habits, our identities, our protections and privileges. Because these challenges are not primarily problems to be solved. They are realities to engage with, to come to terms with, to learn something from about who we are in the world, to be humbled by and creatively joined. Yes, joined. Because inside the realities of today are profound lessons about who we need to be next, individually and collectively — about the cultures, technologies, stories, and social systems we need to create and move into.
Medard Gabel was for many years #2 to Buckminister Fuller, and a co-creator of the analog World Game. As a founding director of Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3 Public Charity, he created–and retains ownership of–the EarthGame.
Below are four specific modules that can be used NOW to excite both students and executives about the importance of sustainable design, strategic analysis, and the unity of knowledge–what E. O. Wilson calls Consilience.
Advise the President of the United States in the Presidential Advisor Game learn more …
Save the World
from climate disaster in the
Climate Change Game learn more …
Phi Beta Iota strongly recommends anything and everything that Medard Gabel has created and offers.Give him a call to see how one of his programs will fit into your program today at 610.566.0156!
NOTE: We *will* create the World Brain and the EarthGame, it is only a matter of when, not if. Get started now by engaging Medard Gabel to show you how you can make sense, make strategy, and advance the common good while achieving your own worthy goals.
Van Jones is authentic. He was fired as a convenience by the white-half of Barack Obama, the half that is slicker than goose shit on a hot day. The black half of Obama, the authentic half that “would no more renounce Reverend Wright than my own mother,” that half has been bought off and silenced.
Perhaps your real life is so rich you don’t have time for another.
Even so, the US Department of Defense (DOD) may already be creating a copy of you in an alternate reality to see how long you can go without food or water, or how you will respond to televised propaganda.
The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual “nodes” to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR.
Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a “synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information”, according to a concept paper for the project.
A ‘Second Life’ for NATO Staffers
September 4, 2009
This isn’t the first time NATO has toyed with virtual training programs. In February, they requested a computerized replica of Afghanistan, complete with data on Afghan economics, politics and culture, to be used by war planners in decision-making considerations. And two years ago, the Navy asked for the same thing, but with Iraq as the targeted 3D nation.
Phi Beta Iota: EarthGame by Medard Gabel does all this and more, for no more than $2 million a year, with one caveat: it is unaffordable and unachievable if DoD and NATO insist on everything being Top Secret.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods. . . . . . . .Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tonnes annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed.
Phi Beta Iota: The peresistent refusal of the White House and Congress in particular, all governments in general, to create strategic centers that can provide unclassified decision-support in the context of a strategic analytic model that embraces “true cost” accounting and “cross-policy cost harmonization” means that the USA in particular, and all governments generally, are “dumb” and are therefore in automatic betrayal of the public trust. Current references: Intelligence for Everyone; Fixing the White House;Human Intelligence; The Ultimate Hack.
* Climate change seen hitting poor nations hardest
By Tsegaye Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA, Aug 24 (Reuters) – African leaders will ask rich nations for $67 billion per year from 2020 to cushion the impact of global warming on the world’s poorest continent, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters on Monday.
. . . . . . .
A study commissioned by the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum that was released in May said poor nations bear more than nine-tenths of the human and economic burden of climate change.
The 50 poorest countries, however, contribute less than 1 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say are threatening the planet, the report said.
Phi Beta Iota: What Africa really lacks is a strategic analytic model such as developed by the Earth Intelligence Network. All ten threats must be evaluated and their causes mapped. At the same time, it has been established that the poor do as much or more damage to the environment than do corporations–giving Africa money in isolation from a larger analysis with targetted effects will be a waste–Africa merits both reparations for colonialism as well as strong support for the recapture of the hundreds of billions looted from Africa by its own leaders; AND a planned giving from both organizations and indiviudals, but it must have a strong continent-wide analytic foundation. Not there.
WASHINGTON – Melting ice caps. Drought. Spreading disease. US defense planners view global climate change as a national security threat because it could create millions of new refugees and intensify conflicts over resources.
. . . . . . .
A new debate is unfolding over whether linking climate change too closely with security planning will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, running the risk that the United States will rely too heavily on its armed forces to deal with global problems.
PHI BETA IOTA NOTE: The Co-Intelligence Insittute is one of the Righteous Sites, but it is the ONLY Righteous Site whose gentle fund-raising we specifically endorse. There is no better investment for a given dollar than in supporting Tom Atlee’s inspirational work. PLEASE consider a donation of any amount, $40 is suggested. Robert Steele just gave $250 and usually gives around $1000 a year. Tom Atlee the people’s secretary of collective beneficial intelligence.
Paul Hawken is author of a number of remarkable books whose titles alone contribute to our thinking — titles like SEVEN TOMORROWS, THE ECOLOGY OF COMMERCE, NATURAL CAPITALISM and BLESSED UNREST. Several
years ago he founded a vast, remarkable, interactive database of, by, and for change agents — WISER Earth http://wiserearth.org. He has a uniquely potent clarity about what is happening in the world, what is
needed, and who can do the job (surprise: It’s us!). His passionate clarity was called forth recently in a commencement address he gave in Portland, Oregon (see below).
I sometimes suggest that things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster. Paul mirrors these thoughts: “When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”
He identifies a biological fact that provides perhaps the most important guidance for our individual lives and the conscious evolution of civilization: “Life creates the conditions that are conducive to life.”
Wait a minute… “Life creates the conditions that are conducive to life.” That’s a Really Big Idea. It goes by really fast, but it covers a LOT of ground.
Someday take this idea for a walk and see how many ways you can think of that we do (or don’t) “create conditions that are conducive to life”. Then ponder all the ways we COULD create such conditions more wisely, for more of life. Then perhaps reflect on what this biological reality tells us about who and how we are in the world:
To the extent we “create conditions that are conducive to life”, we are alive, we are serving life, we are part of Life and the way Life is unfolding on this planet — a newly conscious part of the way Life has been evolving here for four billion years…
That takes me to the importance of system-level change — initiatives that seek to transform our cultural stories, institutions and practices… that create wiser measures of success, health and value… that develop forms of power, organization, and decision- making that tap into the best of who we are when we are most alive and connected, individually and collectively. Think about how profoundly such changes impact the conditions that are conducive to life — in our own lives and in the natural world. System conditions are the cultural equivalent of climate: They influence everything at once.
Hawken goes on to say that “Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.” He wonders, “What we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years.” And imagines that “No one would sleep that night.” Then he suggests we are living in the midst of such a miraculous moment: “This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years.”
And he suggests that we — embodied in the hundreds of new college graduates sitting before him — wake up to “the most amazing, challenging, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation.” He invites all of us to grab this most amazing opportunity and run with it.
He invites a new “generation” to generate what’s needed to create the world anew.
Blessings on the Journey.
Click on the photograph to go to the commencement address.
Two officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense look at a changing and challenging world and what it means for the future of American power.
The world is undergoing a profound and lasting shift in the relative balance of power among nations. While the United States will remain the single most powerful nation well into the century, globalization, combined with the rise of new powers such as China and India, will undeniably reshape the contours of global power.1 This evolution in international affairs offers as many opportunities as it does challenges. The challenge for U.S. strategists and policymakers is to develop and implement a grand strategy that can protect our people, preserve our interests, promote our values, and position America to lead during a century of complex change.
A core task of senior leaders at the Department of Defense is to ensure that hard-fought wartime lessons are institutionalized at all levels to win the wars we are in while simultaneously preparing for future challenges-not all of which are apparent today. Finding and maintaining the right balance between these imperatives remains the guiding principle as DOD develops and eventually implements the Quadrennial Defense Review.
In broad terms, America’s recent wartime experience, combined with insights derived from other contemporary conflicts, suggest that the U.S. military will increasingly face three types of challenges: rising tensions in the global commons; hybrid threats that contain a mix of traditional and irregular forms of conflict; and the problem of weak and failing states.
First, as rising nations and non-state actors become more powerful, the United States will need to pay more attention to emerging risks associated with the global commons, those areas of the world beyond the control of any one state-sea, space, air, and cyberspace-that constitute the fabric or connective tissue of the international system. A series of recent events-including anti-satellite missile tests, piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Africa, and attacks in cyberspace-highlight the need for the United States to work with its allies and partners to maintain relative peace and stability throughout the global commons.
Second, America’s continued advantages in traditional warfighting provide powerful incentives for our adversaries to employ a mix of traditional and irregular approaches that span the range of conflict. The 2007 Maritime Strategy was correct to conclude that modern wars are “increasingly characterized by a hybrid blend of traditional and irregular tactics, decentralized planning and execution, and non-state actors using both simple and sophisticated technologies in innovative ways.”2 Defense Secretary Robert Gates has written that “one can expect a blended high-low mix of adversaries and types of conflict . . . being employed simultaneously in hybrid and more complex forms of warfare.”3
Third, as trends ranging from the economic crisis to climate change and globalization continue to put pressure on the modern state system, the number of chronically weak or outright failing states will likely increase. For example, the same factors that may engender the rise of new great powers may also accelerate the decline of other states that-by virtue of poor leadership, economics, and/or geography-are unable to adapt to a new era and meet the basic needs of their populations. Conflict in the 21st century is at least as likely to result from problems associated with state weakness as from state strength.
Sea, Air, Space, and Cyberspace
The problems associated with emerging hybrid threats and weak or failing states are well known to policymakers and analysts, as they are central features in today’s wars. Less obvious are the growing challenges to American power and influence that are associated with how we perceive and use the sea, air, space, and cyberspace.
The architecture of the modern international system rests on a foundation of free and fair access to a vibrant global economy that requires stability in the global commons. Alfred Thayer Mahan was perhaps the first strategist to coin the term, describing the world’s oceans as “a great highway . . . a wide common” in his classic 1890 work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.4
Since the end of World War II, American grand strategy has centered on creating and sustaining an international system that facilitates commerce, travel, and thus the spread of Western values including individual freedom, democracy, and liberty. The construction and protection of such a system was the central pillar of America’s Cold War strategy. NSC 68, the 1950 planning document generally credited with establishing the foundation of that strategy, outlined a two-pronged approach:
One is a policy which we would probably pursue even if there were no Soviet threat. It is a policy of attempting to develop a healthy international community. The other is the policy of containing the Soviet system? In a world of polarized power, the policies designed to develop a healthy international community are more than ever necessary to our own strength.5
Pressure on the System
Ensuring relative stability throughout the global commons remains central to the maintenance of U.S. power and influence in the 21st century.6 However, there is a growing consensus that rising state and non-state powers, combined with continued globalization, will put great pressure on the international system as a whole. While assessments point to a changing world, relatively little analysis has addressed when and how such changes will materialize. We are likely entering an era in which a series of strategic trends will make it more difficult for the United States to sustain stability within the global commons.
Recent trends in several dimensions of the global commons illuminate how the international system is beginning to evolve and change:
* Space: China’s successful 2007 antisatellite missile test spurred a series of responses, including French, Indian, and Japanese declarations of intent to prepare for challenges in space.7 The Chinese test created the single largest debris field in orbital space, posing obstacles to global use of space for decades.8 The United States demonstrated an antisatellite capability in 2008 by destroying an ailing satellite in a deteriorating orbit.
* Cyberspace: Cyber-warfare is increasingly seen as an inevitable component of state and non-state conflicts. Russian use of offensive cyber capabilities in Estonia and Georgia is well known, as is China’s reported use of cyber capabilities. Non-state actors such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah make frequent use of cyberspace as a planning and propaganda tool.9
* Maritime: A host of maritime examples portend future challenges: the 2006 Kitty Hawk (CV-63) incident (in which a Chinese submarine surfaced within the perimeter of a U.S. carrier strike group), recent tensions in the South China Sea (rooted in China’s territorial claims), and China’s continued investment in a host of surface, submarine, and anti-access capabilities; Russia’s claims on wide areas of the Arctic seafloor and increased military operations in the region; the scourge of piracy in and around key sea lanes; and Hezbollah’s use of an advanced antiship missile during the 2006 Lebanon War.10
These examples are indicative of two strategic trends that will pose significant challenges to the United States and its allies:
First, barriers to entry for both state and non-state actors to develop and field capabilities that can pose challenges to U.S. and allied freedom of action will lower substantially over time. The proliferation of knowledge and technology will allow an increasing number of state and non-state actors to deploy anti-access capabilities and high-end asymmetric technologies that can put allied infrastructure at risk and hamper U.S. power projection.
Second, rising powers will not likely be content to simply acquiesce to America’s role as uncontested guarantor of the global commons. Countries such as China, India, and Russia will demand a role in maintaining the international system in ways commensurate with their actual or perceived power and national interests. Such demands are already occurring, from declarations of interest in space capabilities, to indications that the Indian and Arctic oceans will become new global centers of gravity.11
While these trends are already apparent today, their enumeration should not be interpreted to mean that U.S. dominance in, for example, space-based capabilities or in blue-water naval power projection is being eroded at a precipitous pace. Far from it-America’s military will remain without peer for some time in the ability to project and sustain substantial military power from the air and sea over large distances.
These trends are, however, harbingers of a future strategic environment in which America’s role as an arbiter or guarantor of stability within the global commons will become increasingly complicated and contested. If this assessment is true, then a foundational assumption on which every post-Cold War national security strategy has rested-uncontested access to and stability within the global commons-will begin to erode. To assume away or leave these trends unaddressed as we formulate a new U.S. national security strategy and complete a Quadrennial Defense Review would be unwise, increasing the possibility of a future strategic surprise for which we would be unprepared.
The consequences of a shift in the international system that opens the global commons for other state and non-state actors to pursue their interests-and perhaps credibly threaten America’s use of these domains-are likely to be profound, posing challenges to U.S. security strategy and defense planning. To address such challenges, we need to think hard about their operational and resource implications, particularly as QDR deliberations evolve.
Challenges to American interests in the global commons will have serious implications at the operational level. In the maritime domain, for example, a recent U.S. Joint Forces Command report concluded that, unlike in recent operations, the United States may not enjoy uncontested access to bases from which it can project military power:
Given the proliferation of sophisticated weapons in the world’s arms markets-potential enemies-even relatively small powers will be able to possess and deploy an array of longer-range and more precise weapons. . . . Thus, the projection of military power could become hostage to the ability to counter long-range systems even as U.S. forces begin to move into a theater of operations and against an opponent. The battle for access may prove not only the most important, but the most difficult.12
Secretary Gates echoed this concern during his address to the Naval War College in April, stating that potential adversaries do not intend to contest us directly but rather invest “in weapons geared to neutralize our advantages-to deny the U.S. military freedom of movement and action while potentially threatening our primary means of projecting power: our bases, sea and air assets, and the networks that support them. . . . We ignore these developments at our peril.”13
Any state or non-state actor wishing to oppose U.S. or allied forces will look for ways to deter, deny, or frustrate our ability to swiftly employ and sustain combat forces across a variety of scenarios. This is nothing new. What is relatively new is both the scale of the threat posed given the proliferation of advanced high-end systems, and the real potential for non-state actors to employ such technology, as evidenced by Hezbollah’s use of advanced antiship and antiarmor weapons.14 While these dynamics are most clearly at play in the maritime domain, there are similar forces at work in other dimensions of the global commons.
These developments challenge us to think creatively about how DOD can best develop the strategy, concepts of operations, and capability mix needed to meet these challenges.
The New QDR
For example, the QDR is exploring several high-end asymmetric threats of the type described here. Adequately preparing for these challenges may be more about identifying where new operational concepts and discrete investments are needed than in focusing on major shifts in force structure. From a naval perspective, it is clear that several issues need to be addressed, including the future of amphibious landing capabilities, the role of naval unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and the overall mix between ships designed for littoral environments and blue-water surface combatants.
Similar dynamics should influence the debate over how the Air Force pursues more capable unmanned aerial systems and the next-generation bomber. All the services must prepare for a future in which power-projection can be sustained at greater distance than in the past and vulnerabilities reduced through better defense and dispersion.15 These operational imperatives must be balanced with the strategic need to ensure that America’s global posture remains strong enough to assure our allies and dissuade and deter potential adversaries.
Finally, the security of America’s space- and cyberspace-based information architecture has become a matter of national concern. The QDR and other defense and interagency reviews are examining how we can improve the ability to organize America’s instruments of national power to ensure the security of these vital networks. Far more than a military matter, stability and security in space and cyberspace will depend on working with our allies and partners to develop a common framework and advance international norms that can shape the choices and behavior of others.
Opportunity to Lead
While this article focuses on security, it would be unwise to react to the emergence of tensions in the global commons by simply altering the mix of military investments and adapting America’s global network of defense alliances and relationships. They are necessary but insufficient responses to what will be a lasting shift in international affairs. The task for the United States is to respond to these challenges with a whole-of-government approach that advances our interests while legitimizing our power in the eyes of others.16
One way the United States could respond would be to (re)embrace a grand strategy that focuses on sustaining a healthy international system, the maintenance of which is not only central to our national interests but is also a global public good-something everyone can consume without diminishing its availability to others. Such a strategy would essentially update and make explicit what had been a consistent theme in U.S. grand strategy since the early years of the Cold War, but has been underemphasized in the post-Cold War period.
These developing challenges in the global commons also offer the United States a profound opportunity to reassert a leadership role in an area that will only grow in importance. Because stability on and within the global commons is a public good, others have powerful incentives to work with us on issues involving governance of cyberspace, ensuring peace in space, and settling contentious maritime issues. Protecting and sustaining stability throughout the global commons cannot be achieved by America alone.
We must lead in the creation of international norms and standards that can help advance the common good and expand the rule of law in these domains of growing importance. Helping to build the capacity of our partners and allies and working toward a common agenda on these increasingly complex issues should be a critical pillar of America’s national security and defense strategy.
The 21st century will see momentous change in the international system. There is every reason to be hopeful that the shifts under way in the global system can improve the prospects of peace and security. By virtue of its size, geography, economy, and values, the security of the United States is directly related to the security of the broader international system. As the Obama administration prepares a new national security strategy, and as DOD conducts its Quadrennial Defense Review, the time is right to both reframe American grand strategy and rebalance the U.S. military to succeed in today’s wars while preparing for tomorrow’s challenges.
1. See National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (November 2008), and the 2008 Joint Operating Environment: Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force (Suffolk: JFCOM, 2008).
2. ADM Gary Roughead, GEN James Conway, ADM Thad Allen, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (October 2007), p. 6.
3. Robert Gates, “A Balanced Strategy,” Foreign Affairs (January/February 2009).
4. Alfred Thayer Mahan, “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History,” in David Jablonsky, ed., Roots of Strategy: Book 4 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999), p.79.
5. NSC 68, reproduced in Ernest May, ed., American Cold War Strategy: Interpreting NSC 68 (New York: St. Martins, 1993), p. 41.
6. Barry Posen, “Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony,” International Security (Summer 2003), pp.5-46.
7. David Sands, “China, India Hasten Arms Race in Space,” The Washington Times, 25 June 2008, p. A01, Marc Kaufman, “U.S. Finds It’s Getting Crowded Out There,” The Washington Post, 9 July 2008, p. A01. See also Pavel Podvig and Hui Zhang, Russian and Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Plans in Space (Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2008).
8. See Bates Gill and Martin Kleiber, “China’s Space Odyssey,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2007), pp. 2-6.
9. See Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China (Annual Report to Congress, 2009); Shane Harris, “China’s Cyber-Militia,” National Journal, 31 May 2008; Jonathan Adams, “Chinese Hacked Computers, U.S. Lawmakers Say,” Christian Science Monitor, 12 June 2008; Sandhya Somashekhar, “Wolf Warns of Foreign Attacks on Computers,” The Washington Post, 12 June 2008, p. B3.
10. See “The Long March to be a Superpower: China’s Military Might,” The Economist, 4 August 2007, p. 20; Robert Kaplan, “America’s Elegant Decline,” The Atlantic Monthly, (November 2007), pp. 104-112. See “Into the Wide Blue Yonder; Asia’s Navies,” The Economist, 7 June 2008, p. 6; Ronald O’Rourke, “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities-Background and Issues for Congress” CRS Report for Congress, RL33153, 16 April 2008; David Lague, “Chinese Submarine Fleet is Growing, Analysts Say,” The New York Times, February 25, 2008, p. 10.
11. See Robert Kaplan, “Rivalry in the Indian Ocean,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2009), pp. 16-32; Scott Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2008); and Marc Kaufman, “U.S. Finds It’s Getting Crowded Out There,” The Washington Post (9 July 2008), p. A01.
12. 2008 Joint Operating Environment: Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force (Suffolk: JFCOM, 2008), p. 44.
13. Robert Gates, Speech to the Naval War College (Newport: RI, 17 April 2009).
14. Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, “Arming of Hezbollah Reveals U.S. and Israeli Blind Spots,” The New York Times (19 July 2006). See also Stephen Biddle and Jeffery Friedman, The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, 2008); Andrew Erickson and David Yang, “On the Verge of a Game-Changer,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings (May 2009), pp. 26-32; Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China (Annual Report to Congress, 2009); and Roger Cliff, et al, Entering the Dragon’s Lair: Chinese Antiaccess Strategies and their Implications for the United States (Washington: RAND, 2007).
15. Tom Ehrhard and Robert Work, Range, Persistence, Stealth, and Networking: The Case for a Carrier-based Unmanned Combat Air System (Washington: CSBA, 2008).
16. See Joseph Nye, “Recovering American Leadership,” Survival (February-March 2008), pp. 55-68.
Ms. Flournoy is the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Mr. Brimley is a strategist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
COULD YOU SURVIVE WITHOUT MONEY? MEET THE GUY WHO DOES
In Utah, a modern-day caveman has lived for the better part of a decade on zero dollars a day. People used to think he was crazy
By Christopher Ketcham; Photograph by Mark Heithoff
DANIEL SUELO LIVES IN A CAVE. UNLIKE THE average American—wallowing in credit-card debt, clinging to a mortgage, terrified of the next downsizing at the office—he isn’t worried about the economic crisis. That’s because he figured out that the best way to stay solvent is to never be solvent in the first place. Nine years ago, in the autumn of 2000, Suelo decided to stop using money. He just quit it, like a bad drug habit.
. . . . . . .
“Giving up possessions, living beyond credit and debt,” Suelo explains on his blog, “freely giving and freely taking, forgiving all debts, owing nobody a thing, living and walking without guilt . . . grudge [or] judgment.” If grace was the goal, Suelo told himself, then it had to be grace in the classical sense, from the Latin gratia, meaning favor—and also, free.
. . . . . . .
Suelo considers the riches of our own forage. “What if we saw gold for what it is?” he says meditatively. “Gold is pretty but virtually useless. Somebody decided it has worth, and everybody accepted this decision. The natives in the Americas thought Europeans were insane because of their lust for such a useless yellow substance.”
. . . . . . .
HE WASN’T ALWAYS THIS WAY. SUELO graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in anthropology, he thought about becoming a doctor, he held jobs, he had cash and a bank account. In 1987, after several years as an assistant lab technician in Colorado hospitals, he joined the Peace Corps and was posted to an Ecuadoran village high in the Andes. He was charged with monitoring the health of tribespeople in the area, teaching first aid and nutrition, and handing out medicine where needed; his proudest achievement was delivering three babies. The tribe had been getting richer for a decade, and during the two years he was there he watched as the villagers began to adopt the economics of modernity. They sold the food from their fields—quinoa, potatoes, corn, lentils—for cash, which they used to purchase things they didn’t need, as Suelo describes it. They bought soda and white flour and refined sugar and noodles and big bags of MSG to flavor the starchy meals. They bought TVs. The more they spent, says Suelo, the more their health declined. He could measure the deterioration on his charts. “It looked,” he says, “like money was impoverishing them.” The experience was transformative….
+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++
There is a rich literature that decries “Rule by Secrecy” and “Rule by Scarcity.” There is an emerging literature on the importance of Open Money and the implications of recalculating wealth in time-energy (Buckminster Fuller’s notion), in terms of “true cost” to future generations, and in terms of humanity–feelings, emotions, the articulation and expression of beauty, instead of materialistic excess.
The Digital Natives now reaching adulthood coiuld well be the Cultural Creatives on steroids, armed with hand-held devices more powerful that repressive weapons, armed with notions that would resonate with the Love generation of the 1960’s, but also with those of the Mayans who worked only 60 days out of the year to maintain family, community, and civilization.
There is more than enough wealth to allow every person on the planet a good life with food, shelter, and the instruments for thinking. Our challenge is to use public intelligence in the public interest, to overcome the information asymmetries and the data pathologies that are endemic in the Weberian system of bureaucracy as a means of hoarding knowledge and controlling behavior.
The best behavior comes from shared values within shared wealth. It’s time we inherited the Earth and fulfilled humanity’s promise, to be the connector of dots to dots, dots to people, and people to people, here on Earth and beyond–with 100 million galaxies, we are quite certain there at least ten, if not more, planets with intelligent life on them. We will not go so far as to suggest that they are watching us and that we scare them for our war-mongering, thoughtless misbehavior that impoverishes the many for the benefit of a few, but we should live each day as if we were indeed being judged by a larger force.
Is our government acting in the public interest? Are banks allowed to charge 29.9% interest, banks that exist because they are chartered by our government, in the public interest?
Our national intelligence is lacking. Public intelligence must make up the deficit.