Thursday, November 27, 2008

Falling, Surging, Plunging, Soaring - Paul Krugman

My last post could be changed to "54 Days - Change We Must Participate in!"

Paul Krugman, 2008 Nobel Prize Award in Economics, used these interesting words juxtaposed in his November 21 article published in the New York Times titled "The Lame-Duck Economy"

Stock Market falling, employment surging, manufacturing plunging, interest rates (corporate bonds) soaring.

Krugman asks, "How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot. Consider how much darker the economic picture has grown since the failure of Lehman Brothers, which took place just over two months ago. And the pace of deterioration seems to be accelerating."

He concludes by stating, "But nothing is happening on the policy front that is remotely commensurate with the scale of the economic crisis. And it’s scary to think how much more can go wrong before Inauguration Day."

A few days after I read Krugman's article came across a web page of the Natural Capital Institute - "Helping society towards a socially just and environmentally restorative existence" and read the quote below by Bill Moyers.

"An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight and ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy or worse."

Paul Hawken is the founder and executive director of The Natural Capital Institute.(NCI) I wrote about him and his new book titled "Blessed Unrest" in my post on August 20, 2007.

Hawken and NCI launched the Wiser Earth project on Earth Day, April 2007. "Since its release, WiserEarth's functionality and tools have co-evolved with its users. Starting out as a directory, WiserEarth now offers social networking tools and groupware for people to connect and collaborate around issue areas.

Interestingly, at the same time Wiser Earth was starting, myself and some local friends started the Idaho Common Adventure Network to "Share Place Based and Environmental Interests." I have also joined Wiser Earth and several other organizations trying to learn more about how to encourage citizens to become more involved in local, regional and global environmental issues they care about.

There are a lot of new Geospatial and networking tools that are available to encourage individuals and groups to start projects and become more involved in decisions that affect their lives. Last week I prepared an online presentation related to GeoWeb Common Adventure Networking that I also presented to the 2008 Idaho Environmental Summit. I plan to write another post examining my two plus year involvement with that organization in a few days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

4 -100 Years & 7 Generations - Change We Must Participate In!

On this blog for the past two years I have been suggesting that new interactive Internet tools are now available to help citizens become more substantially involved in local, regional and global environmental and ecosystem related issues. During President-Elect Obama's recent acceptance speech he told a story that made me want to emphasize that we must start now, and in the next four years, more actively participate in the complex decisions that will affect everybody in the next 100 years and at least 7 generations into the future.

During the campaign Obama met a 106 year old woman who voted in the recent election and gave him a brief recounting of the changes she had witnessed during this long lifetime. Then he wondered what changes his young daughters would see if they were fortunate to have equally long lives. Most of us know elders who have shared similar stories and some of us have already accumulated several decades of our own experiences we can now share with younger generations.

One of the primary campaign slogans Barack Obama campaign used was "Change We Can Believe In." Now that the election is over I see signs that a new slogan championed by many is becoming "Change We Must Participate In." Interactive participatory tools and opportunities have become available to all age and interest groups. Now individuals, groups and communities must learn how to use these to become much more involved in local, political, economic and environmental decisions that affect themselves, their children, their grandchildren and future generations. The history of America since the U.S. constitution contains a wealth of stories barely more than 7 generations old. In 2008-2009 we are experiencing the problems related to ecosystem decisions made during this time. What will the world be like 200 years in the future will depend in large part on global decisions made - starting now! What can we all start to do now and in the next 4 years?

In recent years with the overwhelming scientific evidence of negative human impact on the worlds ecosystems and the more recent news of the global economic crises it seems imminently logical that forward thinking people in America and worldwide have to see that these problems are irreversibly interconnected. Indeed throughout time this connection has been stressed often, but has unfortunately been ignored by our modern economic and political leaders, leading to the worldwide crises we are experiencing today. Examples of an appreciation and reverence for "mother earth" and "mother nature." are included in the familiar stories and legends passed on by globally diverse prehistoric, and native cultures including American Indian tribes. These concepts can also be traced back to ancient Greece and to the Middle ages.

More recently, during the 1960's and 70's after men first landed on the moon and also photographed the incredible image of earth from space for the first time, NASA scientists proposed an ecological hypotheses that the biosphere and the physical components of Earth form a complex interacting system that defined the Earth as a single living organism. Originally called the Gaia Hypothesis this is now regarded as a scientific theory, not merely a hypothesis, since it has passed many predictive tests. A new terminology, Earth System Science. has also emerged to define this field of ecological science. Gaia conferences have been held in 1988, 2000 and in 2006 where discussions centered on understanding how to address 21st century issues such as climate change and ongoing environmental destruction. Research carried out over the past decade by four different international global change programs recognise that, in addition to the threat of significant climate change, there is growing concern over the ever-increasing human modification of other aspects of the global environment and the consequent implications for human well-being. (Condensed from Wikipedia)

For citizens who want to become more actively involved the question is how? I believe a good starting point is for each of us and small groups to choose a geographic location or place that can be identified as a "Common" - a specific land (lithosphere), water (hydrosphere) or air (atmosphere) space that is publicly owned. (Wikipedia) Already there are government agencies, environmental groups and community organizations that might have a vested interest in any of our chosen "common" projects. We can become involved by joining these groups, gathering historical data and information available on the Internet and other public sources, and by insisting that we and other individual citizens have a strong participatory voice in decisions that are made. It will also be important to involve other citizens and organizations that are involved in similar commons projects also connected to the larger ecosystem. For example, one "common" project might be focused on a specific water location in a watershed. Related to those water issues are land, wildlife, habitat and myriad other topics upstream and downstream and and forming more complex interacting ecosystems. Yes this effort will demand an unpracticed level of individual participation from all of us, but the evidence is clear now that we have no choice but to try our best.

Most of us know that in our structured hierarchical society is is sometimes difficult for individual citizens of different interests, experiences and backgrounds to be fully accepted or even admitted as equal - horizontal- partners in existing government, environmental, or community groups. However, today, more than any other time in history, the Internet and the World Wide Web offers all of us the opportunity to create Common Adventure projects of the type that I have often written about in this blog. I will also include a link to a presentation I made at the 2004 PlaNetwork Conference titled "InterActive InterNetworking for Ecological Commons" where I anticipated s0me of the same concerns noted in this blog post.

Today, using the growing proliferation of available online discussion forums, blogs, social and interest networks any one person has infinite opportunities to suggest or join a new public service project proposed to take place in a public common area. Meetups, cleanups, monitoring studies, town hall meetings, and community presentations where people physically and socially interact are equally important. A lot of new participatory energy from citizen and community groups should add significantly and positively to the decision making process our elected leaders have been engaged in for generations.

Using new and exciting web based and Semantic Search techniques and tools, it is becoming possible now to locate more useful historical and contemporary data and information about a specific location than ever before. Plus, it is now possible for all of us to contribute photographs, stories, and new data and information for places we care about and this adds to the search results the next person performs. Finally, exciting map tools like Google Maps, Google Earth and many others make it is possible to actually virtually visit almost any place on earth, even in 3 Dimensions. Over time, with a great increase in public participation, on the ground, in the meeting room, and online on the Internet, the wealth of valuable information that will become available for specific places and local, regional and global ecosystems hold the promise that in 4 years, 100 years and 7 generations, citizens worldwide will be moving toward a more sustainable local, regional and global earth ecosystem.

Along with the recent global economic crisis, the more important ecological crisis and the election of a new president in the U.S., new efforts to promote participation in local, regional and global issues are appearing. I will attempt to identify some of these as time permits in future blog posts.