[Paleopsych] being in touch with reality II -- sustainable lifestyles

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Fri Dec 31 18:06:31 UTC 2004

Over the long term, I think sustainability
depends on our ability to produce the
things we need to sustain life and on
our ability to distribute those things.

Energy income from the sun and the
integrity of the ecosystem which allows
food production are key factors.

Many of us can readily see that living
off the world's energy savings, in the
form of petroleum, is not sustainable.

Not many of us can see that in a world
of money economies we have a serious
problem of distribution of life goods.

Indeed I would say that the main trend
in recent decades has been toward
less distribution rather than more.

We certainly see this in our own
economy, where half of the personal 
income does to 20% of the population, 
and where 80% of the population are 
struggling to maintain their standard 
of living.

For many months our attention has been 
focused on the Reptilian confrontation
in Iraq.  Now this disaster in Asia has
prompted a large exercise in Empathic

If the tidal disaster is followed by an
equally horrific outbreak of disease,
then we may have an example of how
this will play out: local disasters which
leave most of the world relatively

With my roots in the Midwest, I know
that production of crops like corn is
very dependent on a certain set of
growing conditions.  Those growing
conditions seem to be changing, and
so the risk of crop failure may be
increasing.  There is a real possibility
that one day the need to feed ourselves
will lead to a famine in some other
part of the world.  Our hearts will
ache but our hands will do what is
necessary for our own survival.

Steve Hovland

-----Original Message-----
From:	Paul J. Werbos, Dr. [SMTP:paul.werbos at verizon.net]
Sent:	Friday, December 31, 2004 9:14 AM
To:	The new improved paleopsych list; paleopsych at paleopsych. org (E-mail)
Subject:	[Paleopsych] being in touch with reality II -- sustainable	lifestyles

In the end of the last email, I concluded:

But abandoning firm and rigid commitments to nonsustainable lifestyles,
while also not turning humans into robots (trying to repress the 
irrepressible soul,
trying to tie it up like the feet of pampered ancient Chinese women)...
those are among the most obvious elements of the race. If we move too slowly
on these variables, we may be well and truly dead, on earth as it is in 
heaven, as they say.

OK -- so what is a "nonsustainable lifestyle"?

I am NOT saying we all have to head back to the caves.
And I am thinking more of collective sustainability.

An example of extreme nonsustainability -- the old slave-based plantations in
Haiti. The slaveowners there would fight to the death to "avoid change," to
preserve their traditional lifestyle. The slaveowners in the US South would 
do the same.
But in Haiti, they won for a long, long time. In the US, they lost.
Or did they? Look at the lives of the great-great grandchildren of  those 
Sometimes winning is losing, and losing is winning. Or, as some of the 
technical international relations people
have said, "It is sometimes challenging to derive a good measure of the true
long-term national interest." Sometimes "preserving the status quo" is 
a CHANGING situation, whose changes may kill the very people who try to 
preserve them.

In fact... a few decades back, US cities were undergoing a very severe 
demographic shift --
a growth of a kind of welfare culture ... that was every bit as threatening 
as what destroyed the economy
of Haiti. (The racial expression of this is a red herring... an easy way to 
ignore the more inescapable realities.)
A combination of two or three main factors reduced this trend so much that 
we can try to ignore it
(much as safe Victorians and cognitive scientists often tried to ignore 
sex). One was Roe v. Wade,
which empowered poor women to avoid having more children than they could 
reasonably raise and
support. Another was the massive welfare reform under Clinton, which caused 
a lot of pain, but
was executed in the most compassionate way possible, and was essential in 
order to avoid greater
pains. Maybe general improvements in education and health care were also a 
But we should not forget.

Any long-term growth in human population above some nonzero level k would 
in time be nonsustainable,
and force a massive breakdown in the pattern which leads to it. The details 
of the breakdown mechanisms
are complex... but on the whole, if we don't choose a benign and viable 
mechanism, other mechanisms
will appear. In areas like the Middle East, as nuclear technology continues 
to spread... well,
it really ends being a matter of life and death. Positive thinking that 
ignores the realities... well,
haven't we learned by now that the ostrich is not a model to emulate? Or do 
we need
to understand psychology and philosophy better, to remind ourselves that going
crazy or committing suicide really aren't what we want to do? (This is one 
of the roles
of psychology, I guess...)

So... if continued pop growth>k is nonsustainable... we must ask next what 
are the main determinants
of population growth.

Optimistic reports from the UN are NOT one of the determinants. It is true 
that a greater concentration of lawyers
would tend to reduce local fertility :) but this doesn't really reach the 
poorer parts of the world.

  The World Bank (Pauline somebody...) pioneered studies of the 
determinants of fertility
which have stood the test of time, identifying two main factors -- women's 
and full access to health care (yea even unto reproductive choices).

The bottom line: those cultures which would block those two factors are 
They are like the Haitian slave-owning cultures. No, I do not endorse the 
opposite extreme,
of effeminizing cultures that want to weaken males and repress our natural 
energy... but
we need to face up to reality here. No culture -- no fundamentalist culture,
east or west, Christian or Moslem, Jew or Hindu -- which interferes with these
variables is sustainable.  Such cultures may at times grow, like cancer -- 
but, like
cancer, if unchecked, they lead to the death of the entire body, cancerous 
and noncancerous.
We need to appreciate this. (And, yes, on balance, I agree that there are 
spiritual aspects to the
nonsustainability of such cultures as well, but the mundane numbers are 
enough by themselves...)

But... there is a lot we can do, and still be sustainable.

We can still hope to grow economically in a way that substantially 
increases energy use
per capita in the long-term. **IF** we take the trouble to develop truly 
energy sources (of which ground-based "solar farms" and new designs for 
space solar power
are the most definite options), it is clear that we CAN multiply per capita 
energy use
by a huge amount, safely, if the number of "capita" doesn't go astronomical.
And so we could supply the entire world with HDTVs, if they wanted them, 
and so on and so on.
And yes, we can reach out beyond the earth. And we don't have
to become human robots to do it.

Modesitt's book the Ethos Effect is uncanny in its degree of match to some 
aspects of reality
(even as obviously fictionalizing others). It portrays a "Revenant" culture 
(as do earlier book
in that series) which has obvious ties to old Mormon or Moslem cultures -- 
and to the kind
of treatment of women that fits the discussion above. But it also portrays 
a "Taran Republic"
which has disturbing parallels to Rome and to certain forces at work in the US.
(Though Marion Zimmer Bradley has a book Heartlight which has a more 
simplistic view
of the same forces, simplistic but not entirely to be ignored.) Do **BOTH** 
cultures involve a kind of fundamental nonsustainability, like a system of 
axioms which
has accepted a few key premises ultimately guaranteeing a kind of internal
contradiction and collective nervous breakdown? The Sharia --- the "fair deal"
concocted by the Abbasid emperors -- can easily be diagnosed (and in principle
corrected) -- in that spirit. But what about the corruption? The many LEVELS
of corruption all around us? Such as willful ideological blinders... such as
the new role of PACs and... whatever? And ersatz TV preachers and mullahs,
dedicated to their own person sports games without any real respect for the 
objective truth?

I remember a friend studying psychoanalysis who once said :"Actually, those 
old stereotypical
neurotics were much easier to treat. There was hope for them. They had 
ego-structures and
ideas. How do you treat a walking jellyfish?"


Best of luck to us all in the new year and beyond..


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