The Zeitgeist Movement UK – February Newsletter

Welcome to the TZMUK newsletter for February 2014, the time of year when the PR machine puts on its cupid wings to seduce the population into Valentines day consumption – in the hope that we can give that credit card one final squeeze before the financial year end. There’s nothing quite like a touch of pseudo-romantic C.V.D. to fuel one more instalment of…

feb-newsletter

 

In the UK, Charities have expressed their disappointment after the government’s controversial lobbying bill squeezed through the House of Lords on Tuesday, 28th Jan despite fears it could limit freedom of speech in the run-up to an election.

Many voluntary groups and trade unions have been campaigning against the legislation, branding it the “gagging bill”, because it would put new restrictions on how much they can spend while campaigning on political issues before an election. What democracy indeed!

Ministers were forced to back down in several areas after peers rejected key parts of the legislation. But later the government won votes on two amendments and tied on another, meaning the bulk of the original proposal will pass into law.

In a last-ditch attempt to frustrate the bill, Lord Harries, who chairs the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement representing more than 100 groups, warned it would be a “bureaucratic nightmare” and accused ministers of imposing a “huge regulatory burden on campaigning groups”.

Meanwhile – and some might say right on schedule,  the association of chief police officers has asked the home secretary to approve nationwide use of German-made water cannon for the first time – to meet on-going and anticipated protests against austerity measures.  These weapons would be of the same type that blinded retired engineer Dietrich Wagner, whilst participating in a peaceful Student fees protest in Stuttgart in September last year.  Deployment would create a difficult position for many police officers, who serve on the basis of an oath that binds them to:-

‘solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property…’

There still doesn’t appear to be much evidence of a UK version of the USA’s oath keepers. Perhaps this will be the year when all that starts to change!

On the weather front, Britain is being swamped and battered by floods and storms of biblical proportions. Large areas of Somerset have been underwater since Christmas. For perhaps the first time in human history, we greet the rising waves with the realisation that the wrath of nature is unequivocally in response to human mismanagement of it. But rather than looking for a modern-day Noah to start building an ark, our response has been to impose austerity cutbacks on the Environment agency, and promote fracking as a means for renewed economic growth.

Lord Smith, the head of the agency has warned that we must choose to protect either our towns or countryside – as we can’t afford to do both.

China has been increasing its gold reserves by several thousands of tons. The only possible source of such amounts is the USA. This would indicate that China is no longer willing to accept the vulnerable dollar in payment for the huge amounts owed by the USA for imports, and that emptying their bullion vaults – literally selling the family silver – is the only option left open to the Americans.

And 154 years after the end of the opium wars, China is also set to enjoy a boom as cannabis is legalised in the US state of Colorado, buying more than half of all Cannabis-related patents covering both recreational and medicinal uses for the drug. Let’s hope Colorado doesn’t run out of gold too soon…

In the USA’s Silicon valley, as yahoo and Microsoft announce they have left open back doors in their software products, it is estimated that these products are up to 1000 times weaker than originally planned. The new scientist states that these planned vulnerabilities are available to anyone who is aware of them.

And according to The FBI’s new mandate, the agency has stopped enforcing the law and is, instead, ‘protecting national security.  It remains to be seen whether any security advantages gained by US agencies through such policies will outweigh the estimated $180 billion lost in export revenue due to spying fears among would-be foreign customers.

In a foretaste of what’s to come for Britain’s fracking industry, tax payers in the US state of Wyoming’s are left with a clean-up bill of $Millions as drilling companies declare bankruptcy and leave 1,200 abandoned gas wells. Several thousands more may be abandoned as the companies use bankruptcy to rescind their environmental responsibilities.

And back to the weather, record breaking sub-zero temperatures struck large parts of the USA in January, with every state except Hawaii affected. Populations of several states were warned it was too dangerous to venture out of doors. The Mayor of Indianapolis warned that if you don’t wear the right clothes you could be dead in ten minutes.

After Prince Charles spoke out recently against climate-change deniers – branding them as a bunch of headless chickens – , the American Care2 campaign group released an article illustrating that snowstorms do not disprove climate change: –

“As the Earth gets warmer and more moisture gets absorbed into the atmosphere, we are steadily loading the dice in favor of more extreme storms in all seasons, capable of causing greater impacts on society,” says scientist Jeff Masters. “If the climate continues to warm, we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where it’s too warm for it to snow heavily.”

Okay, that’s a scientist’s perspective. Maybe you’d prefer to hear politicians’ and pundits’ anecdotal experience instead? Here are four notable figures who will have you believe that just because temperatures haven’t stopped going above freezing altogether that global warming must be a hoax:

1. Donald Trump

On January 1st, Trump tweeted, “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bulls*** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”

How dare environmentalists interfere with the rich’s ability to make more money! (Why is it only considered “expensive” when it’s a detriment to businesses that can afford it?) Call off the activists because it’s cold!

As for the scientists stuck in the ice, they didn’t exactly freeze into place. Science writer Chris Mooney explains that they got trapped after ice broke off from a glacier — the result of climate change.

2. Sarah Palin

“Global warming my gluteus maximus,” Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page. This comment was attached to a photo of her child playing in the snow. Most Alaskans wouldn’t assume that snow had to disappear from their state altogether and abruptly for global warming to be valid, but most Alaskans also aren’t the former Governor…

That, or it’s a talking point that Palin is milking for effect. The year before, Palin posted a picture of a different child in sub-zero temperature and similarly asked, “What global warming?” Funny how she didn’t make a similar point during the state’s record warm streak that year.

3. Jim DeMint

A few years ago, then South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint tweeted a similar sentiment: ”It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle’.” Get it? Surely the former Vice President will be forced to admit his global warming platform is a charade now that a foot of snow is on the ground!

Fortunately, Gore hasn’t given up his environmental crusade. As for DeMint, after serving in Congress for 14 years, he resigned last year to head The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that will allow him to continue sharing his climate skepticism.

Incidentally, The heritage foundation and wall street journal have recently published their list of economic freedom report. Even under the belligerent conservatism of these institutions, The USA is now placed in 12th position – 3 places behind Ireland.

4. Rush Limbaugh

Shock jock Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the recent cold weather surge with a slam of his own. On his show, he said, “I would love to see Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Hillary sitting outside on the 50 yard line of Green Bay the whole game, and then afterwards do a presentation for us all on global warming.”

As Mother Jones points out, the winter in Wisconsin is not indicative of the weather elsewhere. In the Southern Hemisphere, currently experiencing its summer, the temperature is hovering around 120 degrees Farenheit in Australia.

A Trojan horse to transition?

At present TZM’s two main pillars are the NL/RBE global vision, and the educational activism for nurturing/spreading that vision together with the value-shift needed to enable it. As we know, one of our biggest barriers is getting the average Joe to accept that such an ambitious vision is achievable, and many Zeitgeisters have probably given up in despair after all that ‘utopianist’ ridicule.

But perhaps there is a more subtle and elegant way to reach the minds of the mainstream population.

In partnership with charities, social entrepreneurs and public bodies we could set a goal that would appear more practical and feasible to most: a robust, simple, embryonic form of resource-based economy that can be launched in a short timescale with achievable levels of investment – launched publicly as a charitable safety net for communities whose populations are becoming increasingly disenfranchised under present challenges.

Perhaps more critical still could be its role in serving as the incubator for the shift in cultural values needed to move us forward to the next chapter.

Rather than attempting anything too conspicuously ‘space age’ to the population, the project could begin in a form more akin to the ‘dig for victory’ campaign of world war 2, which was a key program for ensuring the British population remained immune from food shortages resulting from German military action. Families were instructed to dig up their gardens, erect hen-houses and grow vegetables. Even the grounds of Buckingham palace were turned into allotments.

In addition to local food production, our program would also be designed to offer other life essentials – namely renewable energy production, a household goods library (supported by 3d printing workshops), rainwater capture, and the free exchange of local professional trade skills, with local plumbers, builders, electricians, doctors etc offering free services locally  – especially in the event of an economic collapse.

Since local schools are used as polling stations, with each serving as the democratic hub for its own polling district, they are a natural choice as key partners, offering their facilities for use as venues/co-ordination centres for local chapters of this project. Each school hall or one or more classrooms could host regular project sessions at weekends or during weekday evenings without disrupting the school’s main function.

TZM is already in contact with many specialist groups who specialise in particular technical areas – such as incredible edible, food banks, Reprap, open source ecology etc, and there are countless others such as the Eden project and Ellen McArthur foundation who could get involved if we presented them with a professional social enterprise business plan. Therefore we should be in a strong position to attract many capable players into this project, with each taking ownership of their respective areas of expertise.

Remember that such an initiative would also tick all the right boxes for  ‘Big society’, since the public sector would welcome any initiative that genuinely seeks to relieve them of the increasing financial burden of supporting the unemployed, elderly and vulnerable.

Hence it would be a ‘Trojan horse’ for transition – changing the system from within – with the support of the establishment.

Once such a project was running, communities would have the ability to share and develop technical ideas (3d printed design files, aeroponics structures etc) with other communities and the opportunities for development through open-sourcing are obvious. Online solutions such as www.VocalEyes.org already exist that could act as community/stakeholder engagement tools to empower the communities involved.

Needless to say, this self-enforcing work in progress would be an exponentially more powerful platform for promoting TZM’s train of thought than any promotional tool we have now, as TZM’s vision would become progressively more difficult for the establishment to dismiss.

…So let us begin

There are 6,300 people receiving this newsletter – nearly ten people for each local authority in the UK. So let’s get this message out to every one of them and make a suggestion that they will find most appealing in helping them achieve more with less funds:-

Each Local authority must by law operate a Local Land and Property gazetteer (LLPG) which is a comprehensive database of all Land property in the borough. This dataset has the potential to form the basis for a global resource management system.

Below is a letter to be addressed to the ‘LLPG custodian’, who is usually based in either the planning services or IT section.

And please get in touch on www.tzmuk.com/contact-us to share the feedback you receive: –

Dear Sir/madam,

I would like to propose a project which I feel could be of immense benefit to the public health of our community, and help the council meet its future goals more efficiency with the funds you have available. Please share this proposal with your officer in charge of Public health observatory initiatives and any other officer to whose field you feel it may be relevant.

Please let me have any feedback you are able to give on how you feel this idea may be moved forward.

Project Proposal – The LLPG as the basis for a community economic safety net program

Introduction

Worldwide, the public sector faces growing challenges ahead on both the environmental and economic levels in continuing to fulfilling its role in supporting the needs of its citizenry.

This proposal is presented as a logical, non-political response to those challenges. It is designed to optimise the efficiency with which a local authority and its partners /stakeholders can utilise the resources at their disposal to promote and safeguard the public health and social sustainability of their populations.

This solution would use the Local land and property gazetteer (LLPG) as the logical spatial data structure to underpin a program to engage the local community, and provide them with a comprehensive inventory of resources needed to optimise their self-sufficiency in the provision of food, energy, goods and other life necessities. The program combines the emergency planning function, the Big society initiative, the food banks initiative and other social enterprises under a single Robust and cohesive mechanism for social concern.

The challenges we face

The main challenges facing modern society as a whole may be summarised as follows: –

Physical Limits to economic growth

The world’s economic system requires perpetual growth to remain in operation. The money supply is borrowed into existence through loans, and disappears again as loans are repaid. But since interest is also incurred on top of any sum borrowed, there is always more money owed than there is in circulation to repay it. Hence every year more money has to be borrowed than the last to cover both capital and interest repayments – ad infinitum.

Hence the population is mathematically locked into an accelerating demand for material consumption that the Earth’s resources cannot sustain indefinitely. World governments have had to continually increase their deficit spending for some decades to ensure uninterrupted growth and counter the effects of technological unemployment and increasing demands on pension funds as the population lives longer.

The austerity measures now being applied in the UK, USA and mainland Europe, show that the availability of public money for social concern is becoming restricted due to the growing pressures from the need to service growing national debts. An interesting talk on the limits to growth is given by journalist and author Richard Heinberg:  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQyHtZLLN6M&feature=player_embedded#!

Technological unemployment

As technology advances exponentially, ever more capable and versatile systems are becoming available that are able to replace human labour with unmatched efficiency across a growing range of sectors in industry. Employers have no choice but to grasp opportunities for making efficiency gains whenever possible in order to remain competitive. Displaced workers have shrinking opportunities for sustainable re-employment overall as industry is becoming more technically efficient in producing and distributing more goods and services with less workers needed.

Although the UK Government has recently made progress in reducing unemployment figures overall, a recent report commissioned by The Joseph Rowntree foundation shows that more working people than ever before are below the poverty line as they have had to accept low paid, part time work.

Hence we are already experiencing the rise of an unsustainable trend as a shrinking pool of taxable employees are required to meet a rising demand for public benefits – further exacerbated by the fact that the average pensioner is now living far longer into their retirement that the welfare system was designed to cope with. A thought-provoking and well-sourced documentary illustrating how technological unemployment is impacting on the UK, titled “will work for free” can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SuGRgdJA_c

Resource depletion

A number of key resources are in decline across the world – such as available fresh water, agricultural land (due to erosion and salinization) and biodiversity. Declining fish stocks are another well-publicised example, but perhaps the most significant phenomenon to consider is peak oil. The exponentially rising overhead costs of oil extraction since 2005 support the assertion that this was the year of peak oil – the point in history when oil production reached an all-time maximum in production levels before entering an irreversible decline.

It has been calculated that the remaining recoverable reserves of oil may already be insufficient to produce the energy  needed to generate the necessary GDP to pay off today’s levels of Global public and private debt. First-world countries are heavily dependent on oil production to keep supply chains in operation – not only for transport, but also for production of fertilisers, packing materials and essential materials. Each calorie of food purchased in the west requires some seven calories of fossil fuel consumption to produce.

This challenge is exacerbated by a rapid rise in the standard of living in emergent nations such as China and India, where hundreds of millions of people currently leading a rural subsistence lifestyle are anticipating the acquisition of their first modern homes, complete with mains electricity, white goods and cars. It is almost certain that the resources needed for such a transformation are beyond the Earth’s capacity to provide. An interesting talk on the topic of the implications of our resource consumption is given by former US government energy advisor Jeremy Rifkin:  –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9wM-p8wTq4&feature=share

Climate change

As we are seeing, extreme weather events are becoming a norm across the world, with record levels of flooding, storm force winds, heatwaves and forest fires affecting the globe. The international panel on climate change recently published a report showing an unequivocal 95% probability that these events are the direct result of carbon emissions from human industry.

Apart from global warming and its widely publicised effects, there are another eight, closely-related critical planetary boundaries as defined by the 28 internationally renowned of scientists of the Stockholm resilience centre. These are Ocean acidification, reactive Nitrogen pollution, excessive Land use, biodiversity loss, Ozone depletion, Chemical pollution, fresh water consumption and atmospheric aerosol saturation. For details, see http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/research-programmes/planetary-boundaries.html

Any one of these boundaries if pushed beyond its scientific threshold would have deadly consequences for the long term survival of the 7 Billion people alive today across the globe, and to achieve a steady-state of sustainable planetary health is mathematically impossible under an infinite growth consumption driven model.

On The bright side

To counter the rather negative message conveyed by the points above, innovation in science and technology is providing ever more viable opportunities for meeting the needs of the entire human race – sustainably. Some of these innovations are illustrated in the video “will work for free”

Therefore, what we most need to solve our problems is access for all to technical solutions that can allow us to meet our needs sustainably.

The logical response for a local authority

When we consider the above challenges in combination, the following imperatives become clear for local populations: –

  • They must seek to minimise their reliance on global supply chains and become as self-sufficient as possible in the localised production of food, energy, water and essential resources.

  • They must aim to ensure they can operate sustainably under all boundaries defined by the natural physical limits of their environment – and those of the planet as a whole.

  • They need to make use of the most efficient methods and technologies available with which to manage, process and recycle available resources.

  • They need to build relationships with a wide range of different professional partners and stakeholders to ensure the viability of their sustainability initiatives.

  • They need to create and maintain a cohesive and comprehensive system of information and communication to coordinate their sustainability initiatives.

  • They must seek to maximise social inclusion, intrinsic motivation and collaboration, and to encourage the continuous sharing and developing of ideas for enhancing the technical efficiency of the initiative.

  • They must design their initiatives to scalable, and to accommodate the needs of growing numbers of people as the effects of technological unemployment and other emergent socio-economic factors increase over time.

  • The natural initiator of such an initiative would be the local authority, since they will already have the infrastructure, resources and connections to put the essential elements of the project into effect

The technical solution

The aim of this project is to: –

  • Engage with all people across a Borough who find themselves underequipped to properly meet their needs or those of their families.

  • Give people access to resources to enable them to become skilled and pro-active in the production of life supporting resources to meet the needs of themselves and elderly and vulnerable people of the borough.

  • Develop a communication network to allow people within and between projects to share and develop ideas for making their operation more productive and technically efficient over time.

  • Engage with partner and stakeholder organisations who can provide land, technology, training, financial support, skills, motivation, knowledge and other resources needed to make the project function.

  • Provide a showcase of self-sufficient living skills, technologies  and ethics that can form part of the education agenda for local schools, and invite the active participation of children in numerous areas.

  • Minimise the local population’s financial dependence on the public sector in the long run – and provide immunity to the adverse socio-economic effects described above.

Areas of specialisation

Some of the different programs operating within the initiative could include

The information infrastructure – As mentioned, The local Land and property gazetteer has the potential to function as the basis for a comprehensive geographic information inventory for connecting people to real-world resources. With many people providing up to date information on projects across a borough or county, a very powerful management and enabling tool could be maintained for the benefit of the project and the local authority’s internal functions.

The LLPG could run in conjunction with an online stakeholder engagement platform, specialising in connecting people with different programs and allowing them to most effectively participate and share, develop and crowd-fund ideas that benefit the running of the programs. An example of such a system is www.vocaleyes.org which is operational across several colleges in west Wales.

Food production – The council and its partners would provide suitable areas of land that can be developed into orchards, allotments, permaculture gardens, poultry houses and aquaculture ponds. Other sites could be developed as coppice woodland as a renewable source of wood for biomass stoves and construction uses.

Additionally, over time, more technically sophisticated and efficient farming technologies could be developed on these sites, such as hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic greenhouse units and mushroom farm units. These could benefit greatly from collaboration with the energy production and 3d printing units. An interesting talk on the potential for aquaponics technology is here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nIL9hWW3-Q&feature=youtu.be

Volunteers from the food project could perform the function of collecting green waste from households and wood ash from biomass burning stoves to provide compost for agricultural nutrients. Over time, this team could evolve into a function for processing local sewage and converting it into compost for orchards and biomass woodlands.

Other volunteers from this group could liaise with food banks and other charities to ensure fresh food produce is distributed to elderly, vulnerable and needy residents.

Energy production – This function could be divided into different areas of renewable energy production.

One team could specialise in the production and installation of wind turbines, another in solar panelling and another focusing on wave and tidal possibilities in coastal areas. Another team specialising in biomass stoves could work closely with charities providing warmth for the elderly in winter, and could also liaise with parks and gardens to collect brush wood suitable for use as fuel.

Participants in the program, as well as learning production and installation skills could be given additional support in installing solutions in their own homes and those of the elderly to maximise their energy efficiency and self-sufficiency.

3D printing workshops

This program could operate from local schools during evenings and weekends, with participants developing and sharing a comprehensive library of 3d print files for producing useful household objects. The 3d printing function could also provide technical components for renewable energy and urban farming systems – reducing costs for all areas of operation.

3d printers can use plastic waste recycling bins as their source of raw materials. A short video made in 2010 on the potential for RepRap, a British open source 3d printing system is shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUB1WgiAFHg

Household Goods libraries

3d printed household goods and second hand donated goods could be made available for borrowing to local residents, who could borrow and return a wide range of objects free of charge in the same manner as library books.

These libraries could operate from church halls or council buildings when not in use, and could also provide a convenient site for people with no computers of their own to go online to engage in educational programs.

Skills bank

Local skilled professionals could register with this group if they are willing to provide or exchange their skills free of charge to local people who need them. This could include medical care, building services, IT training, or the skills that would be most in demand in an emergency situation.

Anyone contributing skills through this program could also have access to the benefits made available from other areas of the initiative.

 



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