Is Ethical Revitalization the Secret to Avoiding Collapse?
November 19, 2013 at 12:01 am #6585
Please use this space to discuss Paul R. Ehrlich’s MAHB Blog post Is Ethical Revitalization the Secret to Avoiding Collapse?. Click on the link below to read more.
November 19, 2013 at 10:51 am #6657
Is Communication Revitalization the Secret to Avoiding Collapse?
The physical crises we confront reveal a deeper crisis in our collective communication. The most profound environmental crisis we face is the crisis with how we use the electronic environment—specifically, the public airwaves that we legally own as citizens (in the U.S.). To illustrate, a recent survey shows that an overwhelming majority of individuals in the U.S. recognize climate disruption is a profound threat to our future and want the government to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this understanding by individuals, the public is unaware that a collective consensus exists. A primary reason for our collective ignorance is that the broadcast media, which has a legal responsibility to serve the public interest, is instead ignoring threats to our future and is promoting a consumerist mindset. Broadcast television is creating a cultural trance where we are entertainment rich and knowledge poor. The broadcast media are profoundly complicit in perpetuating ignorance of threats to our future as well as our collective consensus for meaningful action.
Despite the growing power of the Internet, surveys show that a majority of people continue to get a majority of their news about the world from television. Importantly, most people do not know that, in the U.S., the public legally owns the airwaves used by broadcasters (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX). TV broadcasters have a strict, legal obligation “to serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity” before they serve their own profits. It is time to take back the airwaves from an ethically impoverished mass media that sets the agenda for the mass mind and ignores threats to our common future. By programming television for commercial success, the TV industry is programming the mindset of civilizations for ecological failure.
The bottom line is this: If we are to take practical steps to awaken collectively, then we must create a dramatically more responsive media environment. Although many people have turned away from television in disgust with its excessive commercialism and adolescent programming, the reality is that in the U.S. and around the planet, the overwhelming majority of people get most of their news about the world from this source. At this pivotal time in human history, we cannot afford to turn away from the primary technologies that dominate our collective communication and consciousness.
It is vital to recognize the different strengths of two different communication technologies: television and the Internet. Television generally offers programming that is shallow but has a reach that is very broad. The Internet provides stunning depth but has a reach that is very narrow. Individually, they have tremendous limitations. Together, they are powerful, synergistic tools that can transform the communication of democracies.
We are massively under-utilizing our powerful communication technologies and as a result, we are losing the race between communication and catastrophe. A core challenge of this generation is to mobilize our extraordinary tools of local-to-global connection and consciously communicate our way into a sustainable, meaningful, and thriving future. As the media goes, so goes our mass consciousness and so goes our future. A citizen-based, trans-partisan movement –- a “citizen’s voice” movement — could break the trance of consumerism and bring forth an entirely new level of communication about our collective future — local, regional, national, and global.
One of the most powerful and important actions we can take is to hold the TV broadcasters that use our public airwaves accountable for serving the public “interest, convenience, and necessity.” Nearly all of the world’s problems are, at their core, communication problems. Therefore, the future of the world will depend largely on the quality and depth of human communication. I agree with Lester Brown: “The communications industry is the only instrument that has the capacity to educate on a scale that is needed and in the time available.” The most difficult challenge facing humanity is not devising solutions to crises; rather, it is bringing a new level of conversation and consciousness into our democracy that empowers us to look beyond short term consumerism and to see a future of both great adversity and great opportunity.
See my website for extensive writing on these themes: http://www.DuaneElgin.com Also, see:
November 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm #6663
I agree with the main arguments, both of P. Ehrlich and Duane Elgin. On this last comment on communication, no doubt it is urgent to question the communication industry and the distortions it promotes. But also to implement a type of social learning capable of promoting quality communication, of creating not not just information but also understanding. Understanding is akin to meaning-making, and a sustainable ethic is one that is deeply meaningful.
I agree that good communication is a most central key to unlock a sustainable future. For those of us familiar with the praxis of conservation, it’s clear how the immaturity of the human species in such skills hinders the success of all manner of projects, from local assemblies to world summits.
The good news is that there is an exciting emergence of new and not so new social techniques that address the development of such capacities and with significant success. To what degree they are endorsed by funders is a different matter. Typically even if results are generally accepted as «nice» (mutual understanding, social cohesion, transformative learning) they don’t generate numbers as outcomes and take ‘too long’, hence loosing political priority.
I think it’s also worthwhile mentioning that “bringing a new level of conversation and consciousness” implies very deep changes in how we relate to each other, starting with children. It’s hard to expect people to listen well (crucial to good communication) when they were never really heard. Schools as real communities (involving also families and neighbourhood) are the first place to work in this environmental ethical revitalization that implies deep, solid communication, between us and others, humans and non-humans, and not least, us with our selves.
November 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm #6667
On behalf of Melissa Ahern, MBS, Ph.D.
I agree with this idea, and am very interested in participating in discussions/activities focused on how best to make this happen.
-Melissa Ahern, MBA, Ph.D.
November 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm #6669
On behalf of Gerald Clodfelter:
Thank you for bring science and truth to the table, as well as, a sane voice. One thought is to also pressure corporations to join the movement too. As the Supreme Court voted in Citizens United to give ‘personhood’ to corporations, can a case be made to require ‘them’ to show good corporate citizenship by developing a set of ethics, values and morals? Keep up the important work you are doing!
November 20, 2013 at 4:48 am #6671
Too be honest, I very much doubt it! But a real Citizens revolt, a proper revolution, a “Spring Awakening” in the West could. I certainly agree that if only we could persuade everyone to focus on the future for our children and grandchildren and descendants, we might get somewhere.
As for this proposition, well certainly we would have to go about it with near religious zeal and fervor, but I’m not sure about being ” quasi-religious.”
Does that mean that somehow we have to engender enough faith and belief in what we are aiming to achieve in joe public simply by writing lots of words of wisdom down like in the bible? And then, when this great literary work is finally (if ever) done, presumably with the help of this forum and many others (equally well intentioned) like it; are we going to preach from it – so that the people all rise up and follow our lead quickly and willingly?
Haven’t enough words to fill a bible several times over already been written about the huge environmental mess we are in?
Yet we know that this “born – again” or “quasi -religious ” conversion of the masses that we seek is extremely urgent, and is getting more desperate every minute. We really need action NOW – not more words, ideas, debates and discussions in yet another forum, however laudable it may be.
I have the greatest respect and admiration for Paul Ehrlich, and these are yet more great words of wisdom and guidance from him, but ACTION speaks much louder than words – and it usually gets an awful lot more publicity at least. So to be honest, I’d be far happier if Paul Ehrlich was calling all his supporters together for a mass demonstration demo outside of the White House or better still the UN HQ demanding some real ACTION from them, rather than soliciting for more support for this MAHB project. viz: “which is providing a public forum for generating information, insights, and solutions to the global environmental crisis.”
What exactly is this going to achieve? WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL – out there in the real world, not lost in the ether on the Internet.
I know it is good to feel you are doing something useful about this – I’m doing it myself right now!
But all these words we are typing in is all too easy really isn’t it – while sitting in front of a PC in a comfy chair?
November 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm #6675
Joseph Carson, PEParticipant
Here is a “something real, someting now” suggestion/request. Please consider it and contact me if you are willing to put your name to one or more letters supporting a lawful resolution of my contentions of decades-long, continuing, federal agency lawbreaking that has battered the integrity of the federal civil service and significantly contributes to the institutional distrust that works to preclude the collective action humanity must take to reach year 2100 more-or-less intact.
I am a deeeply concerned licensed professional engineer (PE), employed by U.S. Department of Energy in a position with nuclear safety responsibilities. I am privileged vocationally, just as most people involved with MAHB. So what to MAHB? 2 things: 1) there are significant and persistent deficiencies to the scope and implementation of engineering ethics that enable much institutional evil in world, and 2) there is a 35 year-long “broken covenant” between the President and federal agency heads with the 2.1 members of the federal civil service, see http://www.broken-covenant.org for extensive details.
I am a long-time member of several engineering/science societies including AAAS, NSPE, ANS, and ASME. None have anything to boast about regarding upholding and defending engineering ethics/scientific integrity when offended by an employer of an engineer or scientist, I claim they are AWOL, for all intents and purposes, in such situations. The legal record is that I “prevailed” – multiple times – as a federal whistleblower and these groups did little or nothing to de-legimitize the law-breaking – repeated law-breaking, unappealably established by law – I suffered because I was so foolhardy to put my positive legal and professional duty to protect others before my professional standing and economic security – the “idols” of the professional class.
Fast-forward about 10 years. I have put my finger on why my agency was able to slap me around with impunity. For 35 years now, successive Presidents have failed or refused to comply with their primary statutory duty to members of the federal civil service. I’m saying this publicly, as a PE and current federal employee. If it costs me my PE license, job and pension to state the truth and try to expose and stop this federal agency law-breaking, so be it. That is the kind of “ethical revitalization” – in my profession of engineering and federal civil service – that is necessary for the persistence of civilization. This isn’t a walk in the park, there are vested interests that are willing to kill in many parts of world – and destroy decent people here in America – to keep status quo intact. I don’t see that cost – that an ethical revitalization will be strongly opposed and will cost many decent people their lives, liberty, professional standing, marriages, economic security, etc to accomplish. Can that be stated here? If not here, then where? If not now, then when?
I have the President and many others somewhat cornered. Why am I still employed, still hold a highly sensitive security clearance, etc? Apparently, they don’t want to give me a chance to make my case about 35 years of compounded federal agency lawbreaking, now implicating the President. So they ignore me, just as leaders of my professional societies do. No one is now saying my concerns are not well-evidenced.
I NEED help – your help – to persuade “power that be” that the costs ignoring me exceed directly a lawful resolution of my concerns.
Do you belong to AAAS? NSPE? ASME? ANS? If so you can help persuade their leaders to stop “looking other way” and request a lawful resolution of my concerns. It’s not hard, no lawsuits required, only an application of rule of law within the Executive Branch regarding the intepretation of several 35 year-old civil service laws.
Thanks for whatever consideration you give my request.
Joe Carson, PE
November 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm #6677
On behalf of Denis Firth:
The article focuses on the decision making process of people. However, the fundamental fact is that the technological systems of civilization irreversibly use the limited natural material resources, including the fossil fuels, and produce immutable waste material. That is an unsustainable process. The decisions by society can only, at best, moderate that process.
November 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm #6681
On behalf of Graham Brookman:
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren worked out that long term civilisations not only had appropriate technologies, they had firm ethical footings
Their research led them to 3 ethics for contemporary man
Care of the Planet
Care of Community
Acceptance of individual responsibility for population growth and consumption
These 3 permaculture ethics do not run across the essential tenets of major religions, so can be used an ethical overlay to philosophies, professions and trades
We need a well-recognised university to run nested graduate programs – grad cert, grad dip, masters, PhD
Over a million people have permaculture qualifications, many of them with degrees and higher degrees in other fields
Whichever institution offers these courses first will be killed in the rush. People are wanting this badly as it will offer a way to bring the ethics of sustainable living into all walks of life
Graham Brookman, The Food Forest, South Australia firstname.lastname@example.org