viernes, 30 de noviembre de 2012

Dangerous Memes

What starts here accelerates the destruction of the world

UT, University of Texas, Motto Modification: What Starts Here... Accelerates Destruction of the World?
Joe   seph    J.    Bish
See:<> I want to suggest a slight modification of the University of Texas' motto, "What starts here changes the world." A more accurate slogan -- while not quite as pithy and probably less effective for public-relations purposes -- would be, "What starts here accelerates the destruction of the world." I am not suggesting that the administrators or faculty of UT, where I have been a professor for two decades, want to destroy the world. Rather, I'm arguing that like almost every other institution of higher education in the United States, UT is complicit in the ongoing destruction of the world by offering a curriculum that celebrates the existing economic/political/social systems, which undermine the life-sustaining capacity of the world. While that claim may sound crazy, I think my reasoning is calm and careful. The
destructive features of contemporary America's systems -- an extractive economy that
demands endless growth, with a mystical faith in high-energy/high-technology systems
and gadgets, dependent on continued mass consumption of goods of questionable value
-- are all woven into the fabric of UT's teaching and research. Entire departments
on campus are staffed with faculty who seem incapable of imagining a challenge to
those features and appear dedicated to maintaining the systems. The goal of most
courses is to train students to play by the existing rules, not question the systems
that produce the rules.

The obvious problem: We face multiple, cascading ecological crises that should spur
us to rethink our economy, politics and society, but the existing rules rule out
such thinking. If we can't transcend these intellectual limits, it is not clear that
an ongoing large-scale human presence on the earth will be possible. What is clear
is that affluent societies such as the United States cannot continue to live
indefinitely in the style to which so many have become accustomed. In the short term
such affluence can be maintained only by intensifying already unconscionable levels
of inequality, and in the long term even that soulless strategy can't stop the
inevitable decline and eventual collapse.

Reality Check

First, the difficult realities. Look at any crucial measure of the health of the
ecosphere in which we live -- groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, desertification,
chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of
"dead zones" in the oceans, extinction of species and reduction of bio-diversity --
and ask a simple question: Are we heading in the right direction? Don't forget that
we also live in an oil-based world and are rapidly depleting the cheap and easily
accessible oil, which means we face a huge reconfiguration of the infrastructure
that undergirds our lives. The desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought
us into the era of "extreme energy," marked by the use of more dangerous and
destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountain-top
removal, tar sands extraction). And, of course, there is the undeniable trajectory
of global warming and climate disruption.

Where does that leave us? Instead of thinking in terms of manageable "environmental
problems," scientists these days are talking about tipping points and the breach of
planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing the planet beyond its

Second, the deficient response. Universities, which have the resources to chart the
new paths that are necessary, too often push students onto the same old dead-end
roads. On occasion, cautionary notes from the academy are sounded. For example, one
group of scientists recently warned that humans are forcing a planetary-scale
critical transition "with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly
into a state unknown in human experience," which means that "the biological
resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable
transformations within a few human generations."

Unfortunately, most of the modern university pays no heed. The most obvious place
where realities are avoided and illusions maintained is the business school, ground
zero on campus for the indoctrination into capitalist ideology. What's the problem
with that? After all, hasn't capitalism unleashed incredible productivity and
created unparalleled wealth? Yes, but putting aside the important questions about
what the unequal distribution of that wealth says about our alleged commitment to
moral principles (in case it's not clear, it says we don't take our moral principles
very seriously), we now face the grim reality that capitalism is ecocidal.
Industrial capitalism treats the world as a mine from which to extract resources and
a dump for wastes. Largely unregulated markets obscure that destruction, as
financial "instruments" are traded with no regard for what is necessary for a real
economy to continue -- the capacity of nature to sustain life.

Schools of Thought

But in business school, future corporate leaders are taught to maximize profit,
marketing experts develop evermore ways to sell us things we don't need, and
financial wizards slice and dice the numbers to make it all work -- at least on
paper. How much critique of the destructive capacity of contemporary corporate
capitalism will students encounter in the UT business school? I regularly ask my
students about their experience in business classes, and they report that there is
virtually no such discussion beyond occasional mentions of "corporate social
responsibility," a concept designed to assuage consciences rather than deal with
core problems. Real critique in business classes is so rare that when I ask that
question, students either look confused or chuckle at the absurdity.

Move over to the economics department, which at UT (and most other universities) is
dominated by the conventional wisdom of neoclassical and/or mildly reformist
Keynesian economic thought. These models acknowledge "market failures" and "negative
externalities," and then proceed to downplay the dramatic consequences. Failures and
externalities such as climate disruption and other human-generated forms of
ecological destruction aren't mere footnotes to otherwise well-functioning models.
Yet while these looming disasters reveal the models to be irrational, market
fundamentalism demands we ignore the obvious.

These difficult realities do not seem to slow down the economics department or the
business school, as they offer instruction in the theory and practice of a system
that is killing the planet at a quickening pace.

In other parts of the university, the story is slightly more complicated. In the
government department and law school, for example, a wider range of views are
acceptable, but the overall thrust of each is toward the conventional. The study of
law and politics typically takes corporate capitalism as non-negotiable, and so
other aspects of our lives must adapt to the rules of that economic game. A few
critics are allowed in these departments but are largely treated as cranky misfits
who need not be taken seriously.

In the sciences and engineering, there is less attention paid to
economic/political/social systems. There, administrators and faculty see their
disciplines as focused on answering different kinds of questions. Here it is not
market fundamentalism but technological fundamentalism that is most troubling.

Technological fundamentalists assume that the increasing use of evermore
sophisticated high-energy advanced technology is always a good thing and that any
problems caused by the unintended consequences of such technology eventually can be
remedied by more technology. This kind of magical thinking offers a reassuring way
out of the problems that the extractive/industrial economy has created -- if we
ignore the history of those unintended consequences.

The story of air-conditioning is a great example. The chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
widely used in cooling systems were depleting the ozone layer, and so they were
replaced with "safer" hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which we now know are
contributing significantly to global warming. Rather than rethink our demand for
constant cooling, we stumble forward looking for the next technological fix. But if
we look only for "solutions" that don't disturb existing systems, and those existing
systems are unsustainable, then our solutions are at best irrelevant and at worst
will exacerbate the fundamental problems and make it harder for people to imagine
new systems. That's not an argument to abandon all attempts to improve technology,
but rather a reminder of technology's limits and dangers.

The university departments where one is most likely to find the culture of sustained
critical inquiry we need are in the humanities and the social sciences. These
departments -- philosophy, history, literature, sociology, anthropology, as well as
ethnic and women's studies -- will vary ideologically depending on time and place,
but they offer space from which one can think about challenges to existing systems
of power and privilege.

While much excellent and exciting thinking goes on in such settings, too often the
way in which that knowledge is framed and communicated guarantees that any insights
will not go beyond a narrow scholarly community. The university's system of rewards
and punishments encourages professors to stay stuck in the academic trenches, which
have become increasingly self-indulgent spaces. As long as critically minded
academics stay safely within academic life and speak an unnecessarily jargon-laden
specialized language, they are free to pursue whatever topics they like, but at the
cost of social irrelevance.

Power To The ... Powers That Be?

Let me be clear about what I am NOT arguing: I am not suggesting there is no good
intellectual work done at UT; I am not suggesting that the system has cowed every
administrator or professor; and I most certainly am not saying that anyone who
disagrees with me is corrupt or incompetent. Reasonable people can disagree, and I
do not think I have an exclusive claim on wisdom. I consider myself a hard-working
second-tier intellectual and make no claim to being a terribly deep or original
thinker. This essay reflects the analyses and arguments made by an increasingly
large group of critics urging us to step back and think more deeply about the world
we have built.

And let me be clear about one more thing: I love my job and am grateful for the
resources that UT provides for my work. But when I try to understand the system in
which I work, I observe patterns that keep certain points of view dominant and other
approaches marginal. I see younger faculty who want to challenge that system but get
beaten down, or who toe the line out of fear, or who are quickly seduced by the
promise of privilege. I see students who want to push their professors to consider
more critical views but often give up when they meet resistance.

Most important to understanding all this, I see a system of higher education that is
structured hierarchically like a corporation and largely dependent on corporations
for support. The primary reason that UT rarely challenges the conventional wisdom is
that it is dependent on other institutions and people who build, maintain, and
profit from the conventional wisdom.

The University of Texas should be a place where teaching and research challenge the
culture to face what it prefers to ignore. Such confrontation isn't going to come
from corporations in a capitalist economy, which are dedicated to the status quo.
Such confrontation isn't going to come from conventional political parties and
politicians, who are largely captured by the wealth concentrated in the corporate
sector. Such confrontation usually emerges on the margins of society, from
relatively small grassroots groups that generate new ideas but lack the resources to
put the relevant issues on the public agenda.

Universities could serve an important role in helping amplify those challenges to
power. They have not only the resources, but the responsibility of pursuing
knowledge even when the consequences are uncomfortable. UT claims that "we are a
catalyst for change," but the institution implicitly defines that as "change within
existing systems." While UT administrators may be heartfelt in their belief that "we
are driven to solve society's issues," most of the so-called solutions that are
generated ignore or intensify the fundamental problems of the systems.

In a culture that is short on long-term vision, universities are vital spaces for
critical thought. Instead of remaining trapped within the logic of existing systems,
that critical thinking has to be more creative. If there is to be a decent future,
we have to give up on the imperial fantasy of endless power, the capitalist fantasy
of endless growth, the technological fantasy of endless comfort.

There's a lot of intellectual work to do if we are to create such a future. What
starts at UT and other universities can change the world, but only if we give up on
those seductive fantasies and start facing the difficult realities.

Thank you,



Joseph J. Bish

Population Outreach Manager

Population Media Center

145 Pine Haven Shores Road, Suite 2011

P.O. Box 547

Shelburne, Vermont 05482-0547


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viernes, 23 de noviembre de 2012

32 millones de viajes al día

En la Ciudad de México se hacen 32 millones de viajes al día y en 58% de ellos usa el transporte público. Con esos números, la capital tiene una gran oportunidad en gobierno de Miguel Ángel Mancera para mejorar la calidad de vida si replantea la movilidad urbana con un enfoque: implementar un Sistema Integrado de Transporte Público.

Tres retos para un mejor transporte público en la gestión de Mancera

Las 12 líneas del Metro, las cuatro de Metrobus, los dos corredores ‘Cero emisiones’, así como  las 10 líneas de trolebús, 10 rutas exprés, los miles de microbuses y el sistema ‘Ecobici’ son, cada uno, un mundo diferente que no conversa entre sí. No comparten reglas, ni planeación ni integración en su infraestructura, por tanto, la operación conjunta mantendría una “ciudad compacta y conectada”, según la organización civil CTS Embarq.
Especialista en movilidad urbana, la organización –financiada por el Instituto de Recursos Mundiales- presentó ayer una recomendación dirigida al Jefe de Gobierno Electo, Miguel Ángel Mancera, y a la Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal. La propuesta es que respondan al reto de implantar el Sistema Integrado de Transporte (SIT), proyecto cuya columna vertebral sería la creación de una autoridad única del transporte, responsable de su planeación, gestión y control, la cual, afirman, impulsaría una ciudad más ordenada.
El SIT, no obstante, se enfrentaría a por lo menos tres retos:
Articular lo existente
Los peatones, las bicicletas, el metro, tren ligero y tren suburbano, así como todas las opciones de transporte ya mencionadas pueden ser más eficientes  si se establecen “procesos de mantenimiento continuo” y se mejoran sus condiciones.  Una de las mejoras indispensables que recomienda la organización es a los Centros de Transferencia Modal, cuya operación ya ha sido criticada por bancadas de oposición en la Asamblea capitalina.
Expandir la red de transporte masivo
Rumbo a una ciudad “próspera e incluyente”, los expertos ven en una amplia red de transporte, la manera de ofrecer acceso a todos los servicios de calidad. Entre las consecuencias de no asumir este reto estarían el deterior del espacio público, la desigualdad en la inversión en equipamiento y provisión de servicios y una “desarticulación de los polos de desarrollo”.
Un sistema de gestión y control integral
Si bien, crear una sola autoridad de transporte sería imperativo para este reto, no su único requisito. La organización ha recomendado integración en las tarifas (en lo que el DF ya ha dado pasos con, por ejemplo, la tarjeta única para Metro y Metrobús) , la integración con modos no motorizados como la ‘Ecobici’, la integración de la infraestructura, entre otras soluciones.
La profesionalización y concientización del conductor de microbús también está contemplada en este sistema, pues permitiría evitar lo que llaman “la guerra del centavo” o las “carreritas” para ganar el pasaje.
Otra recomendación fue la hecha por la directora de CTS Embarq, Adriana Lobo, quien enfatizó que, lo ideal, sería que la nueva autoridad del transporte fuese un organismo metropolitano. 
Adoptar un SIT permitiría pasar “del caos al orden”, definió Fernando Páez, Director de Sistemas Integrados de Transporte de CTS Embarq, y ex gerente del sistema de transporte colombiano Transmilenio (modelo del Metrobus capitalino).  Para ello, el experto estimó que la ciudad requeriría una inversión de 100 a 150 millones de pesos para estudios técnicos, jurídicos, financieros y de comunicaciones, y por lo menos, entre 3 mil y 4 mil millones más para proyectos de infraestructura como dos líneas nuevas de Metrobús.
La organización contempla que los seis años de gestión de Mancera sean suficientes para el cambio. Incluso previeron que el tiempo podría repartirse entre un año y medio de planeación y 3 de implementación.
En el caso de Bogotá, Páez refirió que la capital colombiana arrancó su proyecto de Sistema Integrado en 2006, y no fue sino hasta 2012 cuando rodaron los primeros medios de transporte público gestionados ya en conjunto, pero un SIT debe estar en constante modificación para responder a la movilidad de la población.

miércoles, 21 de noviembre de 2012

Restoring Human Progress

we can we know that progress is neither impossible nor inevitable? The book performs a broad historical survey. This analysis hinges on an argument that it is indeed possible - indeed relatively straightforward - to identify what most people would consider as progressive with respect to a broad range of phenomena: higher incomes, less disease, more freedom, and cleaner environments. The book then evaluates whether progress has been achieved with respect to a wide array of phenomena over three time periods: the last couple of decades, the last couple of centuries, and the last couple of millennia. Regardless of the time period chosen, progress is observed for many phenomena, regress for many others, and both/neither for still others. Note that such a broad historical survey has never previously been performed. One important purpose of this survey is to overcome simplistic treatments of the subject of human progress: optimists all too often emphasize economic advances while pessimists stress environmental or cultural regress. Discourse regarding the possibility of human progress would be better grounded in a more nuanced understanding of human history.
For the purposes of this book, the survey serves a further critical purpose. Confidence in human progress can only be restored if viable policies exist to encourage this in those areas in which regress has been observed over at least one of the three historical time periods. Too much of the discourse on human progress assumes that certain types of progress - economic or political or cultural - are all-important. Widespread belief in progress requires a program that works toward progress across all phenomena. The final chapters of the book outline such a set of strategies.  That is, for each phenomenon for which regress is observed historically it is asked whether there are strategies for achieving future progress.  In some cases, the way forward is already fairly clear.  In other cases it is necessary to perform further research in order to identify the path forward.  Yet in all cases it is possible to hold out reasonable hope of future progress.  And notably the various strategies are complementary: progress can be achieved across all phenomena. As noted above these various strategies do not depend on any simple ideology.  The book is thus in full accord with postmodern suspicion of meta-narratives (grand explanations of everything or at least many things) while nevertheless transcending postmodern nihilism. It thus holds out hope for a brighter future, but a hope grounded in an appreciation of the complexity of the world rather than some over-simplistic ideology or grand theory."


I know nothing about this competition. It just arrived in my inbox. There
is, however, an environmental component and an option to be pro or con the
proposed framework. So, fyi.

Trish Clay

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Neil Paul Cummins
Date: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Subject: [ENVIRO-L] Fwd: The Andrew Cole International Prize Essay
Competition 2013


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Cranmore P <>
Date: Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 3:52 PM
Subject: The Andrew Cole International Prize Essay Competition 2013

Please feel free to forward to interested parties:

# # # # #

The Andrew Cole International Prize Essay Competition 2013

Congratulations to Peter Xavier Price from The Sussex Centre for
Intellectual History who won the 2011 running of the competition for his
essay: ‘Human Specialness’: The Historical Dimension & the Historicisation
of Humanity.

I am excited to announce that the 2013 competition is now open. The theme
of the competition is:

Restoring Human Progress

In his 2012 book Restoring Human Progress, Professor Rick Szostak
(University of Alberta) outlines an interdisciplinary framework for
restoring human progress. This framework contains proposals for reforming
economics, culture, public policy, art, politics and science. It provides a
roadmap for moving forward on ecological, technological, ethical, social
and environmental issues.

Entries are sought which critically engage with Professor Szostak’s view
concerning how human progress can be restored. Papers can either be
sympathetic or critical of Professor Szostak’s view, and they can vary in
scope from covering his entire framework to covering just one particular
reform proposal.

The winning essay will receive a prize of £200 and the plan is to publish
it in 2014. Essays which are not successful, but that are of a high
standard, may also be published with the winning essay.

Full details of the competition, and of Restoring Human Progress, can be
found here (click on the image below the image of the book cover):

Restoring Human Progress:

# # # # #


*Dr. Patricia M. Clay*


*NOAA Fisheries*

Patricia.M.Clay@ <>noaa <>.


www <>.
. <>noaa
gov <>**

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