CFS News-Views Digest No. 65 (9-19-14)

On Being Conservative . . . And Liberal       Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher 

We humans love labels because they help us to easily identify, describe, and size up people, especially in relation to belief systems or worldviews. I think you’ll agree that some belief systems are entangling humanity in multiple ongoing conflicts, as reported daily in the media. Our American socio-cultural-political system, like many others, is under assault by two principal constituencies promoting conflicting worldviews: conservatives and liberals, along with extreme subgroups usually identified as conservative fundamentalists and liberal secularists. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly more challenging for Americans to form a significant, moderate-oriented political constituency, which is essential for resolving differences by means of civil discourse and compromise. This becomes increasingly important as humanity faces multiple converging crises that call for the creation of greater resilience and sustainability throughout all areas of society.

(This longer-than-usual commentary continues below, at the end.)

ECONOMIC AND ENERGY NEWS-VIEWS

> Peak Prosperity: Inflation – Crash Course Chapter 11; How Much Is A Trillion? – Crash Course Chapter 12, and Debt – Crash Course Chapter 13. Continue learning about how economic concerns affect sustainability for individuals and societies. Free videos and transcripts.

> RT Question More: ‘Limits To Growth’ Vindicated: World Headed Towards Economic, Environmental Collapse. Recent research does not indicate that collapse of the world economy, environment and population is a certainty, nor that the future will unfold exactly as MIT researchers predicted in 1972. But these findings should sound an alarm bell, as it seems unlikely that the quest for ever-increasing growth cannot continue unchecked.

> Yes! A Wealthy Capitalist On Why Money Doesn’t Trickle Down. Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist and self-described “plutocrat,” says a healthy economy and an effective democracy depend on a thriving middle class of workers.

> Huffington Post: Oil Is Back! (Michael T. Klare). Despite what you may think, Americans, on average, are driving more miles every day, not fewer, filling ever more fuel tanks with ever more gasoline, and evidently feeling ever less bad about it.

> The Daly News: Three Limits to Growth (Herman Daly). As production (real GDP) grows, its marginal utility declines, because we satisfy our most important needs first. Likewise, the marginal disutility inflicted by growth increases, because as the economy expands into the ecosphere we sacrifice our least important ecological services first (to the extent we know them).

> The Guardian: Limits To Growth Was Right. New Research Shows We’re Nearing Collapse. The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilization would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticized as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.

> Resilience-Resource Insights: Are We On The Path Of ‘Limits To Growth’? (Kurt Cobb). What’s important about the Limits to Growth model is not any precise dates which we might get from running a scenario. What’s important are the markers described by the researchers as harbingers of limits. Those harbingers have begun to appear.

> The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The Cauldron of Nations (J. M. Greer). t’s one thing to suggest, as I did in last week’s post here, that North America a few centuries from now might have something like five per cent of its current population. It’s quite another thing to talk about exactly whose descendants will comprise that five per cent.

CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS-VIEWS

> Common Dreams: ‘Ferocious Love’ And The Climate Fight To Come. Activist and journalist Naomi Klein offers new book on capitalism, climate change, and the global grassroots movement that could ‘change everything’: “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate”.

> Desmogblog:
What Does Climate Adaptation Actually Look Like?        A series of climate impact models includes numerous infographics, also looks at the capacity for various sectors to adapt to climate change and to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

> The Guardian: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise At Fastest Rate For 30 Years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming, increased at their fastest rate for 30 years in 2013, despite warnings from the world’s scientists of the need to cut emissions to halt temperature rises.

> Resource Insights: The More Uncertain We Are, The More Careful We Should Be (Kurt Cobb). As I suggested in last week’s piece, climate change is an obvious candidate for the precautionary principle because climate change involves the risk of systemic ruin.

MPR: Audubon Report Finds Climate Change ‘Spells Trouble’ For North American Birds. The six-year Audubon Society study of more than 500 North American bird species looks at how changing temperatures, extreme weather, rising sea levels and other effects of climate change will be pushing birds and their ranges around between now and the end of the century.

The Washington Post: Co2 Levels In Atmosphere Rising At Dramatically Faster Rate, U.N. Report Warns. Levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose at a record-shattering pace last year, a new report shows, a surge that surprised scientists and spurred fears of an accelerated warming of the planet in decades to come. 

> Yes! Climate Comeback: A Grassroots Movement Steps Back Into The International Arena. Three major international meetings about climate change are on the horizon. The common thread in the messages that are winning support is to connect the climate crisis to local, real issues of life, including how to survive the diminished and more dangerous planet we are leaving to future world citizens.

> Star Tribune: Economists Try To Calculate The Cost Of Climate Change.
The economic cost of greenhouse gas emissions is likely deeper than scholars have been estimating, and the costs are going to be borne unequally across the globe, according to research presented at a conference underway at the University of Minnesota.

> Smithsonian: Can The World Really Set Aside Half Of The Planet For Wildlife? The high point of biodiversity likely coincided with the moment modern humans left Africa and spread out across the globe 60,000 years ago. As people arrived, other species faltered and vanished, slowly at first and now with such acceleration that E.O. Wilson talks of a coming “biological holocaust,” the sixth mass extinction event, the only one caused not by some cataclysm but by a single species—us.

> KTAR News: New Study Finds The Southwest Might Be Facing ‘Megadrought’. A new study by The University of Arizona, Cornell University and the U.S. Geological Survey says the chances of a “megadrought” that runs 35 years or more ranges from 30 to 40 percent over the next century in the Grand Canyon State.

> Resilience: Ebola As A Game-Changer. Overpopulation, inequity, peak oil, and disturbed natural environment have converged with the problem of Ebola, to set up the conditions for a pandemic.

LOCAL, STATE, AND REGIONAL NEWS-VIEWS

> Star Tribune: U Unveils Strategy For ‘Grand Challenges‘ Of Climate Change …
Climate change and food safety would become two of the University of Minnesota’s top research priorities under a draft of a new strategic plan unveiled Friday by President Eric Kaler.

> Star Tribune: Economists Try To Calculate The Cost Of Climate Change.
The economic cost of greenhouse gas emissions is likely deeper than scholars have been estimating, and the costs are going to be borne unequally across the globe, according to research presented at a conference underway at the University of Minnesota.

> MPR: ‘Wilderness Has No Price’: Boundary Waters Fight, 50 Years Later. The Wilderness Act has protected 9 million acres of federal land–including 1million acres of the Boundary Waters, and helped cultivate an environmental movement that pushed to protect America’s last wild places. But it also ignited a huge battle over who should control Minnesota’s wilderness, as the emerging debate over proposed copper-nickel mines near the Boundary Waters illustrates.

SUSTAINABLE CHALLENGES, IDEAS AND PRACTICE

> Yahoo News: Investments In Clean Energy Pay Off. US energy companies have steadily increased investments in energy efficiency over the past five years – $7.2 billion in 2013 alone. They return $3 to $4 for every dollar spent.

> New Economics: Five Steps For A High Well-Being Society. It’s now eight years since David Cameron first declared that “it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general well-being” and in that time the UK has become a global leader by measuring national well-being – but we have yet to make the leap from measurement to action.

> The NY Times: For Some, ’Tis A Gift To Be Simple. For people who have not saved enough or have broken into their savings because of lost jobs and health crises, the findings offer a glimmer of hope. If you can cover basic expenses, pursuing inexpensive, everyday things that bring comfort and satisfaction can lead to happiness equal to jetting about on international trips in your 70s and 80s.

> Wall Street Journal: More Than Two-Thirds Of American Youth Wouldn’t Qualify For Service, Pentagon Says. More than two-thirds of America’s youth would fail to qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral or educational shortcomings.

> Shareable: New Urban Ag Study Touts Potential Of Small Cities. According to the UN, more than 50 percent of the world’s urban population lives in small and medium urban clusters. And an estimated two-thirds of global urban land is also in small to medium urban clusters. In short, more than half of the urban population is occupying about two-thirds of the urban land.

> Resilience: Voices And Reflections Of The Community Resilience And New Economy Movement. A growing worldwide movement aims to replace the default economy of excess, control, and exploitation with a new economy based on respecting biophysical constraints, preferring decentralization, and supporting mutuality.

On Being Conservative . . . And Liberal (Continued)

Most citizens aspire to forming balanced, inclusive perspectives that contain a variable mix of conservative and progressive views. But extremists, right and left, those who rigidly hold uncompromising opinions and beliefs, stifle any search for truth or sane solutions by using irrational emotional rhetoric—no matter the amount of overwhelming substantial proof presented in clarifying controversial issues. For certain, if we humans wish to live sustainably—in managing a series of converging social, economic, political, and environmental crises—it will require making radical positive changes, in individuals and society. Many enlightened futurists claim that the path we are on today cannot lead to a prosperous future, but will most likely resemble a less materially prosperous scenario. However, if sane heads prevail, it’s possible we might find our way to a more prosperous future in terms of psycho-emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

In seeking an understanding of the innate and cultivated differences observed in conservatives and liberals, we can begin with looking at recent brain research, which increasingly shows that conservative and liberal brains differ in various ways (http://2012election.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004818)). Regarding the effects of genetic inheritance on people’s worldviews, the question arises: Why are most citizens in developing countries demonstrably conservative, as observed in some Arab-speaking countries, while most citizens in more highly developed countries are generally more liberal, as observed in northern European countries? The answer may be found in other brain research, which suggests that brains can be altered over time by socio-cultural conditionings (http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2011/may-june-11/the-mind-in-the-world-culture-and-the-brain.html).

Perhaps the socio-cultural affect might explain why liberalism may be attributed to certain forms of nurturing, as found in cultures promoting more personal freedom and expression. It seems that socio-cultural groups that emphasize curiosity, critical thinking, and evidence-based reasoning tend to evolve toward a more liberal outlook and behavior.

Recent brain research has also suggested that long periods spent in nurturing certain patterns of thought and behavior, as occurs in most cultural environments, may also alter the brain. If so, this lends credence to the power of education and supportive environments in shaping worldviews

To some extent, it seems everyone has been brainwashed by their socio-cultural institutions, including beliefs and mores transmitted by family, church, and state. Unfortunately, many people rarely question the beliefs and practices bestowed on them throughout their entire lives. Indeed, some societies even discourage the questioning of traditions and beliefs. For me, adherence to a rigid belief system stifles personal freedom: the freedom to be curious, to think, to question, and to explore potential possibilities.

As for my conservative side, I hold fast to the basic human values espoused by most conservatives, including the practice of ethical, moral behavior, as dictated by the Golden Rule. Based on the mayhem occurring worldwide, this universal guideline for human behavior is not always understood, respected, and heeded by all world citizens. Like most conservatives, I believe there are some things—socio-culturally, educationally, economically, and environmentally—that need conserving, with minimal changes. At the top of this list are all aspects of the natural environment, most of which are being negatively affected by increasing numbers of consuming humans.

On my predominantly liberal side I embrace progressive values, mostly those associated with social reforms. As a youth and young adult nurtured with Methodism’s fervent social message, I was instilled with a belief in human equality and compassion for all living things. Also, I embrace the liberal belief in change—as long as it leads to positive outcomes, such as greater opportunities for nurturing growth and individual fulfillment for all creatures. Ironically, for reasons not fully understood, progressives seem to be more concerned with environmental issues, so perhaps they may be considered as environmental conservatives. This has not always been so, as epitomized by former president Teddy Roosevelt, a progressive Republican widely touted as an exemplary environmental activist.

For everyone desiring to live more resiliently—and create a more sustainable future for coming generations—the primary task may well be discerning which conservative and liberal values deserve sustaining, and which ones should be discarded. Although some firmly held but unfounded beliefs might offer soothing comfort, we cannot afford to waste time and energy in justifying and maintaining them. Instead, I say we need to concentrate on promoting only those values that enhance the prospects for achieving substantial, long-term resilience and sustainability.

About Clifton Ware

Sustainability Education Forum Editor-Publisher Dr. Clifton Ware is an international figure in the world of voice pedagogy. During the the past fifty years of teaching students how to sing -- both nationally and internationally -- Clif developed his signature "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique". What distinguishes his method is its holistic approach, simplicity, and effectiveness. Siingers find that they are able to ensure their vocal health while cultivating their own unique, expressive sound. This approach stands in sharp contrast to faddish techniques that encourage mimicking the vocalism, style, and qualities of other singers, possibly limiting their own vocal imprint and even harming their vocal instrument. The "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique" produces singers that enjoy vocal power, range, ease, individuality, and a liberating learning process.

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