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.
ONE OF THE FLAWS OF MANY CONSPIRACY THEORIES: OVERLOOKING THE OBVIOUS
Yes, it seems that many who are into conspiracy theories don’t know much about history or society. They seem to overlook the well-known and obvious, or they present it as if it weren’t universally known. (Likely because they didn’t know about it before so it looks new to them.) And they often overlook far more serious things than what they are focused on. For instance, they may think that the problem is some group of people or corporations, while the actual problem is in the system as a whole. The system that we all are part of. We all participate in it. We are all part of the problem. It’s not just someone else.
There is something real and well-known that’s far more serious than what just about any conspiracy theory is about, and that is our ecocidal and suicidal civilization. We have lived in global ecological overshoot for decades, and at some point, we’ll hit the end of the metaphorical savings account and it will all come crashing down. Nothing is more serious than that. It’s well-known and out in the open. Why not be focused on that instead?
PEACE -> LESS RELIGIOUS
I see some folks on social media posting this and implying or assuming that the directionality goes less religion -> peace. To me, that seems a bit simplistic. Getting rid of religion is not only impossible, but it’s very unlikely to bring more peace. Most conflicts that go along religious lines have little to do with religion and everything to do with ordinary politics and history. For instance, the conflicts in Northern Ireland are not about religion, it’s about the Irish wanting their country back from English occupiers, and they just happen to have different religions. Similarly, when you see Islamic extremist groups, it has little to do with religion and a lot to do with understandable desperation and anger due to the effects of Western imperialism. (I am sure there are some examples where religion is more at the core as well, but they are not so common and even there, it’s often really about politics and history.)
To me, the other directionality makes a lot more sense. Peace -> less religion. In more peaceful countries with better education, less poverty, and better social safety nets, there is less need for religion. People tend to be less religious because they don’t need it so much in their lives. They are doing fine without it.
NOVEMBER 10, 2023
INFINITE DIVERSITY IN INFINITE COMBINATIONS
We have a quite international and diverse community in our little town in the Andes, and I love it. I love the diversity and all the different combinations.
For instance, there is a wide range of combinations of wealth or less wealth, liberal or conservative, into spirituality or not, into sustainability and regeneration and not, and so on.
We need all of it. We are slightly atypical here in that we have a big land, wear nice clothes, are super liberal and progressive politically, are into uncompromising spirituality (but not any particular tradition), and are into sustainability and regeneration.
NOVEMBER 12, 2023
We spent the day in the town of Barichara yesterday and got a taste of how it is to live in a small community. The first we met, even before leaving the car, was a neighbor. And then it was just one person after another that we know from different groups and contexts. At the end of the day, we sat in a café and knew just about everyone there. (Which was perhaps less surprising since the owner of the café seem to know the same people as us.)
NOVEMBER 16, 2023
ECONOMY AND ECOLOGY
Most actual and proposed economic systems from the last several hundred years are based on that assumption. Few take ecological realities into account.
In our civilization, we collectively pretend that nature is unlimited in its resources and capacity to absorb waste and toxins. We pretend that our economy is not dependent on ecology. We pretend that we are not dependent on the health, well-being, and existence of our larger ecosystem and this living planet.
That fantasy is not only ecocidal, it’s suicidal.
NOVEMBER 18, 2023
Some see i a utopia to want to transform our civilization into taking ecological realities into account.
They overlook that all is change. Civilizations always change. They also come and go, and another takes their place. What’s been is gone and replaced by something else.
We can work on transforming our civilization, and it will work, or it will collapse and another takes its place which will hopefully be more ecologically informed, or it’s curtains for humanity. In any case, it’s worth working on the transformation.
Similarly, they overlook that it’s our only realistic option. We are in a global ecological overshoot. The Earth cannot replenish what we use. If we continue, we’ll reach the end of the savings account and it will all come crashing down. Our only option, if we are to survive as a civilization and even humanity, is to transform our civilization to take ecological realities into account. We have the answers, what we need is the collective will.
The utopia is to think we can continue with business as usual. That we can tweak things here and there. That we don’t need a profound transformation of our civilization as a whole – from our worldview to our economic theories and systems and everything else.
NOVEMBER 23, 2023
I LOVE WESTERN MEDICINE
I love Western medicine. It has saved my life for certain once and perhaps twice. I wouldn’t be here without it.
I love the germ theory and sanitation. It has improved the lives of millions, including me.
I love antibiotics. (And phage therapy even if I have not tried it.)
I love the diagnostic methods.
I love epidemiology and what we learn from epidemiology.
I love that the learnings from epidemiology were put to good use during the recent pandemic.
I love the doctors and nurses who have helped me through the years.
I love the limits it has. It has limits like anything else.
I love energy work, herbal medicines, Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, using food as medicine, and much more.
Why am I saying this? Twice this morning, I heard someone saying they hate something related to Western medicine. One said he hates antibiotics. The other, that he hates hospitals and doctors.
I love it. I love what it has done for the world, especially in terms of sanitation and the prevention of illnesses. I love that it saved my life. (Although if I had died, that would have been OK too.)
In daily life, I don’t make active use of Western medicine. I don’t take any medicines. Instead, I much prefer herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, and so on. And when I need it, when there is a health crisis, I love Western medicine and make use of it. I love that it’s here, even if it’s imperfect. (Just like anything is imperfect.)
Western medicine has a lot to learn. It typically operates from a very limited worldview. It doesn’t understand that or much of how other approaches work. It’s very young and in it’s infancy. As anything else, it’s caught up in our current economic system and there are a lot of terrible ways in how it works and how the pharmaceutical industry works.
And yet, I love it. It has done so much for us, and it has a lot of potential.
[Made into a regular article]
NOVEMBER 23, 2023
In a certain way, we are now at peak civilization.
We have a lot of energy. We can travel. We have resources. (From the Earth’s savings account.)
This is the time to plan for the future and plan for a future that will be a lot more challenging.
That’s what we are trying to do here. We are lucky enough to have land. We are gathering rainwater. (And will gather a lot more.) We are looking into solar energy. We are planting perennial food plants.
CAN CATS EXPRESS REGRET?
Yesterday, I chased off a stray dog to protect our cat Merlina. I unwisely got between the dog and her, and she attacked and bit my leg.
After she realized what had happened, she followed me around and meowed sadly.
It really seemed that she was expressing regret.
In general, we have very good communication, and to me, this is just another example.
Of course, I told her I understood and love her, and I also expressed it through touch.
I spent some time at the hospital having my wound cleaned and receiving a prescription for antibiotics. Cat bites often get infected and that type of infection can be difficult. I am profoundly grateful for Western medicine, especially in these kinds of situations.
NOVEMBER 24, 2023
HOW WE RELATE TO OUR IDEAS ABOUT THE FUTURE
This seems pretty obvious but worth mentioning.
How we relate to our ideas about the future has a big effect on our perception and life now.
If I tell myself I know that our civilization and/or humanity will end within a relatively short time, I may not do much to try to improve the situation and turns things around. I may just give up. I may go into hedonism. And so on.
If I tell myself I know that civilization and humanity will turn around, and someone else will do it, I may also not do all that much. I may let the others do it.
These two are examples of fearful and wishful thinking. I tell myself I know in order to feel I have some control or to find safety. And, in reality, I don’t know and I cannot know what will happen.
If I admit to myself that I don’t know what will happen, things are more open. I stay more alive and curious. I am more likely to be engaged and work for the kind of future I would like to see happen.
NOVEMBER 27, 2023
MY DREAM FOR THIS AREA
There are many things I dream about for this area of the Andes. I hold it all lightly since I know life tends to go in other direction, and I also wish to keep it alive and work towards some or all of it depending on how life unfolds.
Dark sky. The sky here is dark since it’s a less populated area. I would love to see them stay dark. That would require education and people using covered lamps outdoors.
Noise regulation. There is noise here now and then, including from motorcycles without mufflers and tuk-tuks playing very loud music. This should be regulated since nobody enjoys this.
Municipal composting. When I lived in the US, the municipality had public composting. They received food waste from restaurants and households, composted it at the edge of town, and we could go there and receive finished compost. I would love to see the same here.
Groundwater protection. The hotel next door (destructive in so many ways) will use groundwater. Use of groundwater needs to be regulated. Depletion of groundwater is a huge problem around the world so we need to learn from other communities and how they regulate it.
Wildflowers in the main park. I would love to see native wildflowers instead the grass in the main park. This could be a project led by local experts and could involve school children. We can have brochures available about the native plants here and where to find them for your own garden.
Native plants in the nurseries. The nurseries here don’t have native plants, for some reason. If they have native plants, it would make regeneration projects here much easier. We can all ask for native plants, and point them to sources for seeds and seedlings so they can grow them themselves.
Protection of locally owned stores. Promotion of locally owned stores. Banning chain stores in town and the county. Several places in the US ban chain stores, which I think is a very good move.
Systems in place to prevent corruption. We need systems in place that provide transparency, open records, and third-instance insight and control into the dealings of the mayor and public offices. This could, for instance, be an independent citizen council that examines the operation of the mayor and public offices and public servants. (The only ones who would oppose this are the ones benefiting from corruption, and it would not be a good look. Also, they may think they benefit from corruption but they don’t really. Corrution harms us all and society as a whole.)
Recognizing the value of regeneration and rewilding.
Understanding natural succession. (And the value of pioneer species and dead trees.)
Of course, all of this reflects my own culture and background. It’s predictable coming from a liberal European living in the Andes mountains. And that’s OK. These are also all things that can benefit the community, the ecosystem, and even future generations. This voice too is valuable.
AI IS NOT INTELLIGENT
I have written about artificial intelligence (AI) a few times, and I love exploring AI image generation.
There are a lot of discussion about AI these days so I thought I would write a few more words and try to ground it.
There is always hopes and fears about new technology. That’s just how we humans are, it seems. It’s good since it helps us think through things at the beginning of smaller and bigger revolutions in technology and society. Usually, things turn out not as good as we hope and not as bad as we fear.
The term AI is clearly a misnomer. AI is not intelligent. It’s predictive. It’s predictive text, image generation, music generation, and so on. It’s based on what it is fed. It reflects what it’s fed. It churns out a kind of average based on what it’s fed.
I imagine that if we called it for what it is – predicted whatever-it-is – there would be far less exaggerated hopes and fears about it. It would appear more boring, ordinary, and just one more thing.
It can mimic what human produce in some fields, and that’s why it appears intelligent. Some may think it’s intelligent, or even conscious, if they are seduced by appearances and don’t much about how it works.
AI will replace some human jobs. Especially jobs that don’t require too much like summarizing, writing simple generic texts, creating generic illustrations, and so on.
It will create new jobs. Some will create and train AI. And many will use some form of AI as an aid in their work just like they use a number of other tools.
There is no reason to suspect it will replace humans on a large scale. It’s one of many tools we have developed. It will be used by humans as any other tool. It will be used to support, seed, and supplement human creativity and work.
When CGI came on the scene, some said it was the end of practical effects in movies and perhaps even human actors. That turned out to be far from reality. These days, movies use both CGI effects and practical effects and often a combination of the two, and some movies replace some people (crowds and stunts) with CGI but there is little to no interest in replacing central actors.
In general, we humans love what’s created by nature and humans. We may be fascinated by digital creations. We may find it useful for some things. But we want what’s created by humans. That’s not going to change.
NOVEMBER 30, 2023
MY RELIGION IS RIGHT
When I became a self-professed atheist in elementary school, in response to some classes in Christianity we had to take, this was one of the reasons.
It seems absurd to me that people taking on a religion would think that theirs is right and the other religions are wrong. How could they know?
Also, most people take on whatever religion they are born into. That’s fine if you see all religions as valuable and valid in their own way. But if you see yours as the only right one, that seems stranger. How come you happened to be born into the one right religion? What if you had been born into another culture and religion? Wouldn’t you have taken on that religion and told yourself that one was right?
Of course, we all do this with our own brand of religion. We make a religion out of our most cherised ideas, stories, and identities, see it as right, worship it, and see alternate ideas and identities as wrong. We even do this with obviously very painful stories and identities like “I am not good enough”, “I am a victim”, and so on. We make a religion out of it and defend it as many defend their religion.
Even if we are a self-professed atheists, we likely do this. We very likely do exactly what we see religious people do.
Also, just like many are born into a religion, we are often born into our own brand of religion. We take it on from our family, subcultures, and culture.
What we do collectively we also do individually. What we see others do, we do.
We are not very original.
We have heard from several people here that a couple we know (JR & M) are scamming people and have done it for years.
A couple we know paid them for a plot in a development project they are, and are not given a plot and are unable to have their money returned. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a written contract.
The scam unfolded as you would expect: The scamming couple made friends with them shortly after they arrived in town. Gained their confidence. Showed them a project that looked amazing on paper. Told them exactly what they wanted to hear about it. Received their money without any written contract. And are now keeping it without giving anything in return. The scammers are, of course, relying on the shame and fear of the victims to stay safe.
We have heard from others who have had similar experiences with the scamming couple, going back years.
We are confronting the scammers and also encouraging our friends to sue them. We plan to help them in any way possible.
PLANE ON A TREADMILL
I used to watch Mythbusters, although sometimes thought the myths were a little harebrained (especially the ones from the US that I hadn’t grown up with), and often thought the methods and conclusions could have been improved. (When it came to the conclusions, I remember being frustrated when the essence of the myth was true and they called it “busted” just because they took it overly literally.) That is, of course, partly why it was a popular program. We could sit at home and imagine ways we would have tested and examined the stories and we would sometimes disagree with the conclusion.
I especially remember the plane on a treadmill episode. Will a plane on a treadmill be able to take off? Will it impact the plane in any way?
Even from the beginning, it seemed like one of those harebrained myths. There is no way a treadmill will impact the plane or its ability to take off. It seemed obvious to me.
I was surprised to see that it wasn’t so obvious to many others.
This is something they may have talked about in the episode, but I assume this has to do partly with an ability to logical practical thinking and also practical hands-on real-life experience.
As a kid, I built and flew model planes so I know that the wheels on a plane spin freely. If they spin freely, whether the ground moves or not has no impact on the plane. (As long as it is in the same direction as the position and movement of the airplane, as in the treadmill thought experiment.) The only difference is that the wheels will spin faster or slower than they would if the ground was not moving.
The movement of the treadmill will not and cannot be transferred to the plane itself. There is no mechanism for that transfer.
I have to admit that this was one of many nails in the coffin of my trust in humanity to make good decisions. Perhaps it’s a little exaggerated to go there, but it does come up for me. If many of us are unable to think logically about something this simple, how can we expect us to collectively make good decisions, including about our ecological crisis? We may still be able to do it. Who knows. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
DECEMBER 3, 2023
I watched a video from Smarter Every Day partly on the Artemis mission. There, he talks about some of the major drawbacks of the plans, including that they need at least 15 (!) rockets to fuel one rocket to go to the moon.
To me, that seems a major flaw and I am surprised it’s not talked about more. Of course, that was partly the point of his video. Many don’t like to speak up about unpleasant realities. They prefer to pretend everything is OK. They push the problems into the future and perhaps hope some miracle will happen or someone else will take care of it. The hide within the collective silence.
I much prefer to speak up and do something about it. Dustin from Smarter Every Day was hesitant and nervous to speak up about it. I also assume he knows that many will respect and admire him for it, and it may very well open up possibilities for him in the future. He lives up to the name of his channel.