Ecology


Ecology and Government and Philosophy and Politics and Psychology and Relationships and Social Issues13 Jun 2017 06:43 pm

The KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) is said to have been originated in the early sixties by the navy and referred to the importance and benefit of simple design. Albert Einstein was a big proponent of the idea and felt that any good theory must be simple and elegant, and that complicated formulas and solutions are both inefficient and unusable.

Here is a Wikipedia’s article on the KISS principle:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

I have stated on numerous occasions that people generally make life far more complicated that it has to be. Experiences such as joy, happiness, peace and harmony are not that complicated, let alone idealistic. The majority of people conduct the vast majority of their social interactions in a peaceful and harmonious manner. In a world of indoor plumbing, potable water, electricity, etc. we are now in a position for most societies, if not the entire globe, to live increasingly comfortable and rewarding lives.

Yet, the greedy and power hungry minority spawn fear and hatred as a means of making the good life the possession of the few by complicating life and convincing the masses that life’s simple pleasures are idealistic and unattainable. Destroying the elegance and simplicity of cooperation by presenting the easiest conflict as unresolvable and flatly stating that all realistic options and acts of diplomacy have been exhausted when nary a one has been explored.

When breaking down a rewarding life into its simplest terms I come up with a few observations. First I yearn for intimacy. I don’t just mean having an intimate relationship with other people, but an intimate relationship with myself, nature and life in general. Intimacy is just the natural process of becoming closer and more familiar with something. One can be intimate with almost any object, idea or activity. I explored this in depth in my book Exploring Intimacy which can be read here:

http://guidoworld.com/words/exploring-intimacy

The second major category is to better enjoy the integration of all aspects of our/my experience. This would mean that I enjoy the sensorial, emotional and mental aspects of my life. In other words I learn how to maximize my experience by enjoying and savoring my being a thinking and feeling sentient person which exists in a body and lives in a world. The third element is my feeling connected to the world and act in a way which improves and maintains not only my quality of life but that of all of organic life.

Applying these ideas to our shared social world we come up with the following. We can keep things simple if we focus on the following. First we should not only tolerate but encourage all to find and cultivate intimacy in their lives. Second we can protect the quality of people’s lives and experiences by not destroying the environment and endangering people’s health through dumping toxins and poisons into our air, land and water.

The third guiding principle is that the major goal and concern of all personal and social behavior is to be life affirming. Being life affirming not only has us move away from poisoning our land, water and air, but also dictates that we make peace and harmony the goal and focus of all our decisions. In a life affirming society any action which harms others or the environment would be attended to and not be allowed to become entrenched or a habit of government. No action which caused harm or impaired the quality of life would be considered an act of progress or even tolerated. Only actions which enhanced or maintained the quality of life of the majority would be considered progress.

Einstein pointed out that one needs to be as simple as one can be without becoming too simple. While intimacy and integrated experience are relatively straight forward, the concept of being life affirming will always be a work in progress. In many situations it will be easy to determine what is life affirming, yet in many areas assessing what is the most life affirming option both near and far term will be challenging.

The fact that social utopias do not exist should not be alarming nor discouraging. The fact that life is an endless process of improvement and development only adds to its preciousness, and is inherent in the concept of intimacy. Yet, do let the greedy and power hungry convince you that life’s lack of perfection means everything is too complicated and joy, peace and harmony are idealistic fictions. Joy, intimacy and harmony are real experiences and not ideals. Real experience is never perfect, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be simple or elegant.

One does not have to deny the reality of pain and suffering to appreciate the reality of joy, love, intimacy and harmony.

Jim Guido

 

 

 

Ecology and Education and Social Issues25 Apr 2017 12:08 pm

 

The data supporting the fact that air pollution negatively impacts one’s health and in many cases shortens one’s life span are profuse. Car exhaust in particular has been identified as a major factor in many realms from asthma, to heart disease to cancer.

Cutting emissions could prevent nearly 300,000 US air pollution deaths

It is generally accepted that the health of children in particular is negatively impacted by air pollution and once again car exhaust. A child’s smaller lungs and developing immune system make them more susceptible than an adult to the harmful effects to fumes.

I live in a smaller city in which the populace is generally very concerned about health issues such as diet, exercise and pollution. Parents are very active and vocal regarding advocating for their children to make sure that the community is respectful and proactive regarding taking measures which help insure child safety and health.

Yet, it is perplexing to me how many of these same individuals spend each day during the school year in long lines of cars preparing to drop their child off and pick them up from school. Despite having ample school bus service, they choose to create traffic jams twice a day in which hundreds of idle cars wait often with their engines running in front if the school. Even the rare parent who does turn off their car, has to keep turning it on and off to keep the flow of traffic moving as they follow the long queue.

 

Health effects from car exhaust exposure can last a lifetime

In most situations in our community and many others in the US the cars pass and stall in front of the children’s play area and/or windows to the classroom. While the exhaust from a school bus is also a health issue, there are relatively few of them, and they do not have to stand in line for extended times to park.

Parent’s who choose to drive and pick up their children from school are not only endangering their children’s lives and health, but are also putting the lives of other children in danger through their needing to breathe the same air and learn in the same classrooms as the polluting parents. The smoke from the driving parents cars is second hand smoke which is negatively impacting the health and academic functioning of the children whose parents are taking the healthier option of taking the school bus.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/04/air-pollution-traffic-slow-learning-schoolchildren

Studies indicate that car fumes have a negative impact on many aspects of our children’s health both physical and mental. The denser the concentration of gas fumes and related particulates the more likely the negative impact on a students short and long term physical health, academic functioning and mental health.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/06/09/car-exhaust-affecting-children-mental-health

One definitely could make the argument that the negative impacts of most school yard pollution is rather small, or that one cannot prove that any one child was harmed by school yard pollution. One could also propose that most pollution caused by drop off and pick up traffic is likely diffused fairly quickly and, therefore, not a significant factor. But, why would any caring parent want to play the odds or minimize a potential harm on their child’s health and academic functioning.

This is not to say that there are not individual situations and extenuating purposes that validate and even necessitate a parent from driving their kid to school, but only to point out the dangers when many parents choose to cart their children to school when other options are available.

Riding a school bus does present it’s own set of challenges and problems, most of which can be resolved in a positive way for the social and academic development of your child. Yet, their really is no positive side to the endangerment of your child and all his schoolmates by increasing car traffic both in terms of pollution and potential physical harm inherent in the presence of so many cars near so many impulsive and energetic children.

Caring for the environment and being a responsible loving parent should go hand in hand.

Ecology and Philosophy and Social Issues20 Apr 2016 09:28 am

Here are a few themes from early philosophy, science and religion which continue to influence our beliefs, attitudes and assumptions regarding truth, meaning and the nature of human existence.

Early philosophers such as Plato desired to anchor knowledge and meaning in the impermeable and eternal. While human experience was transitory and unstable ideas and concepts were true, fixed and universally valid. According to this view point ideas are real and valid while tangible objects are imperfect and relatively insignificant copies of reality.

The superiority of form and essence over the world of sensations and subjective perception was also found in the pure science of mathematics. Perfection, precision and universal law were revealed in the pure form of number and geometry. Certainty, truth, natural/universal law, and objective knowledge were attainable not through sensorial human experience but in revealing the underlying immutable form obtained through math.

All hard sciences from astronomy, to physics to medicine acquired objective knowledge and certainty in the realms of math and universal law which lay outside the subjective realms of sensation and perception. Truth, certainty and immutable fact were the sole property of pure form and essences garnered though math and objective experimentation, while human experience was deceptive at best if not entirely illusionary.

The belief that all human sensorial, emotional and perceptual experience was an illusion was fundamental to most spiritual practices such as Buddhism as well as a core tenet of the major salvation religions. All truth and certainty existed in the sacred and ideal space which lay underneath or beyond human experience. Pure knowledge, truth, certainty and universal law were acquired in the esoteric sacred worlds carved out by religion, philosophy and science.

Enlightenment, salvation and eternal life were attainable to only those brave, disciplined and clever enough to not become attached or deceived by the transitory sensorial world of mundane experience. The world of human experience was deemed an empty illusion bound to be dominated by physical and emotional pain and suffering haunted by the inevitability of death.

The denigration of human experience by making it an illusion, something to transcend or a necessary obstacle to gain access to truth, certainty and immortality carries with it many important ramifications and repercussions. The acquisition of certainty, truth and universal law through the creation of ideal and sacred space comes at a severe cost.

Through math and the scientific method we have satisfied our quest for certainty and truth by discovering and proving the immutable laws which govern our planet and the entire universe. These efficient laws of cause and effect determine that each and action and event have an opposite and equal reaction. So what might appear on the surface as novel or by chance is only an illusion fostered by our inability to see more than a sliver of reality. Yet, according to universal law there is no chance occurrence and every event is predetermined by the immutable laws of cause and effect.

When logically implemented this means that not only is every action I take just a link in the causal chain of the universe, but so is every thought I have or emotion that I experience since they are indeed events that occur inside of the universal frame work. In a world of universal law and cause and effect any perception of individual action, creation or choice is a complete subjective fiction.

The quest for certainty is just as strong in the realms of philosophy and religion as it is in the sciences. The idea of a perfect god or intelligent agent which created the universe is extremely common. It is the nature of a perfect god to create all that is good and perfect. Thus creation must to be perfect, immutable and follow a specific destiny.

It is, therefore, not surprising that most religions have the initial creation being perfect and ideal such as the garden of Eden. The one variable allowed in the realm of religion is that man was created with a free will. So while man was born in harmony with god, he had the ability think on his own. Yet, since god was all good the only way man was able to demonstrate his freedom was to willfully do other than god. Yet, if god is perfect any deviation from his ways would be imperfect and wrong and, therefore, a sin.

In essence the only way man could distinguish himself from god and exercise the gift of free will was to sin and be cast out of the perfect garden and live a live filled with suffering, pain and death. From that moment of original sin on, the entire goal of human existence was to try to seek god’s forgiveness and regain eternal life by subjugating himself to the will of god.

The quest for certainty, immortality and perfection is often born of man’s fear of death and the desire to escape pain and suffering. In philosophy and spirituality one is often guided to transcend the harsh reality of life and to take refuge into his underlying perfect essence. While one can’t prevent the body from pain, suffering and death one can transcend the illusion of the sensorial experience finding solace in enlightenment or place all their focus on their inner immutable and immortal essence, soul, mind or spirit.

While much of the above is no longer explicitly stated many of our beliefs, assumptions and attitudes towards ourselves and the world in general are highly influenced by the tacit vestiges of our need to find meaning in life through truth, certainty, and absolutes. Though for many of us human existence is no longer synonymous with pain and suffering, we still feel a need to find meaning and solace in transcendental realities and universal truths, which marginalize and often demonize our sensorial perceptual subjective experience.

No matter how comfortable and pleasurable our sensorial world, we still have a tendency to view it as an illusion or an empty seduction. The abstract immutable world of spirit, mind, consciousness and soul are still considered by most to be both separate from the body and immutable and immortal. This being the case we still place little value on the importance and significance of physical and sensorial pleasure, in comparison to that of ideals, beliefs, absolutes, concepts and transcendental realities.

This could at least partially explain why we show little regard for the physical, emotional, psychological welfare of those who do not believe as we do. The general disregard for the physical body also explains why we so readily pollute our water, air and land despite all the evidence of its harm on our health, quality of life and physical survival.

We are children of Plato when we revere and glorify ideas and abstract thought as more important and essential than the care and protection of the human body and all its sensorial experiences. Our obsession with mind, spirit and pure consciousness is very harmful when it is divorced from its connection to and dependence on the physical body.

An integrated view of human life finds joy and happiness in the perceptual, emotional, visceral and psychological realms of human experience. Rather than transcending the body we can delight in embracing our humanity. Rather than looking for immutable truth which renders life predestined and predetermined, we can enjoy the human potential to discover, invent, learn and process.

Eternal truth and universal law provide ultimate meaning and immortality at the expense of the value and richness of an individual whose choices and joys are truly real, valuable and self-determined. I do not find what is abstractly gained through Truth, Certainty and Universal Law to be greater than what it is lost by becoming a predestined creature whose every action is just the unfolding of a fated script written either by god’s will or the law of cause and effect.

The choice isn’t between Certainty and Chaos, or complete order and randomness. Our existence is an extremely nuanced blend of givens and possibilities. There are basic laws of nature expressed as limits and conditions such as my need for oxygen to breathe, or that I will die without food and water. We know that genetics as well as naturally occurring events can exert varying amounts of influence in our moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings and decisions.

Humanity’s current self-destructive path seems to be fueled by our blatant disregard of the importance, significance and beauty of sensorial/perceptual life. The more we accept the fact that matter matters, that our bodies and our environment are central to all our experiences of joy, pleasure, love and meaning, the more dedicated when can become to sustaining and improving the quality of life of all organic life.

Ecology and Economics and Social Issues01 Jun 2011 05:47 pm

Most living things need air, water and food in order to survive. This is definitely the case for human beings. Yet, if you look at how we live and the decisions we make as a planet you would be hard pressed to conclude that life’s basic essentials are a high priority.

In the US the wealthiest, most powerful and advanced society the world has ever known a significant percent of drinkable water is wasted, polluted, used inefficiently or unnecessarily reprocessed. Much of the infrastructure of the US is in a severe state of decay. This is surely the case with the American water system and its aging water lines.

Over 17% of the treated water in the US is lost by leaks in the system, in some cities the estimates are as high as 50% of the water entering the water lines is lost through leakage. Instead of using tax payer money to update and improve the water system and make it efficient, citizens end up paying for water that is lost in the system through their water bills.

In essence we are treating and purifying water for human consumption and than allowing between and 1/5 and a 1/6 of it to be lost in faulty water lines. Yet, this lost water does not include the other ways in which we undervalue and abuse this essential ingredient of human life.

Many reports over the last decade show that Americans eat out an average of four to five times a week. In most US eateries it is a primary duty of waiters and waitresses to keep your cup or glass of water, tea, soda, coffee or any other water based beverage full at all times. What this means is that most people end their meal with a full or partially filled beverage cup which, of course is wasted water.

The list of ways in which we waste water and use it inefficiently would include lawn care, livestock, ornamental water devices and gardening just to mention a few. This is not to say a portion of this is not necessary and beneficial but only to point out that we aren’t actually being frugal with probably the most precious and valuable resource for human existence.

Water we are told is essential for life, and the essence or life. When you consider that any planet without water is considered incapable of sustaining life, it seems odd that we take such a cavalier attitude towards its usage. When you consider that the major portion of our planet’s water is not fit for human consumption it seems unfathomable that we would degrade, pollute and contaminate such a high percentage of our “fresh water” that remains which is suitable for consumption for the billions of people around the globe.

The situation regarding food is just as appalling. Each year the amount of land suitable efor farming is decreasing due to drought, urbanization, industrial expansion and practices to acquire other resources such as wood, coal, oil and various minerals. Yet, despite this, globally we produce around 8.7 trillion pounds of edible foodstuffs. Despite this ample amount of food we live in a world in which 925 million people suffer from hunger.

It is often said that when it comes to food we do not have a supply problem, but one of distribution. Yet, the problem isn’t only about distribution, it is also about waste and lifestyle. Like water, we often do not treat food with the respect it deserves, we do not treat food as an essential aspect of human existence.

According to the UN an astounding 1/3 of all food around the globe is wasted, spoiled or never used. In underdeveloped nations the problem is often of storage, distribution and political conflict. Yet, in the industrialized nations it is mostly a matter of wasteful habits, market practices and economic forces (profit considerations).

According to the report published in early May of this year in industrialized countries, the issue is more about “retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash.” The report found that in Europe and North America consumers wasted between 95 and 115 kilograms (209 and 253 pounds) of food every year.
The report found that in the retail industry there was an “over-emphasis on appearance”. “Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need,” it said, giving as an example oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry and fixed-price buffets in restaurants.

The waste habits and practices of the industrialized west cause food prices to rise all over the globe. This often makes the prices of staples and basic food stuffs unaffordable to a growing number of people. The recent food riots in numerous countries around the globe have been the public reaction to the strain of food prices on a growing percentage or the populace.

A vast amount of edible food is thrown out of restaurants and grocery stores on a daily basis. Waste and destruction of food is significant in almost every phase of the restaurant businesses. At the preparation phase any food that is not visually pleasing is discarded even if it is perfectly edible. Likewise many perishables are discarded if they are not ordered by customers in a timely basis.

Oftentimes meals contain edible foods which are used more for presentation than consumption with the result being they are left unconsumed and thrown away. It is rare that patrons of restaurants eat all on their plate, or take all leftovers home for later consumption. Restaurants are embarrassed when they run out of anything offered on their menu. This results in owners preventing this occurring by over stocking on a daily basis and ending each day with unused food needing to be tossed.
Grocery stores often toss perishables rather than sell them at reduced prices as they near spoiling to protect their profit margins. Waste and reduced prices are all part of the profit equation, and it is often more profitable to throw food away than sell it at lower prices.

Along with food and water man needs to breathe. A man not breathing is a man not living. Though it seems we can breathe air that is far from perfect or even fresh, the truth of the matter is that our survival depends on a relatively narrow band of air quality. Yet, like water, we have adopted many practices which degrade, degrade and contaminate the air we breathe.

The statement that we need air, water and food is simple and basic. It is a statement of fact, that few if any would contest. Yet, our behavior seems to suggest that either we have other priorities we deem more important than existence, or that in the long run, we really don’t care about being alive or the quality of our life.

I personally have a difficulty considering any human society advanced or civilized which does not make basic survival a high priority. It would appear to me that providing all with food, water and healthy air is job one. This is not about politics, ethics or morality, it just about making sense and acting in a sensible way.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Social Issues05 Jun 2010 04:56 pm

Probably the most prolific predator in the history of our planet is also the most ignored. This predator is even more amazing in the diversity of what it kills than in its quantity of kill.

This predator kills insects, birds, and many varieties of animal. The list of its prey is almost endless. It kills both crawling and flying insects including worms, caterpillars, crickets, mosquitoes, butterflies, lightning bugs and beetles. Its diet includes snakes, frogs, turtles and lizards. Songbirds and crows can be counted amongst its prey. Rabbits, possum, raccoons, squirrel and even cats and dogs are common. Not to mention fox, deer, moose, groundhogs and even bear which are part of their quarry.

Even other major predators become prey for this able killing machine. Bobcat, cougar, panthers and wolves are not uncommon victims. In the US an astounding 40,000 humans a year are killed by this great predator. The list of victims to this predator could fill volumes.

I guess by now many of you have guessed this incredibly gifted predator, yes it is the motorized vehicle best represented in the car, van and truck. Each day thousands of animals and untold numbers of insects and birds are felled by its endless murderous excursions.

What is most deplorable of this predator is that it doesn’t even eat its prey. While sometimes it kills in order to help its occupants go to work to survive, it often kills in totally unnecessary journeys in its territory or to foreign parts. Many of these excursions are just joy rides, or a desire just to get out and about. The majority of these kills are executed without the slightest bit of remorse by the drivers, or at least little effort is made to reduce the number and distance of these murderous journeys.

Ironically many of the drivers of these vicious vehicles are horrified when they find out that some their friends hunt or fish. Many are incensed when they see someone wearing a fur coat or snake skin boots. Somehow they either totally ignore the majority of the murders they execute while behind the wheel, or they view all there motorized excursions as being necessary.

The destruction to wildlife caused by cars isn’t restricted to its actual time on the roads, but the disturbance caused by preparing roads to be paved is extremely invasive and destructive. The pavement itself alters the ecosystem causing permanent dislocation and death to numerous insects and earth worms. The non-porous pavement causes suffocation and drowning to various life ill-adapted to a concrete covered terrain. The toxic properties of asphalt present their own death warrants for plant and animal life.

Though this predator has only been on the scene for a century its numbers are now in the hundreds of millions if not billions. It is amazing the number of environments and ecosystems that have adapted to the motorized vehicle. The number of natural predators has decreased as the the populace of their prey has been decimated and managed by the burgeoning car population.

At this point in time the total removal of cars and trucks from the globe would have potentially dire consequences. The uncountable number of animals, insects, reptiles and birds spared their execution by a lack of cars would create an unstable environment. The number of remaining natural predators would be insufficient to meet the proliferation of prey. This could result in disease, pestilence, plague etc. as the predator population takes time to raise its numbers sufficient enough to control the population of a number of species throughout the animal kingdom.

So, though it would be nice for us to curtail our murderous ways by reducing our dependency on the automobile, we should do so in a thoughtful manner.

Yet, in the meantime I think it is terribly misguided to view ourselves and our role on the planet as being moral or humane. There is no way to avoid the obvious fact that we are the most reckless and selfish murderers on the planet. The only way to salvage our dignity and humanity is to admit our savageness and quickly find and implement ways for us to be more respectful of life. Hiding behind the “fight for survival” is a callous joke, we neither need to point fingers at nature nor make excuses for our heinous ways.

The choice isn’t between reality and utopia, the reality is we have many options and choices to live life in a more humane and respectful manner.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Economics29 May 2010 07:30 pm

When considering penalties which could be imposed on those found to be guilty in the Gulf oil spill I have a few recommendations. I want to preface the following by saying that I have spent over 30 years working with delinquent youth and their families. During these years I have witnessed and implemented many consequences for illegal and asocial behaviors which have been effective and even more that have been ineffective. It is with the knowledge gained from experience in these matters that I offer the following suggestions.

Corporations and commercial entities have rights under the law and in many ways are treated and protected as individuals. Yet, with rights usually comes responsibilities. One of the reasons that the people at the top of businesses make the money that they do is because they are ultimately responsible for the actions and decisions made by the organization they head. At the facilities I have worked at the supervisors, clinicians and administration are held responsible for what happens to the clients in their care. Those with credentials and position often are mandated to have liability insurance to help them weather any law suits due to negligence or bad judgment in the course of the execution of services provided by them or by those under their supervision.

With this in mind I’d like to apply these principles to the BP oil spill.

Monetary fines levied against BP does seem reasonable at this point, but would such fines, even if extensive, be effective consequences? First, I’ve read the monetary limits on law suits on corporations currently stands at 75 million. Now, even if this number is wrong, and fines and penalties were to rise into the billions of dollars I doubt if they would truly be effective as a punishment or a future deterrent.

First the fines would not even be equal to one years profit for a giant such as BP. This has one wonder if multinational corporations are too big to punish. Second, the fines would be absorbed by the corporation in general not directly affecting the wealth and comfort of the heads and decision makers of the corporation. Even if a corporation were somehow injured by the fines, those at the top would most likely be able to find similar employment at other major corporations.

My suggestion would be for the fines and punishments to be levied on individuals rather than the general corporation. The fines should have a direct effect on the wealth of the individuals in charge, such punishments would definitely send a message to business heads of all corporations that they need to act responsibly and act as an effective deterrent.

The fines and punishments should be levied to anyone who with decision making power in the realms of importance regarding the oil rigs. Anyone who is involved with the safety policies of the rigs and pipe lines should be evaluated on their level of culpability. Likewise, those who developed the insufficient back up plans and over all solutions to such a leak need to be held accountable. This would include the governmental agencies that license, supervise and monitor these endeavors.

In addition to fines I believe those found to be at fault should be ordered to give restitution for the damages their negligence and incompetence produced. I have a feeling that if they such individuals were mandated to work off the damage they inflicted on the entire gulf region they would change their ways and their cohorts would begin to act responsibly throughout all related industries.

Imagine how effective it would be if corporate heads were made to spend the next several years of their lives cleaning oil off shores and rocks. Imagine them doing the menial labor that will be needed to remove the oil, restore the local ecologies and ocean life. If these individuals are allowed to have the corporations they work for pay their fines and allowed to hire people to do the years of hard labor of cleaning up after their incompetence than nothing will change.

Will such measures solve the problem? Probably not, but my years of experience working with problem youth has taught me that effective consequences can make a substantial difference in people’s lives.

Many of my posts have dealt with my conviction that our society is in need of substantial structural changes. Our society has a tendency to promote and reward too many base aspects of human nature. Our society can only become as good as the system it functions under. This is not to imply that our society and its structure are evil or even bad, it is only to state that in order for us to move forward in any meaningful way, we need to build a better social structure.

If your goal is increased standard of living and quality of life for an increasing percentage of people across the globe our current economic and governmental structures are the wrong tool for the job. Therefore, though I have learned that incentives and success are always better tools than consequences and punishment, in our current structure I see the above punishments as the proper response to the current situation in the gulf.

When I’ve worked with kids and families I have been successful at helping them build healthy structures and habits in their lives where punishments are rare if ever needed. Yet, when healthy and effective structures are not in place, harsh consequences are often needed. Sad to say, that seems to be the current need of our society at this point in time.

The problem with harsh consequences is they are often delivered in anger and anger begets more anger. Only when a parent is able to deliver a consequence as a learning experience and not in anger to punish then a child’s education can begin, and qualities such as empathy and responsibility can be fostered and adopted.

Maybe many of you out there think I’m a dreamer, or too idealistic. Yet, all I can say is that I have witnessed many kids and families make amazing changes and improvements and though not perfect, have developed ways of being in the world that produce happy and productive people.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Social Issues20 May 2010 09:26 pm

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a stock market radio program being hosted by two people who live on the gulf coast in Alabama. The discussion on the market turned into a general update on the national and local economy. This led them to highlight the potential impact of the oil spill in the gulf. I listened intently as I had not followed the story at all and wanted to be educated on the topic.

After outlining the backdrop of a poor real estate market and a slumping tourist industry they talked of how fragile and weak the local economic environment was. The spill was talked about as a potential fatal blow to the struggling economy as the devastation to the fishing industry might prove to be quite lengthy.

One of the men said that he was getting emails from people in Alaska who said the initial reports out of the gulf sounded eerily familiar to what happened up there during the Valdez spill. He said they expected the reports to become more and more devastating as time went on, for their early reports on the Valdez spill were rather tame and vague.

Well as time passes on these words have turned quite prophetic as each day new information surfaces which paints quite a bleak and dire picture of the spill. Estimates of damage cited by BP seem to be significantly undervalued and scientific calculations of oil flow are several times that given by oil industry spokesmen.

During times like this articles are released which at other times are ignored or buried. One article I read stated that the term “accident” is very misleading in that it gives the impression that spillage is a rare event. The article went on to quote sources which discussed the common everyday occurrence of minor spills which occur regularly in the drilling and loading of oil barges. According to the article day-to-day spillage of just business as usual operations does add up. In which every five years the amount of oil lost in our oceans is equal to the Valdez spill.

Even if that figure is inflated it does beg the question of exactly how much oil is dispensed into international waters each and every year. What is the damage to our sea life and our dwindling fresh water supply? Where can we find accurate information regarding water pollution, long term effects of pollution on the safety and quality of our seafood, and the long term prospects on the overall health of our oceans?

Shortly after 9/11 we were deceived and lied to regarding the air quality near the twin tower cites. Will the same thing happen regarding the safety of seafood in the gulf?

The current situation seems surreal to me.

Maybe I’m wrong, but when you see the videos of the broken pipe, and you read between the lines on the well orchestrated press releases regarding the spill it all seems so dire. Oil plumes the size of states and potential water flow patterns are scary for anyone brave enough to try and imagine their short term and long term impact.

The damage and harm done by this spill could rival almost any disaster we have faced for centuries. The Valdez spill, three mile island, Chernobyl, maybe even the ecological damage caused by our use of atomic bombs may be eclipsed by the death of a major waterway.

Given the length and intensity of this ongoing crisis, is the thought of the death of at least a portion of the gulf really that extreme or over reactionary?

I guess it is, for I don’t feel or hear anyone’s panic or even deep concern regarding this possibility. What am I missing?

Could someone explain to me how the gulf can shake this off and heal itself when the area of the Valdez spill is still hampered some two decades after the event?

Jim Guido


Ecology and Politics and Social Issues10 Jan 2010 10:58 am

I’m always amazed and fascinated at how efficient US propagandists are in creating a debate which draws people away from the real issue.  At other times they simply find a way to change the focus of a movement which suits their purposes.

The women’s movement which started out as a quality of life issue, got morphed into a rather narrow personal rights and monetary issue. This subtle shift in the national discussion allowed our government and corporate structure to capitalize on the women’s movement and slowly have two pay checks equal the purchasing power and standard of living of one pay check a few decades back.

The women’s movement quickly dropped its emphasis on intimacy and personal development and traded it in for consumption and jobs which men were finding oppressive and unrewarding. Instead of freeing men and woman from oppressive roles and serfdom the women’s movement was seduced into joining men in their prison with such deceptive slogans as “you’ve come a long way baby” in a series of commercial celebrating the fact that woman could now use their new found economic life to get cancer like their workaholic husbands they felt so alienated from.

Likewise the propagandists artfully steered the American public away from their fervent opposition to our many wars treating other nations as US property, to a demand that we “support the troops”. Any words spoken against the war(s) were both a source of motivation and “support to our enemies” while undermining the “courageous” efforts of our young men and women in battle. Never mind the fact that the reasons for war were fictitious at best and more than likely morally indefensible.

When the Soviet Union fell the US became the undisputed world superpower. Despite this, the US’s involvement in military conflicts and police actions continued to escalate. Public anger with our government’s international actions and policies grew along with a reluctance to encourage our children to get involved in such military actions.

Then voila we suddenly found (created) an enemy worthy of our fear and hatred. This, of course, is terrorism and the war on terrorism. Terrorists exist no where in particular, but can and as the propagandists say, do exist everywhere.  Terrorists are  as hard to identify as they are to define.

Since terrorists sole goal is to destroy us and our way of life, it is “imperative” that we act aggressively and savagely to extinguish them before they proliferate. The propagandists have used this logic to defend our use of torture, banned substances, and unilateral and unsanctioned military action. The war on terror gives the US reason and the duty to invade any country at any time with or without that country’s permission.

So, now let’s take a look at how the “debate on global warming” is just another example of how good our government and corporate propagandists are at diverting the public’s attention away from the obvious.

The battle between environmentalists and corporate spin doctors and propagandists has been lengthy. At every turn spin doctors have found a way to change the dialogue or find a way to make the most profit out of a situation.

The ecological movement which began in the early seventies suffered a huge set back in the late seventies when an OPEC driven energy crisis and stagflation were used to outweigh all concerns regarding pollution caused by fossil fuels. Public relations departments trumpeted their new “concern for your total environment” putting fisheries next to energy plants while the smoke stack industry tried to make their toxic discharges look more environmentally friendly.

Neatly tailored industrial parks, and beach renovations were used to paint lip stick on the environmental pigs. Nuclear power plants which were not as profitable as coal based plants were phased out as a sign of corporate concern for the public health. Newer plants were able to have the toxic releases of coal plants be less visually obvious, and through the efforts of spin doctors and narrow and highly funded scientific studies industries were able to convince the public that their environment was becoming cleaner and healthier.

The debate over ecological concerns regarding the efficient and frugal use of natural resources would slowly resurface in the early eighties as the economy recovered. It was at this time that a lot of the discussion focused on the deterioration of the ozone layer and its effects on people and wildlife.

Once again corporate spin doctors did an excellent job of posing themselves as well intentioned victims of fanatics and potentially harmful idealists. They fended off attacks by environmentalists concerns regarding species extinction by forming and funding fraudulent and extreme conservation groups who were given ample TV and radio air time as they tried to halt progress in order to save a single bird (like the spotted owl).  Soon the bulk of the American public viewed ecologists and ecological activists as being goofy reactionaries disconnected from the real world.

Likewise, environmental health concerns regarding lead paint, asbestos, PCB’s etc. were posed as extreme measures tending to minor problems. Public sympathy was swayed by the expense, tediousness and inconvenience of the governments (EPA’s) clean up programs and interventions.  Once again the environmental and health concerns of ecological activists were successfully posed as being unnecessary and economically unrealistic and harmful.

The changes and concessions made by corporate America were, like always, done in a manner which increased their profits while at the same time fostering public support and sympathy. Concerns regarding the effects of ozone depletion gave rise to skin and sun screen products as well as more profitable delivery systems than the aerosol can. Highly profitable green industries began to sprout up everywhere from organic food stores to recycling industries and businesses.

The current debate on global warming is just the latest manifestation of how corporate and government spin doctors divert and win public opinion and support. The science regarding the effects of industrial pollution and practices on the environment is still in its infancy. Though much compelling information exists, its models and long term predictions are still crude. The number of variables are vast making it difficult to make any reasonable forecast for the foreseeable future.

The complexity of the situation and science makes it so easy for the spin doctors to make the global warming crowd fit the standard role of naive reactionaries who pose a threat to our economic progress and stability. By forcing scientists and activists to prove their viewpoint through specific predictions over short time frames, they are demanding the impossible, and setting up the ecologists to fail and look ridiculous.

Let’s say when psychologists first talked of the harms caused by physical abuse and torture they were scoffed at and demanded to prove their case. Early psychologists would likely say that abused children would develop many psychosocial problems including depression, increase aggression and violence, low self-esteem and inabilities to establish and maintain relationships. Those who have endured long term or severe torture would have similar social deficits and personal handicaps.

Let’s go on to say that the psychologists were demanded to give specific time frames for the manifestation of these problems to arise. They would say many things, but some psychologists would point out that the onset of many of these problems could be almost immediate.

Therefore, any spin doctor opposed to the psychologists viewpoint could easily distort and destroy the psychologists assertion. One could easily find children and even adults who have been physically abused and tortured who function and appear to be happy and productive people. By writing a few articles stating psychological theories and well documented probabilities as predictions of fact, one could sway the reading public to view the psychologists as reactionary and wrong about their assumptions and predictions of the effects of violence on human beings.

This is what is happening in the global warming debate where spin doctors are now popularizing specific dire concerns and possible scenarios of the effects of industrial pollution as specific predictions. If we do not flood in five years, or all polar bears drown than global warming doesn’t exist or at least does not pose any immanent danger.

Think how easy it would be to form some bogus ecological body and pay them to make outrageous statements or popularize data which negates specific claims. Talk about your low hanging fruit. Think of how many pilot studies and papers are written each day. What if I were paid handsomely to find dubious studies or to find ways to interpret studies to give the impression that if such and such doesn’t happen this winter or this year than the global warming perspective is wrong.

Even though I find much of the current evidence regarding global warming somewhat compelling, to me it isn’t the point. Even if global warming isn’t happening, or at least not to the point to usher in a global disaster or ice age, it doesn’t mean that ecological concerns are myths or needless fear mongering.

The point is that dumping tons of toxic waste into our air and water on a daily basis is most likely not a good thing. It’s hard to prove that abuse is destructive to the human spirit, but its harms are well documented. Just as we could never prove smoking caused cancer, it was obvious it had a terrible track record in terms of personal health.

The debate over global warming is a spin doctors dream. It is diverting the attention  away from the obvious harms of toxic pollution and onto a debate which cannot be decided or proven. Those opposed to global warming do not have to prove that global warming isn’t happening, they only have to show the ways in which any global warming model of their choosing is wrong or inaccurate.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Economics and Politics and Social Issues22 Apr 2009 02:06 pm

In the last few posts I’ve pointed out how incredible man’s progress has been over the last few centuries. Yet, I also mentioned that despite these accomplishments we are missing many opportunities for making human life more rewarding, happy and safe.

In this post we’ll some of the issues which surround earth day to demonstrate how our current economic and political structures are retarding and in some cases harming the quuality of human life. Many of these ideas have been dealt with in a more in-depth fashion in previous posts over the last couple of years.

I’m using the image of the Trojan Horse to conjure the image of something offered as a gift, which in reality if meant for harm. This image does fit with some of the less wholesome aspects of modern capitalism.

Consumption is a major aspect of capitalism, and sales is a major component of consumption. A salesman’s job is to make his product appealing to the customer. Successful sales are often dependent on convincing the customer of the need or benefit of the product. Sales techniques often involve the following strategies:

1) Deception
2) Misrepresentation
3) Propaganda
4) Distortion

These techniques are used to help cast the product in the best light while omitting or under-stating its weaknesses. These techniques are also used to induce a potential consumer into making a purchase that they have no need for at that time.

The modern drug commercial is a perfect example of the above sales techniques. In which the supposed benefits of the drug are depicted in the most alluring terms while the potential drawbacks to the drug are rattled off breathlessly beyond the realm of cognition. This feeble attempt at providing balanced information is only done because of legal pressures on the industry. In most industries and businesses there is no requirement to present any case but the one which makes your product or service look as attractive as possible.

This lack of truth and skillful misrepresentation even dominates our legal system. Instead of justice, the goal of lawyers is to win cases and make money. In a justice oriented system the focus would not be on guilt or innocence, but rather on a total exploration of the facts to best understand motives, conditions and extenuating circumstances. In a system of justice the goal would not be to deceive or influence the jury and judge, but to present an honest exploration of the harm done (prosecution) and the reasons for the offense (defense), and how to best accomplish both restitution and rehabilitation.

In our legal system even though a witness is supposed to “tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, the sad reality is that both lawyers are trying to get the witness to tell only the part of the truth that benefits their client or purpose.  One would not have to look very deep to see how the need to make money and procure clients leads to this logical outcome of guilt vs innocence over justice. Yet. most defend this immoral legal system, because they take capitalism for granted and can’t even imagine a system of justice which is not capitalistic in nature. Justice should not be a service and product offered clients but rather a system which promotes the safety and quality of life of its citizens.

Let’s take a moment to review some of the ways in which modern capitalism limits or runs counter to our efforts to create a healthy, safe and sustainable environment composed of healthy and happy individuals.

A healthy and safe environment would have products and infrastructure which was:

Efficient
Durable
Enduring
Self-replenishing
Safe

Yet, we live in a system which promotes:

Over-consumption
Fads and fashions
Planned Obsolescence
Products which need repair
Unnecessary packaging and waste

Many studies over the past few decades have documented the role over-consumption plays in various psychological disorders.  Spiritualists and psychologists alike have pointed to high consumption of food, products and services as an ineffective means of an individual attempting to fill their emotional and psychological needs.

Many addictions and compulsions are routinely exploited by our capitalistic system. Which has many motives to keep the consumer unsatisfied and unhappy. A happy and sated person will have less reason to consume and will more often consume according to need.

How to get people to consume as much as possible has long been a science in our culture. Research scientists for many companies played with their products recipe and delivery system to maximize sales and consumer loyalty to the product. Researchers at coffee companies soon realized that the amount of caffeine on their product directly correlated to the amount of coffee consumed by the public. Too high a level of caffeine and the drinker could stop at one cup, too low a level and the drinker could lose interest in the beverage. Yet, a happy medium and the consumer would drink many cups of the beverage in search of the lift they sought from coffee.

The same balance of too potent and not strong enough was found by researchers of beer and cigarettes.  They could maximize their products consumption and the loyalty of their consumers by finding the right mix of addictive high and watered down delivery.

Likewise in many aspects of the food industry this science of how to maximize consumption has been quite fruitful. Diet soda recipes often induce one to feel more thirsty after drinking than before, inciting its consumers to drink can after can in a fruitless attempt to quench their thirsts. High amounts of sodium are used in many restaurants to heighten beverage sales at their establishments (beverages have some of the highest profit margins at food establishments). The list of cravings one can elicit through careful manipulation of recipes is quite extensive, and it is safe to say that most food companies and eateries use these techniques to maximize sales and profits.

Fostering over consumption is neither healthy nor good for the environment.

Capitalism’s dependency on profit makes if prone to encouraging over-consumption. From a capitalistic perspective neither the ecological movement’s disappearance nor its re-appearance in the form of the recycling industry is surprising.  The ecological movements concerns were harmful to the bottom lines of many corporations and industries.Yer, recycling has been designed and implemented in a way which benefits most businesses bottom lines.

First, it is great niche marketing. The recycling industry appeals to the good conscience of people and to the earth lover’s who have a tendency to consume less than the norm. A combination the recycling and organic food industries got the ecological crowd excited about consumption. A crowd which formerly avoided many forms of consumption based on morality could now be seduced to consume according to the same morality. In fact, this earth loving crowd, would be willing to purchase goods and foods at higher prices in their effort to be healthy and kind to the earth.

I know that I myself by products and recycle due to my desire to do the right and healthy thing. I do this, even though, I see through the Trojan Horse aspect of the recycling industry.

Our current recycling industry is a far cry from anything resembling a movement with ecological integrity. It is, after all, a recycling industry whose existence is dependent on making money. The recycling industry only returned because it adapted to capitalism and became a very profitable business. The recycling industry is not a charity, nor a humanitarian service, it is a profit hawking free market survivor.

While purporting to get rid of waste and inefficiency it is in fact dependent on ever escalating levels of waste to support its growth and expansion. If we were to become truly efficient, the recycling companies would be the first to go out of business.

In addition, the harms caused to the environment are often stronger than the benefits gained trough recycling. The recycling processes involved in newspapers and plastics are only two examples of the ethical dilemma the industry poses. Though trees are saved when we recycle paper the amount of toxins and hazardous chemicals put into our water supply in the process of stripping newsprint off of paper is greatly increased. Likewise, the amount of energy used and chemical damage incurred through recycling many plastics call into question it’s ecological benefits.

Could we make recycling more ecologically friendly. Yes, of course we could. But any movement adapting to our capitalistic system will have to make great concession to become profitable. In a previous post I talked of how we could replace most plastic container uses with glass. The two objections given to the use of glass by industry spokesmen are that reused glass would be  unhealthy and unsafe. Unhealthy because of germs and unsafe because glass breaks.

Well, it would be easy to create reusable glass bottles that were shatter proof or break resistant or make reusable skins made of materials which were effective and environmentally friendly.  One could also easily create sterilization stations at grocery stores, etc. which would tend to the germ problem in a safe and cost effective manner.

Yer, the reason we won’t do this is because it isn’t profitable. The reason we’ve refused to make cars more efficient is because it hurts proit margins. If we created true cures to diseases and medical conditions rather than pills which mask symptoms or depend on your constant use, then phamaceutical companies would not be profitable. Therefore, why would any research go into discoveries which would kill the business.

Capitalism depends on waste and inefficiency, for profit is dependent on waste and inefficiency.

In a system of competition each company produces more than they sell out of hopes of increased market share and their fears of running out of the product to meet consumer demand. Some estimates are that as little of one tenth of food that is raised and harvested is actually consumed.

Once again I will print the following logic chain and hope you ponder its validity.

PROFIT = Surplus = Excess = Waste

Capitalism is a system which we’ve outgrown. We need a system that thrives on efficiency, that rewards mutually beneficial solutions and actions rather than win/lose competition, and that encourages self-actualization rather than view individual contentment as a threat to consumption.

We need a structure which rewards people for being kind and compassionate rather than one that rewards artifice and views people as consumers.

As human beings, we have come along way, and our political and economic systems have contributed to this growth. Yet, we now are at a juncture where optimal growth and satisfaction require new structures. If not, our current path will further erode the quality of life of an increasing percentage of people all across the globe.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Economics and Poetry and Social Issues20 Apr 2009 05:22 pm

In the last blog I focused on the incredible progress mankind has made over the last few centuries. I mentioned how, for many on our planet, the quality of life has improved greatly. I also discussed how old belief systems such as human existence being based on pain and the fight for survival limit our personal sense of joy and contentment….. and how this negative view of life prevents us from believing in and constructing healthy social systems.

I am very aware that for many on the planet life in still rife with pain and suffering, and war, starvation and disease dominate the human landscape. Yet, at the same time it is difficult to deny we currently have the resources and knowledge to eradicate a good portion of this pain and suffering. The obstacles to our reducing humanity’s woes is more political and psychological than anything else. Which, as I mentioned before, I address fully the scope of the problem and its solution in my book Exploring Intimacy which you can read free in its entirety in the words section of this site.

Yet, in my world, and the world of many others on this planet living a life generally free of suffering is immediately available. I live in an enironement which is both convenient and sustainable. An environment in which my ability to be happy is mostly up to me and is not limited by outside forces.

Everyday I walk two to four miles through some of the prettiest scenery nature has to offer. Right outside my front door there are roads cutting through lush ever changing foliage which evolves with the elevation from valley to mountain ridge. My walks go along rural neighborhoods and even include a couple of horse farms. I’m surrounded by deciduous an evergreen trees and changing foliage which includes azaleas, rhododendrons, pampas grass, bamboo, various ivies, etc. Intoxicating sights and smells cradled amongst the sounds of mountain creeks and song birds. Wild turkey’s, snakes, turtles and the occasional bear are also staples of my visual world.

Though beautiful, this is not wilderness by any stretch of the imagination, for I’m less that 3 miles from a huge grocery store and less than five from the downtown market area containing all a modern man needs to live a life of convenience. Likewise, I am minutes away from quality medical services. I live in a community which is both safe and beautiful.

Is where I live a dying breed or could it become the norm? Can we create rural/urban communities which preserve nature while providing safe and technologically current life worlds?

While in recent times we have often taken paths which seem to be moving away from creating a healthy environment and a caring society, we still have many opportunities well within our reach. The dye has not been cast and our fate has not been determined. Yet, there is much politically and psychologically to overcome.

If we continue to place commerce, profit and the individual above health and kindness, we will not only not maximize our potential but waste our opportunities. If we continue to mistrust our neighbors and try to centralize and horde wealth we will continue to foster war and wasteful winner take all competition.

Capitalism and nationalism are not evil, but rather formats that have outgrown their usefulness and now have become counterproductive. The psychology inherent in the fight for survival has made us resourceful, resilient and creative. Yet, once again it is a viewpoint which has outlived its value.

Seeing real threats is an important survival tool, yet imagining dangers leads to paranoia and loss of freedom and joy. Many of the conflicts and problems of our modern world are self initiated and maintained. When one approaches a new situation with balled up fists and prejudice it seldom can result in friendship.

The biggest problem I see us facing is in our world psychology. When it comes to our planet we take the current political and economic structures as givens and view all other possible views as either too idealistic (utopic) or irrational. This is amazing when you consider how long we’ve had civilized life on this planet and what small portion of the time our current economic and political structures have been in play.

Just as we created democracies and capitalism out of systems which were antithetical to many of its basic premises, we can create new social structures once again. Our lack of confidence is our biggest obstacle. We can and will one day create societies which are more in keeping with the times and status of our post modern world.

The only question remains how healthy and adaptive the new structure will be. Without structure social systems and societies would lack, meaning, direction and predictability. Social structures can be confining or liberating, restrictive to growth or fostering new ideas. As I noted earlier, much was gained by our current structure, yet now it has become outdated and limiting.

Developing new social structures should not be about rebellion or utopia, but rather they should be viewed as the natural outgrowth of progress and human evolution. Viewing the potential of new paradigms by comparing them with old paradigms is often self-defeating. Healthy structures are born of common sense and the meeting of people’s current needs, not in meeting the needs and goals of the old paradigms.

Much of what I’ve said in yesterday’s and today’s blog will become more understandable if you go to the words part of this site and read Exploring Intimacy.

Here is a recent lyric which fits into this theme. The song is still in production and will not be on this site for a few more months.
To Your Health                                 12/3/08

I felt fear, but never dread
I’ve been scared, but never fled
I improve, with a critical eye
Sometimes it keeps me, from enjoying life

Keep the wind at your back
Don’t fight the world nor go on the attack

I felt joy, not exaltation
I seek freedom, amidst limitation
I feel pain, not agony
I yearn to grow, amidst harmony

At my core I seek more
At the same time I feel fine

I love to laugh and smile
for it has me feel so alive
feeling calmer each day
seeing more opportunities to play

let it go it’s OK
sit in silence listen and sway
health is a treasure most precious
all that’s sensuous, delicious and luscious

Well I feel lighter than air

Jim Guido

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