The Problem with Everything

The problem with everything is that human beings have a tendency to take the short term self-interest choice over the long terms self interest choice. We are, for some reason, wired for it. I understand this, but I’m having a hard time explaining it in words.

Let’s say there is an apple tree next to a town. The tree provides enough apples for everyone. Perfect, right? Wrong. Every person in the town will feel a little bit of an urge to hoard or to take more than their fair share. Will they all do it? Probably not. I believe there is an intrinsic altruism built into some people – maybe altruism is the wrong word – maybe golden rule practicality is the phrase I need to use here. So, the golden rule crowd will realize that they don’t want anyone to take their allocated share, so they won’t take more than their share – it’s a sort of long term self-interest but it comes out as looking like altruism in the short term. If there are people who are genuinely altruistic – they are exceedingly rare – I would suggest that there are only long term self interested and short term self interested people. There are also those who are playing a different game – they give up their share for some percieved benefit. There are many such – pity, honor, respect, or something else. The bottom line is that everyone looks at the apple tree and sees a benefit for themselves – and if the consequences outweigh the rewards for keeping everything even – everyone will have their share of apples.

But we all know that the world does not work like that. Those who seize the advantage early, generally have less consequences than those who do not. Some people realize that and are watching for that opportunity. In any event – the apples become a problem because some people are taking more than their fair share so others are getting less than their fair share. Cause and effect.

The headman of the town – whether appointed by strength, ability, or election – it doesn’t matter. A person steps to the fore and says the apples are a problem now – so we need to make some rules about them…and not everyone agrees. The person taking too many says something like “I work harder to take the apples so I deserve more” and the person getting too little says “Just because I am shorter, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the apples growing higher” and the person who is canning the apples say “I am taking apples that would otherwise rot and making them into something that will keep” and everyone has a reason why their self-interest is more important than the other people’s self interest.

So, assuming a Kansas cattle grazing war doesn’t break out over the apples, rules are made and people are given the job of making everyone keep to the rules – which of course fails because the people keeping the rules suddenly have an advantage that will be expolited by themselves or by those smart enough to seek to exploit the advantage. So, ultimately, some people are left hungry, some people get fat, some people get rich, and others become poverty stricken. The poverty stricken and the hungry say “Hey, what about our interest?” And the rich and fat say “Why should we have to take care of those who don’t or can’t work as hard as we do?” And everyone is ultimately fucked because eventually, a cold, poor, hungry person cuts the apple tree down to use as firewoodpor simply to even the playing field so that no one has any apples.

The End.

What if, however, there was a way to change the way people think? What if, instead of focusing on the short term self interest, there was a way to get them to focus on the long term self interest? In that case, the apples would be harvested by all, the excess would be canned, and the needs of all would be met by the work of all. Wouldn’t that be awesome if something like that could happen?

The problem is that it can’t. Humans are short sighted, selfish, and ultimately unable to work together for a long term collective good.

And that’s the problem with everything.

Schools are not safe in the USA – Nowhere in the USA is, actually

Another child murdered in a school today in the USA. 8 years old – doing nothing but going to school. I keep thinking of someone telling me it is irresponsible to travel overseas with my child – too dangerous – yes, but not as dangerous as staying home and sending my child to school. I blame this on capitalism – pure and simple. Guns are a business, government is a business, education is a business, crime is a business – people are the raw materials. Capitalism has turned us into resources- anyone ever asked you what you are worth? How do you answer? In cash. We sell our time, we sell our energy, we sell our health, we sell our safety – and the buyers are the masters of capital. We could have a society where people are safe, taken care of, fulfilled – but instead we have a society where some people own other people and we are measured (like it or not) by how much credit we have. Shylock’s Good Man wasn’t good in deed, but good for a debt – and that is how we are judged. It’s no wonder that people lose track of their intrinsic self worth and the intrinsic self worth of others. It’s no wonder that madmen are stealing guns from stores called Armageddon and sending manifestos of revolution to billionaire presidents. How long before someone lights themselves on fire in a way that starts the fire that burns this society down? Not sustainable. Capitalism is not sustainable.

2017 World Happiness Survey – Thoughts on Happiness

There are a lot of very short news stories about the Global Happiness Survey – most of them read something like “Norway is the happiest country in the world” – and then they talk about the top ten countries and the places and the place of the USA and the bottom two or three countries and maybe how countries shifted from the last survey. When you read the actual report, there is a lot more to it. Here is the link to the full report: https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdsn-whr2017/HR17_3-20-17.pdf

On page 122 of the report (yes, it is nearly 200 hundred pages long) what I consider to be the most revealing chapter begins – it is titled “The Key Determinants of Happiness and Misery” – it begins with this:

This chapter is directed at policy-makers of all kinds—both in government and in NGOs. We assume, like Thomas Jefferson, that “the care of human life and happiness … is the only legitimate object of good government.”1 And we assume that NGOs would have similar objectives. In other words, all policy-makers want to create the conditions for the greatest possible happiness in the population and, especially, the least possible misery.

Which sounds great but which is obviously not true. Policy makers in 2017 want money and power for their financial backers. The problems with the world are well known and easily solved – if that were what those in control wanted to do. They do not. And to prove that point the last paragraph of the chapter:

To conclude, within any country, mental health explains more of the variance of happiness in Western countries than income does. In Indonesia mental illness also matters, but less than income. Nowhere is physical illness a bigger source of misery than mental illness. Equally, if we go back to childhood, the key factors for the future adult are the mental health of the mother and the social ambiance of primary and secondary school. The implications for policy are momentous.

If we wanted to have a better world filled with happier people, we would be focused on taking care of mental health, ensuring that mothers (and fathers) had the support they need to be good parents, and that schools were creating the type of atmosphere which brings about psychologically healthy and confident individuals – instead of factories that create workers filled with fear, anxiety, and depression. Simple. Business does not create happiness, nor does war/defense, nor do jobs, nor do any of the other things we spend trillions of dollars on. Security in childhood, healthcare, and education. That’s it.

This report is a treasure trove of information about creating a happier planet like this:

The effect from the increase in the numbers of people having someone to count on in times of trouble is by itself equal to the happiness effects from the 16-fold increase in average per capita annual incomes required to shift the three poorest countries up to the world average (from about $600 to about $10,000).

From my point of view – this fact alone shows why the two working parents, dog-eat-dog, get out when you are 18, take care of yourself, ‘sorry, I can’t help you’ society of capitalism in the USA is leading to unhappiness, stress, anxiety, overeating, alcoholism, and drug abuse/overdose. We can’t count on each other here. People give lip service to being there for their families, but in my experience (in my awful family) when it comes time to put their actions where their mouth is, Americans turn selfish. My wife’s family in Morocco mean it when they say you can stay as long as you want or need to, they mean it when they tell you that their home is your home, they are there for you in whatever capacity they can be – without excuses. They are not rich – they work hard to survive – but I know for certain that they would never turn away a dear friend or family member even if it meant they had to work harder. When I think of them in comparison with myself or my family, I feel ashamed – and I should. They are poor and they suffer in their poverty, but they are happier than most Americans I’ve met.

And…one last quote just to drive home a point

Overall, the chapter concludes that falling American happiness is due primarily to social rather than to economic causes.

Watch Bill Gates Drink Water That Was Sewage 5 Minutes Before | IFLScience

More than 2 billion people across the world are affected by not having access to clean water or proper sanitation, resulting in the death of over 700,000 children each year. Solving this problem isn’t as simple as installing sewer or septic systems, as they require more energy and infrastructure than could be effectively maintained in many developing countries. Waste from the latrines most commonly used in these areas are left untreated and merely dumped into local rivers and other bodies of water, where it will contribute to the spread of disease.The latest venture from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to resolve this problem by creating a wastewater treatment method that eliminates disease-causing sewage from the environment and converts it into clean, drinkable water. The steam engine-powered device is called the Omniprocessor, manufactured by Seattle-based Janicki Bioenergy. The Omniprocessor can convert human waste into clean, drinkable water in a matter of minutes, while producing energy to incinerate the remaining waste solids and leave 250 kilowatts to spare. The resulting ash does not have an odor and will not contain disease-causing microbes.Using the waste from 100,000 people, the Omniprocessor will produce 86,000 liters of water per day, enough for 43,000 people. Though there is a deficit in supply and demand, this will be a tremendous relief for people in these areas. This isn’t meant to be strictly charity, but a means of creating self-supported economies.“If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry. Our foundation is funding Janicki to do the development,” Bill Gates wrote on his blog, Gatesnotes. “Our goal is to make the processors cheap enough that entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries will want to invest in them and then start profitable waste-treatment businesses.”The pilot Omniprocessor will be installed in Dakar, Senegal later this year. There are over 2.4 million people in Dakar’s metro area, with 24% living without electricity or running water. Gates notes that this will not be a quick fix to such a widespread problem, but it is a good start.Of course, anyone can sit around and talk about how great this system will be. Gates, understanding that actions speak louder than words, decided to show his confidence in the efficacy of the Janicki Omniprocessor in no uncertain terms: by drinking water that had been raw sewage just five minutes prior.

via Watch Bill Gates Drink Water That Was Sewage 5 Minutes Before | IFLScience.

In the Land of the Lotus Eaters – New York Times

On the islands farther from anywhere than anywhere, Hana is a community farther from anywhere than anywhere…

hanafisherman

THE ocean crashed hypnotically as the Venus of Hana yoga gently gave her commands. “Let the sun rise over the crater,” she said, her arm arching into an ethereal halo over her head. She read a poem by Mary Oliver, sang awhile and instructed us to extend our buttocks toward Hana. We closed our eyes, dimly aware of the wind rustling through banana leaves.

Then our yogi, Erin Lindbergh, summed up how it feels to spend a slow Sunday morning on the edge of the earth in a tropical nirvana where all of nature seems to be on Viagra. “There is a bowl of flowers in your heart,” she said.

Nearly 40 years ago, her grandfather — Charles A. Lindbergh — became one of a multitude of seekers to be smitten by Hana, on the east coast of Maui. He is buried in a swamp mahogany coffin at the Hoomau Congregational Church in Kipahulu, not far from his granddaughter’s yoga studio, his now-mossy grave rimmed by beach rock. Like the manic hordes who form a human chain in rented Mustangs and PT Cruisers on the Hana Highway, fleeing chain-hotel sterility on the “other side” of Maui, the legendary pilgrim of the skies was restlessly searching for serenity, a sacred sense of apartness.

To his granddaughter, who recently moved from Montana, and bears an uncanny resemblance to her grandmother Anne Morrow Lindbergh, this remote fleck of paradise some 52 miles, 617 hairpin curves and 56 one-lane bridges away from the nearest city possesses mana, “a life energy,” an unseen spiritual force.

“Hana appeals to the calmer side of one’s being,” Sunni Kaikala Hueu, a Hana native, has written. “Some say that Hana is almost medicinal in nature — a quiet vibration that is felt.”

The vibes can be profound, all right. Where else but in Hana — its fabled highway the approximate width of a suburban driveway — is it possible to encounter traffic jams beside “hidden” waterfalls as tourists pose for Coming of Age in Samoa shots with cellphones? Where permaculturally inclined off-the gridders live in New Age treehouses and make bike-powered smoothies, while across the street in a community kitchen, a tiny 80-something kapuna in pink pedal-pushers peels boiled taro the old-fashioned way: with an opihi, or limpet, shell. Continue reading “In the Land of the Lotus Eaters – New York Times”

21 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

from Co-op America

21 Things You Didn’t
Know You Can Recycle

CAQ73 Garbage. Americans produce more and more of it every year, when we need to be producing less.

Even the most waste-conscious among us can feel overwhelmed by the amount of household waste that goes beyond what municipal recyclers and compost bins can handle.

That’s why our editors have spent the summer investigating the state of waste management in our country, and putting together information for you, our Co-op America members, explaining how we can get serious about the three R’s – reducing, reusing, and recycling. Supporting members of Co-op America can expect to receive this issue of the Co-op America Quarterly this fall. If you’re not already a supporting member, join us now to get this special issue mailed to you.

1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances, www.goodwill.org, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN, www.recycle-steel.org.

2. Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110, www.batteryrecycling.com.

3. Cardboard boxes: Contact local nonprofits and women’s shelters to see if they Boxcan use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes at your local Freecycle.org listserv or on Craigslist.org for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, UsedCardboardBoxes.com accepts them for resale.

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they’ll work like new: 888/454-3223, www.auraltech.com.

5. Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. ShirtsDonate wearable women’s business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, www.dressforsuccess.org. Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, and save money on a new fall wardrobe and back-to-school clothes.

6. Compact fluorescent bulbs: Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling: www.ikea.com.

7. Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won’t be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at www.findacomposter.com.

8. Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at www.ban.org/pledge/Locations.html.

9. Exercise videos: Swap them with others at www.videofitness.com.

10. Eyeglasses: Your local Lion’s Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses Glassesare reground and given to people in need.

11. Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340, www.epspackaging.org/info.html

12. Ink/toner cartridges: Recycleplace.com pays $1/each.

13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local Freecycle.org or Craigslist.org listserv, or try giving them away at Throwplace.com or giving or selling them at iReuse.com. iReuse.com will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.

14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000, www.recycleoil.org.

15. Phones: Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell Cellphoneit to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, www.collectivegood.com. Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: www.donateaphone.com. Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927, www.reclamere.com.

16. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249, www.playitagainsports.com.

17. “Technotrash”: Easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, cell phones, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk’s Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK, www.greendisk.com.

18. Tennis shoes: Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. www.nikereuseashoe.com. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. www.oneworldrunning.com.

19. Toothbrushes and razors: Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from ToothbrushRecycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber. Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms’ yogurt cups. 888/354-7296, www.recycline.com.

20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25, call 866/33-TYVEK.

21. Stuff you just can’t recycle: When practical, send such items back to the manufacturer and tell them they need to manufacture products that close the waste loop responsibly.