Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 64

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE ECOSYSTEMS HAPPENS WITH US (*)

I have never quite understood people who talk about “the environment” as a kind of appendix and something to protect because some humans happen to like nature.

We are embedded in our local, regional, and global ecosystems. What happens with the ecosystems happens with us. There is a direct and inevitable connection.

Taking care of our ecosystems is not a luxury. “The environment” is not a kind of distant appendix.

The local, regional, and global ecosystems provide everything we need to live and they do so for billions of other species and beings as well.

It seems obvious. So why do some pretend there is a kind of separation?

I am not sure. I guess a big part is that it’s more convenient. It allows them to go about their life without considering how they impact the ecosystems, and how the deteriorating ecosystems will impact their lives and the lives of their children.

WOKE? (*)

For me, “woke” means putting myself in someone else’s shoes and taking the consequences of it.

It’s not a label I would put on myself, but if someone did, I would embrace it. (As I would explore embracing any label since here is a grain of truth in just about any.)

And if “woke” goes a little far sometimes, that’s natural and understandable. It’s the pendulum swinging back. And it’s people who have been marginalized wanting to take a little more space.

Of course, the anti-woke views also often have some validity. It’s just that in the bigger picture, I would much rather have woke going a little too far than the reverse (continued marginalization and oppression).

WHY I LOVE DIVERSITY (*)

Why do I love diversity?

We live in a diverse world so the diversity is already here. It’s not anything manufactured or new.

I learn and discover a lot from all the different perspectives and cultures.

There is wisdom in different cultures that’s valuable for us all, and perhaps even necessary for our survival.

It feels far more comfortable to live in a society and culture that embraces diversity. I am in a minority in some ways, as most are, so it allows me to feel more included.

It’s a reflection of embracing my inner diversity. And I want to find love and appreciation for all the different parts of myself. That too is more comfortable.

It just feels better – to treat others with respect, appreciation, and understanding. (It means I treat parts of myself in that way as well.)

BLAME THE VOTERS (AND NON-VOTERS)

To me, it’s puzzling when I hear people blame politicians or minority groups for problems that could be solved (or changed) with policies.

Don’t blame the politicians or minority groups. If you want to overlook systemic problems and instead blame someone, blame the voters. Blame the ones voting for parties with priorities that created the situation you don’t like. And blame the non-voters for not getting involved.

That’s where the responsibility lies.

Why do some like to blame politicians or minority groups? Maybe because they can put the blame “out there” and onto a convenient scapegoat? Maybe they don’t want to think about it very thoroughly?

Maybe it’s uncomfortable for them to blame themselves, the ones they talk to, and the people they know?

JUNE 11, 2023

NORWAY’S SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS

Since my teens in the ’80s, I have seen Norway’s big-picture policies as naive and short-sighted.

Norway is, in many ways, a banana republic. We depend on oil to fuel our economy and society. And we all know that the age of oil is over.

So why not use that oil money to build an economy for the future? Why not invest in renewable energy research, expertise, and industry? Why not invest in research and expertise that supports the inevitable transition in this country and globally? Why not do this on a massive scale, when that’s clearly the way to go?

Norway could do it. We could be at the forefront of this transition. We could shift our own economy to be an economy of the future.

And we are not doing it. The efforts put into this are minimal compared to what’s possible.

It seems almost unbelievably short-sighted.

We know the age of oil is over. We know some of how the future looks. So why not be at the forefront when we have the resources to do so?

JUNE 12, 2023

SWITCHING SKIN COLOR IN DRAMAS

We obviously have a long history of switching the skin color and ethnicity of historical and fictional characters.

For instance, in Europe, Jesus is depicted as European. And in Africa, often as African.

These days, there is a public conversation about this, which is high time.

One current series depicts Cleopatra as black, while Hollywood movies in the past have depicted her as European. Bridgerton depicts many in the past nobility of Britain as non-Europeans. Mallory Towers includes a large number of non-white students in an English post-war boarding school. And so on.

It’s interesting that some, who are fine with non-Europeans depicted as Europeans, are upset when the historical inaccuracy goes in the other direction.

I see the validity in both of the main sides of this argument.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with historical accuracy. Depict Jesus as a Middle-Eastern jew. Cleopatra as Mediterranean (Greek-Persian). And so on.

And since so many non-Europeans have historically been depicted as Europeans, why not switch it up? Why not give them other ethnicities? At the very least, it sparks some pondering and conversation.

When it comes to depicting non-whites in a historical setting that was overwhelmingly white, I also see the validity in both sides of the discussion. It’s good for us to see non-whites in these settings since it normalizes ethnic diversity in all settings. And it’s good to be more historically accurate, including showing racism at play, since it reminds us of an ugly past.

As I see it, there is more than enough room for both.

BED COVERS

I have been curious about the habit in Norway of using duvets even in the summer. It seems that many use it, even when the weather is warm. I assume this is because of tradition.

For me, even a thin duvet is typically too hot. Unless it’s very cold, I prefer a sheet and one or two blankets. That gives me a lot more flexibility in regulating the temperature. If it’s warm, a sheet is enough. If it’s slightly cool, I may use the edge of a wool blanket over my mid-area. Colder, and I may use one or two full blankets. And if it is very cold, I’ll use a duvet.

To me, that’s a more flexible and comfortable solution.

DEMOCRACY WITHIN AND WITHOUT (*)

Why is there a focus on inclusivity in society and in ourselves these days, at least, in the Western world?

Why is there a focus on being real, authentic, and embracing and being open about whatever is going on with us?

It’s not only because it works, and it’s more comfortable.

I assume it’s also because we live in a (relatively mature) democracy.

We are used to democracy in society, so why not also in ourselves?

Also, living in a democracy with some focus on inclusivity also makes it easier to be more authentic, and real, and embrace more of who and what we are. There are fewer repercussions, and we may even find that people love it.

This is one of the many blessings of democracy. It allows us to (more easily) find a democracy within.

Note: An authoritarian society in the world and in us is less comfortable. Fewer voices are heard. You risk being punished just for being who you are or saying things as you see or experience it. We reject and punish sides of ourselves. It’s also less wise, in general, since important voices and views are repressed. That’s not to say that democracies are perfect or that people in democracies don’t make stupid decisions. They obviously do. (Just look at the US electing Trump, Brexit, and the general inaction about our ecological crisis.) But more voices are heard in democracies, there is more of a feedback mechanism, and there is a better chance of changing and making better decisions.

JUNE 15, 2023

POPULATION AND SUSTAINABILITY

When it comes to creating a sustainable way of living for humanity, there are two major parts to the equation. One is how we organize ourselves. And the other is population.

If we have a small population, we can afford a way of life that’s not completely sound ecologically. At worst, we can move somewhere else. That’s what many of our ancestors did. They moved around according to the seasons, or over the generations.

And if we have a higher population, we are held to much higher standards. We have to live in a way that’s much more finely worked out and in tune with the ecosystems we live within and depend on.

Today, with a very high global population and a way of life that’s not at all aligned with ecological realities, we have created a very difficult situation for ourselves.

In spite of strong warnings from scientists, most people don’t seem to be aware of this. Many may have a vague understanding of it, but not enough to make or support the changes needed.

So what can we do? As I often mention here, it’s all about our collective will. Where there is a will, there is a way. We know many of the solutions, but we haven’t found the collective will yet.

Will we find it in time? It depends on what we mean by “in time”. It’s already too late for the ones who have lost their lives because of our ecological situation. It’s too late to avoid serious damage to our ecosystems – that happened decades and centuries ago. It’s too late to prevent massive problems in the future, including massive die-offs of many types of species, including humans.

And what are some of the solutions? The main one is to thoroughly transform our economy and economic framework to take ecological realities into account. We have to create a system where what’s easy and attractive, for individuals and corporations, is also ecologically and socially sound. And where ecological damage has severe costs to those creating it. Within this framework, with have all the smaller technological and social solutions we are already familiar with and some that are yet to be developed.

[Made into a regular article]

JUNE 16, 2023

A MORE SOBER VIEW

Not surprisingly, Western media and analysts like to focus on the weaknesses of Russia, maybe because it makes them and their audience feel better. It’s of course important to know about those. But it’s also important to not underestimate someone with hostile intentions. It can backfire to focus too much on their weaknesses. It’s better to take a more sober and nuanced view here as in life in general.

And, of course, serious analysts do exactly that.

JUNE 17, 2023

AN ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS NOT NECESSARILY MY FRIEND

These days, it’s clear how many non-western countries support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and some anti-western Westerners do the same.

To me, that seems profoundly misguided.

An enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

I may not like the US foreign policies (which include destabilizing regimes and invading other countries), or all of what NATO does, or Western imperialism in all its many forms.

And although Putin and many Russians share that dislike, that does not make Putin’s invasion of Ukraine correct or something to defend. It’s still an invasion of a sovereign country. It’s still a completely unnecessary action. It’s inflicting a huge amount of suffering on large numbers of people. It’s ethically profoundly wrong. It clearly harms Russia and the Russians. And Putin’s Russia is not much to admire with it’s authoritarian and oppressive policies.

Of course, I am coming from my Western values here. I value democracy and sovereignty. Globally, many don’t share these values, which is a big reason why they like Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

RESOURCES ABOUT RUSSIA AND THE WAR

Here are some resources about Russia and the Ukraine war that I have followed for a while now:

Anders Puck Nielsen – Good analysis of the politics of the war (Danish)

Vlad Vexler chat – informal musings about Putin and Russia from a political, historical, and philosophical perspective (Russian / Israeli / British)

Vlad Vexler – same but more worked through videos

1420 by Daniil Orain – a brave young Russian who interviews people on the streets in Russia, very informative (Russian)

Denys Davydov – daily updates on the military situation (Ukrainian)

JUNE 22, 2023

MEAT, HEALTH, AND ECOLOGY

The Norwegian government released new dietary guidelines with the health of humans and the ecosystems in mind.

In short, they recommend eating whole foods, eating low on the food chain, avoiding processed foods, and avoiding alcohol (there is no safe lower limit to alcohol intake). (This is the way I have mostly eaten since my teens.)

To me, this seems like basic common sense. It’s what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It’s the type of food our ancestors lived on and our systems are designed for.

And, predictably, to some, it seems highly offensive. Are you telling us we can’t eat meat anymore? That we shouldn’t enjoy alcohol? That I can’t have my snacks and pizza?

There is also a discussion specifically about meat. The guidelines recommend reducing the meat intake as much as possible. Some point out that there is disagreement among scientists if red meat is problematic for our health. And although that’s an important point, it’s also missing the point.

Meat production is one of the biggest causes of deforestation, and it generally has a huge impact on our ecosystems. Our obsession with eating meat is one of the largest contributors to our collective and individual ecological footprint.

The guidelines explicitly take both health and ecological sustainability into account. Reducing our meat intake won’t harm our health. And it will help us reduce our ecological footprint.

And in the bigger picture, it is intimately connected with our health. Without healthy ecosystems, we cannot be healthy.

[Made into a regular article]

JUNE 22, 2023

FINDING SIMPLE TOUCHSTONES

It’s not possible for any of us to go in-depth in learning about everything.

So we need to find simple touchstones.

Here are some for me:

Most conspiracy theories concern topics that are far less serious than what we all know is happening, so I don’t even bother with them. I prefer to focus on the major serious issues in our world these days: Our ecological crisis and social disparity.

There were many reasons to not support Brexit. (Britain would still have to follow many EU laws and regulations if they were to trade with the EU, they benefited hugely from EU subsidies, many British companies trading with the EU would leave Britain and move to an EU country, they would lose the collective bargaining power of the EU, and so on.) An obvious one was the public figures actively supporting it: Trump, Putin, Farage, Boris Johnson, Lawrence Fox, and so on. Most of which are fueled by hatred. That, in itself, would make me seriously question Brexit.

When it comes to health, I look at evolution. How did our ancestors live?

These are not perfect touchstones, but we do as best we can.

JUNE 23, 2023

CLIMATE CHANGE

In the ’80s in Norway, they showed a fictional documentary series (Året 2048) about the future of climate change. I was a teenager at the time, and I remember a conversation with a teacher in high school that reflects how I still see it.

He wanted to discuss whether there is human-made climate change or not. And I said: “It doesn’t matter. We have to make those changes anyway.” He disagreed and wanted to discuss it as if it matters.

Obviously, it does matter since it can give some impetus for change, if – for some reason – our general colossal non-climate-related ecological crisis is not enough.

And for me and many others, our general non-climate-related ecological crisis is enough. We have to transform into a sustainable civilization if we are to survive, whether there is climate change or not, and whether it is human-made or not.

Climate change is one aspect of our massive ecological crisis. And the crisis has a simple cause: Our population numbers combined with an economy and society that doesn’t take ecological realities into account. We can’t do much about our population numbers quickly enough, but we can transform our society if we find the collective will.

Are we going to find that collective will? Likely not before we are even further into our ecological crisis than we already are. And definitely not in time to prevent massive disruption.

Note: There is also a second reason it doesn’t matter. Most people don’t assume their house will go up in flames, but they still pay for insurance. That’s the same with our climate. If there is even a tiny possibility of human-created climate change, the consequences are so severe that we need to do what we can to prevent it.

JUNE 24, 2023

INTERNAL FRACTURES IN RUSSIA

The Russian regime is obviously weakened by the drain of the Ukraine war and the visible incompetence of the Russian military (although it seems they are learning). Many have predicted that it could lead to an internal fracturing in Russia with private armies going rogue, provinces fighting to leave Russia, and so on.

This morning, we woke up to the news that Prigozhin’s Wagner group is marching towards Moskow with the explicit purpose of replacing the heads of the Russian army. (Which many Russian soldiers may sympathize with.) This, in itself, may lead to a fracturing in Russia. And if it doesn’t, there may still be a fracturing, it may just take longer.

There are a few possibilities here.

The main story in western news media is that Prigozhin means what he says and has the intention of entering Moskow and somehow bring about a change in the military leadership. It’s a fascinating and confusing story. It’s difficult to see how he imagines to suceed and what his end-game may be. It seems out of character for someone with as much experience as him. (Unless he has solid and reliable support from people high up in the Kreml and the military.)

It seems likely that Prigozhin is using this as a bargaining chip in order to get something he wants from Putin. He has thrown verbal tantrums in the past and succeeded, and this may be a tantrum in a different form. His march on Moskow has little chance of sucess. But he is certainly getting Putin’s attention, and he is in a position to get something out of a bargain.

It’s even possible that Putin has given Prigozhin permission to do what he is doing. Putin cracks down hard on anti-war critizicm. And he clearly allows critisizim from pro-war ultra-nationalists who think he hasn’t gone far enough. The latter make him seem more moderate, and they give him leeway to take it further if and when that suits him. He allows their views because it serves him. In this case, what would Putin get out of it? At least, a very good excuse to make his regime even more authoritarian and even more strongly crack down on (unprofitable) dissent.

In either case, it’s just one more example of the bizareness of the whole war and what’s going on in Russia. A crazy (authoritarian) regime creates crazy conditions which leads to crazy situations.

Update: In the evening, the Wagner group withdrew after some kind of deal with Putin. The situation is still unclear to outsiders.

Update June 25: I saw a 1420 video of interviews with people in Moskow about the situation. There was the usual range of responses, from people saying life is good and they are apolitical and don’t have an opinion (how can you not have an opinion when a hostile army is marching towards your city?), to people repeating the official Putin line (which you would find more of outside of the main cities), to people not wanting to answer (honest and probably smart), to a few obviously unhappy about the war and the situation in general (mostly young educated people).

Update June 26: A few more pieces of information have come out that helps make more sense of this bizarre situation. One was actually well-known weeks ago, just not by me: The Wagner group was going to be incorporated into the regular Russian army, which seems a bad idea all around, and Prigozhin was predictably not very happy about it. That makes it very likely that my main guess on the day was accurate: He used the whole uprising melodrama as a bargaining chip to get something out of it personally. The other piece of information is that his family was apparently threatened, which may have been one reason why he retreated before entering Moskow. He likely would have retreated anyway, and it may just have been one more reason to do so.

JUNE 27, 2023

WEAKENED PUTIN?

Western media likes to say that Putin has been weakened by the cancelled rebellion. It’s possible, of course. But it’s also likely that his many supporters in Russia see it as a successful squashing of a rebellion, and him as an even stronger leader.

Western media, in general, seems caught up in wishful thinking. It’s as if they didn’t learn anything from how they reported on Trump. Like clockwork, some scandal came up related to Trump, and the media said: “this will be the end of his political career”. And it either had no impact or strengthened him. The same may very well be the case with Putin, in this case.

Many in the western media also seem to think that a political crisis means that the Putin regime will fall. That’s obviously not true. Countries and governments regularly go through crises without falling apart.

NOT EVERYONE SHARE OUR VALUES OR WORLDVIEW

Western (liberal and educated) commentators seem to assume that the rest of the world – including Putin and most Russians – share Western values and our ideas of what’s rational and not. And that’s just not the case. Trump and his followers has showed us that. And the same is the case with Putin and his supporters in Russia and in the non-Western world. We live in different worlds. We cannot assume that they will see it the same way as we do or react as we would in their situation.

JULY 1, 2023

THE RIOTERS WILL NOT WIN?

A French minister said: “the rioters will not win”. This is following mass riots in response to yet another young man killed by the police in France, and the French government and police doing little to nothing to prevent further police brutality and killings.

Of course, I don’t support violence or destruction of property. But I do support the protesters. They should win. They absolutely should, since winning for them means that the police violence and killings is taken seriously and strong measures are put in place to reduce and prevent it in the future.

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