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class 6 wessels the myth of progress evss 695 fall 2012 n.
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  1. Class 6: Wessels, The Myth of Progress EVSS 695 Fall 2012 Sustainability

  2. Analysis Papers • Analysis Papers – not research • Get to pt quickly and concisely. Use specifics • Need strong argument for paper built on thesis – in 1stpara • Use thesis to guide your analysis • Go deeper rather than broader • Build on critical pts through next papers  develop YOUR thoughts • Process not a result  Evolution

  3. Story of Stuff • Annie Leonard, Story

  4. Materials Economy & Linear Systems • MaterialEmbeddedness: Linear systems embedded in larger systems: capitalism, commerce, trade, governance, institutions, at all scales (Hawken & Speth) • IdeologicalEmbeddedness: linear systems and materials economy is supported by culture, history, tradition, language, discourse, values etc. (Wessels) • Dominant institutions and people within those instits try to control both areas to retain control and power  ideological embeddedness is vital to understanding enviro degradation • Need a new “Cultural Narrative”??

  5. Progress • “It’s a very recent phenomenon that landscapes to which people were once connected have become smothered by development—growth that we are told is a sign of progress. But is progress truly possible if its wake continually generates loss—loss of connections to place and community, loss of clean air and water, loss of other species who are truly part of our ancestral family tree?” (p. xii)

  6. Myth of Progress, Intro • Book Thesis: Challenge to our current “paradigm” that “in order to progress we need to keep growing the economy.” • Paradigm: represents a core belief that dramatically structures our worldview. • Econ growth: predicated on increasing consumption of resources • Econ Development: centers on per cap income. can occur w/o increasing consumption—encouraged thru value-added activities (p. xvi)

  7. Means to true Progress • Conclusion: “Need for real community, traditions that help us find our way, connection to our place, and ample time for reflective practice…without those connections we lose any sense of responsibility for our actions.” • “As such, greed becomes possible and when linked to the need to consume, the combination allows for dramatically selfish behavior.”

  8. Myths • 1. Myth of “control” • 2. Myth of Growth • 3. Myth of Energy • 4. Myth of the “free market” • 5. Myth of “Progress”

  9. 3 Laws of Sustainability • Limits to growth • 2nd law of thermodynamics  Entropy  Constant “heat”/energy loss perpectual machine is impossible  Increased Disorder  exposes the dangers of increased energy consumption (over simplification and diffusion) • Law of self-organization  spontaneous coordination from local interactions  initial causal agent leads to positive feedback

  10. WesselsVid • Wessels Speech (part I) (9m) • Wessels Speech (part II) (3m)

  11. Chaos and Butterflies • Chaos Theory: initial conditions have a deterministic effect on future conditions  complex systems are highly sensitive to initial conditions • Butterfly Effect: slight alterations of starting pt (in a system) can “dramatically alter its future behavior.” (p4) • Runs against predictability of Western scientific paradigm based on linearity and reductionism (breakdown into parts to understand system) (Newton and Descartes) • Today, scientific approach embraces linearity, and culture (through education) perpetuates it

  12. Feedbacks in Complex Systems • Because of a complex system’s ability to feedback on itself (contrary to linearity), predictability becomes difficult • A complex system can jump to a ‘new behavior’ from feedbacks  ‘bifurcation event’ Melting Ice becomes a positive feedback to climate system. Reflective ice disappears leaving dark ocean to absorb more heat  adding to temp increase.

  13. Wessel’s Myth of Control (#1) • “predictability and control lie at the heart of our reigning notions of progress. Our leaders believe they can control the future by constantly adjusting the parts. Technological advances are touted as the means to control one day those things that we can’t control right now, allowing progress to continue…control is a reality in a linear system, but in a complex one, it’s simply a myth.” (p21)

  14. Myth of Growth • “Limits to growth is an inherent law that governs all organisms, populations, ecosystems, and even the biosphere—systems that are all nested within the other” (p31) (so do “earth’s physical systems”)

  15. Myth of Energy2nd Law of Thermodynamics • Based on 2nd Law of thermodynamics (Law of Entropy): although energy can’t be created or destroyed (1st law), it can be transformed. • However, this transformation is never 100% efficient (some energy is always lost from system) (p42) • Entropy: process where things naturally move from a state of order toward disorder (or complexity to simplicity) • Every enviro problem today is the result of entropy—caused by increasing energy transformation by humans • E.g. erosion of topsoil or deforestation—entropy leaves behind simpler, more diffused ecosystem • Myth: Progress = More Energy Transformation; however, more energy transformation only leads to more entropy • Solution is to reduce energy consumption, although renewables will help (still energy transformation req’d) and focus on efficiency

  16. Myth of the Free Market • All biological systems increase in complexity and diversity, parts become specialized and integrated—it is the key to sustainability of bio systems (p64) • Higher diversity creates resilience and stability; simplified systems can tumult with loss of a single species. (p77) • Opposite in corp world: Mergers lead to larger orgs (MNCs) and competitive exclusion • US Agriculture: sharp decline in # of farms, limited # of crops, and subsidies (60% subs went to large agribus representing only 10% of US farms—2003) (p78) • Rise of Corp power: corps as persons (law), monopolization, interest group power • Indiv corps grow, simplifying system, with higher concentrations of power  econ sys behaves in contradiction to natural complex systems

  17. Myth of Progress • Hierarchy of Progress • Reverse today’s trajectory (all about materialism) • Indivs must be fulfilled (emotional well being) at top, material progress at bottom • More affluent, higher levels of anxiety, depression, and social isolation  focus in on possessions and lifestyle (ephemeral pleasure) • Live longer but less healthy • Indicators of well-being is deteriorating

  18. Cultural Change = Ancient Values • Large part of prob is individualism & self-absorption Lessons from Ancient cultures: • Reciprocal altruism • Each had a critical role, but knew place within world • Part of land, not apart from it • Reflective practice

  19. 10000 Yrs of Cultural Transformation • 2 changes with advent of agriculture • 1. part of land replaced with being apart from it • 2. as villages grew, political hierarchies formed • * resulted in exclusion • With Ind Rev: • Extended families shed for more mobile nuclear ones • Societal changes accelerated, & with greater mobility, connections that grounded people to place were lost • Today (4th cultural transformation) • Global, postindustrial culture  shifts in populations from pol & econ upheavals and changing job mkts • Nuclear family under assault (both parents work) • Major decisions made by trade reps, MNCs, & appt officials

  20. Epilogue: Connection not Consumption • Main Prob: “isolation of people from community, place and reflective practice has become a crisis of culture.” (p109). • As economy & consumption grow, entropy (sys becomes disorganized & simplified as it loses energy) will accelerate. The feedback from this mounting entropy will eventually destabilize and curtail econ growth.” • “with an econ sys that continuously moves away from cooperative integration of efficient, specialized enterprises to huge transnationals that thrive on competitive exclusion, we find a system that grows increasingly wasteful, lacks critical redundancy, and as a result moves toward greater instability.” (p113) • CSA: Community Supported Agriculture  people buy shares in a farm and get all produce as members