Steps toward a saner America

The behavior of America’s leaders in this first year of the Obama administration has been less than stellar; name calling on the floor of the Senate, open mockery of the office of the President, death threats made to congressmen are just a few of the more questionable behaviors that have reared their heads in these last months.

More disturbing is that as the deadline for the potential signing of HR3590 drew closer, more vocal rhetoric and in some cases outright slander and overt racism in the case of the Tea Party and the Christian militias (which in the last year went from 180 groups to over 540 groups and growing) continued to grow and spew forth vitriolic venom both on the ground and in the airwaves.

Glen Beck’s screams of “Progressivism” and Rush Limbaugh’s continued polarization of the GOP’s base seemed to fuel a frenzy of national hatred that culminated with the final signing of the health care legislation.

The question begs to be asked: What exactly could cause such a major swing in the overall mental state of the nation that would cause social groups to abandon all sense of propriety and what was once considered to be common sense and human decency? And this transition did not happen overnight.

I can find articles describing this phenomenon years before Obama came into office.  How is it that even children can see the behavior of every adult whether they be “tea-bagger” Republican or liberal “bleeding-heart” Democrat has been a travesty worthy of school yard bullying complete with arguments about policies that no one has read in their entirety and cannot even begin to really understand the ramifications of, for years in the future; each group claiming to be more right than the other and willing to kill to prove it.

Is this what good government is supposed to look like? No wonder our children want nothing to do with the idea of government – its is a regression to the schoolyard of their youth where nothing got solved, everyone was right and no one could apologize for fear of appearing weak and losing face.

So how do we begin to make a transition from this fear-enabled, angst-filled, respect-stunted, violence-prone and civility-impaired nation of fools without the ability to hold even the most basic of conversations without resorting to ad hominem attacks about Progressivism, Socialism, Marxism, conservatism, Nazism, racism, or Communism and get back to a nation powered by ideas, fueled by innovation, guided by clear vision, charged with enthusiasm for the future, and with the idea that only as a nation of real equals do we have a chance to tackle a potentially troubling and very challenging future filled with perils aplenty – a constantly growing need for diverse and renewable energy sources, better food to feed an obese and sedentary nation, a more even educational system providing higher quality education at lower costs, handling a crumbling technological infrastructure in all of our cities, ever-rising debts in the management of said cities, mass transit systems, school systems, prison systems and local governments, a reduction of our nation’s status as the leader in technological innovation, military might, and national idealism, wars all over the globe, some of which we take part in and other we shamefully allow to take place without intervention because our assets are not yet imperiled. Do we not have enough to deal with without the people and particularly the leaders of our nation acting as if we had simply gone mad?

No need to break out your DSM IV

As much as I would like to say that this is a mental health issue, I cannot agree with that assessment. Nor will I say that this is about the Left versus the Right and which has the nation’s best interests at heart. And I will not allow people such as Limbaugh, Beck and Stern (and any other raving media lunatic) the option to say that he has had the power to move the minds of men toward madness.

I say this is a creeping condition. A hidden fungal infection, beneath the veneer of civility, something that has been with this nation since its beginning; an underlying sense of shame, a sense of entitlement, a sense of misplaced anger, and a sense of righteous indignation; stirred together, simmer over four hundred years, add some civil wars, some terrible recessions, stir together in a Dust Bowl, fold in some misplaced ideals (McCarthyism for example), sprinkle on a few pogroms, ladle in laws that denied what we now consider rights, place a few strategically fired bullets at leaders who saw a better, brighter world,  and the add a generous helping of landmines all over the world to deny people of their opportunities year after year.

Bake until there are competitors for the world’s apparently diminished resources, bring to a boil over a burning building that collapses strangely when a plane with zealots deny three thousand of their lives and couple that with the retaliation that deprives millions more of theirs and you have a recipe for a madness that encompasses the country and poisons the world, a sickness spread through the airwaves, leaping from televisions, repeated on computers, stained to newsprint and by contagion in hidden office arguments and you have one of the most virulent plagues known to humanity, a loss of hope.

Hopelessness, of a future less promising than the one your parents had made even more futile by the actions of an elite few who want for nothing except for a connection to the human billions who do without that which their  financial billions could make right. Can we doubt that this is the recipe for madness? A sense of rage that would drive men to take up arms, kill their brothers, to sacrifice, like Abraham, anyone or anything that might make the world return to the Promised Lands of their religions.

Is it any wonder that people would strap on explosives filled with nails and shards of broken glass and blow themselves to bits on the promise that the next life, which none of us could technically be sure exists, would be better than the life they were leading the day they died? Our real goal is to return people to that hope, to a future that has the potential to be better than the one they see when they look up, whether it be out of their homeless shelter or their mansion window, a future that will not improve if we cannot admit that we are wrong about the present.

So if you want to improve the future, say it with me: I was wrong.

I don’t know what it was that I was wrong about and it does not matter. Did I misinterpret what was said? Did I assume when I should have asked? Did I know what Marxism, or Socialism or Communism really meant before I said those things I said in a meeting when I might have been a bit incensed? How much do I really know about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or the Federal Reserve or about my credit rating or how the stock exchange really relates to me or whether Windows 7 really is the operating system for my computer?

A need to be right?

Why are we so insistent that we must be right? My religion is the right one. My God told me. All other are wrong enough that I must die to prove it, unless I can kill them first. My government is the right one, because it has held power for a few days longer than the one before it, or has historically proven to be the one that raised fewer taxes or managed to make more changes that helped people or because business thrived under my government and languished under yours? That the Atkins diet is better than Weight Watchers?

STOP! Just stop!

History is great but its weakness is everyone remembers what is most convenient and important to them (relativism run amok). So when history gets people in a killing mood it is time to look toward the future and ask how what we are planning will affect the lives of people once we are gone. Yes, let’s get back to the idea of planning for a future that we will never get to see. That will make us think a little bit harder, plan a little bit better and teach our children well enough that they can have a chance to make that future happen for themselves once we are gone. Let’s go back to providing our children a legacy that will make them proud of us and still prouder of themselves for planning a better future for their children.

Enough shame to go around

You raging pundits, go home. Find something useful to do with your amazing oratory skills. Perhaps some poor neighborhoods of your choice could be inspired to greatness with those powers you currently wield without thought to their effects on the nation, on the future or most importantly on yourself. Could you live with yourself if you were to wake up in the future of your making only to find out it was the worst of all worlds, a hellish nightmare from which there was no awakening? Or are you so out of touch you would find a way to blame it on the other party, even while you were having your sandwich of Soylent Green?

You politicians, do your job. The one we hired you for. The one that, if I have my way this letter will incite people to replace you with someone who can read, who will write laws that they are not afraid to live under, who will create a responsible future that benefits everyone, not just the rich and powerful and who will consider every man woman and child under his or her constituency as precious as every drop of water is to a man lost in a desert, each drop coveted, beloved, needed and considered as important as the drop before it. Be responsible, be conscientious, be vigilant, be valiant, be leaders of men.

You media distributors, grow up. We know your secret, if it bleeds it leads. Sensationalism sells papers, video, commercials, and other advertising, continuing to make you the most powerful force for influencing the minds of men and women. We know you will do or say anything to be at the top.  But remember this too: scum floats to the top, too. We know who you are and you are wondering why no one is happy with newspapers? Less and less in newspapers matters to people anymore. You grow irrelevant to the common man and he knows this.

Continue in this pattern and you will be assured of one thing. In ten years, there will be ten newspapers for each time zone in the United States (currently there are 1,400 daily newspapers nationwide and thousands of local weeklies but that number is dropping fast). And do not think that the Internet will save you. The need for relevancy will follow you there. Find the heart of America and give it what it really needs which is hope for a future. Lead them with words that inspire as well as inform. You can let the printed word build the future or you can watch from the sidelines as “citizen journalism” replaces you with its imperfect writing styles, less than stellar grammar and polarized, biased views. But those views will be relevant to the people reading it and yours won’t be.

You elite one percent, pay attention. Your time of reckoning is at hand. This economic collapse that everyone wants to place at the feet of President Obama is not his alone. He may be in charge of the nation, but he just got here a year ago. In the seventies and eighties when lobbyists for big business and deregulation were able to convince the government that you would be more profitable if allowed to be less regulated, you were. But no one was watching you.

No one paid attention to your schemes that allowed you first to run rampant here in the States and then spread your machinations upon a vulnerable yet already scheming world trying to figure out how to get markets in America whilst you set your hungry eyes upon their wretched poor trying to figure out how you could exploit them for less than you were paying your middle class and poorer brethren here in the states.

Rich foreign investors purchased American assets and you moved your factories, your manufacturing, your services overseas and left your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers of circumstance and shared fates without resources to buy your wares. And when your wares returned from their foreign sweatshops, there was no one left here to buy them, except for you and your elite friends who lacked the purchasing power to ignite the economic engine of shame, left under-fueled by your quests for profit. I do not say that your astronomical profits were wrong, just very shortsighted; myopic, indeed.

As for the handling of the economic wealth of our nation, the dealings in land and property that allowed for some financial slight of hand to further increase your wealth and prosperity at the further expense of our brothers in arms and hunger, you suddenly experienced a moment of fear, as you watched your Brothers, Lehman struggle for life and suddenly drown in a frenzy of economic skulduggery.

Capitalists that you were, you claimed that your right to make money made you immune to the vagaries of fate and that you were too big to fail and that it was up to the government and the little people you scorned so many years before to find a way to buoy you up on their backs one more time, whilst you flew in your corporate jets to plead your case before the government for Socialist or are they Marxist handouts?

Your time has come. You will not have the option of being too big to fail. You played that card and then spit in the eyes of your saviors by paying bonuses to your elite, again. You would think you could maintain your charade of contriteness for at least a year while the sting of keeping you rich faded from the memory of the poor and disenfranchised moved out of their homes which you helped them lose, into the shelters that cities can now, not afford to pay for, while your corporate jets fly over those regions who lost their pensions and are now watching their stores, towns, villages, families, and farms shutter their doors and their histories just in time to watch Glenn Beck tell them its Progressivism that is making them poor when you know that its really you. Don’t make any more mistakes, you elite, lest people remember the expression “Eat the Rich.”

And don’t think I forgot you, Average Joe; you too have a part to play in this madness, this contagion that you are spreading with your ignorance of facts, your ignorance of governance, your apathy to your children, to your community, to your own fate. Stuffing your faces full of empty calories and fulfilling fats, you watch American Idol, waiting to see which of these nobodies will get their 15 minutes of fame, 14 of which they will use up on the show and the last no talented gasp will be that 1 minute that you remember them after they leave the show and wait for the next season of unreality television. Your consumption does not stop with bad food and bad television, you enhance it with partisan television, television that is completely under the control of people who only have one mission for you, Joe; stay stupid, stay afraid, stay at work and stay at the store. And while you are at it, drink too much, exercise too little, take these white pills for your headaches, these blue ones for your impotence and be sure to get to the pharmacy for your insulin for your television or computer-induced diabetes.

No Joe, it’s not only your fault that you are subject to these ills. Judging from the fact that most of America is morbidly obese (okay maybe not most, but more than a third), I would say that the plan to keep you fat, crippled, illiterate, and underemployed is working fine; most of your fellow Americans are in the same boat.

So I have to ask you, since you are angry about the things that you know almost nothing about, can you be angry about the things you can be sure of? If you keep eating the way you do, you will die, you will die poor, you will die soon and you will die uncomfortably. You will die leaving your family no legacy because you will spend every penny you have to live as long as you can with as low a quality of life that is possible in our “first World nation” with its inadequate health care and overpriced insurance; so Joe, angry yet?

I know you are, you have lost a job that you had for twenty years and are now being told in your fifties that you need to train for a new career and you better do it before you lose your home to foreclosure the same way you lost your pension to a corporate escapade a few years before. I feel your pain. I would be pissed too if I expected to retire in ten years and now have to work until I die, no matter how soon or how uncomfortable that is going to be. Twenty years, on your feet for eight hours a day saying “would you like fries with that” would make me mad as hell!

I am going to leave you bigots, partisan political sociopaths and religious nuts out of this particular conversation, you are simply too unreasonable to talk to and if I do my job right, no one will listen to you again, anyway.

True Freedom

No one has to be angry anymore because you are now free to be wrong. Your urges to be right have forced you to say things you did not mean, to do things you knew were wrong and take risks that were completely unnecessary. Go to your boss and tell him or her, that you have no idea of anything you said in the last meeting was actually true and that you were likely going to have to do something illegal to make the numbers that you promised. We’ll wait. Now, don’t you feel better?

A huge weight is lifted because you know you will not have to lie tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Lies that compound daily do not lead to a harmonious and stress free life. Lies compounded daily lead to coming to work with a couple of handguns and blowing your boss and likely yourself into the next life. It will now be okay to admit you don’t know anything about black people’s lives in America and the fact that you hate them is really based on the fact that your father hated them and his father before him. You hate them because it is the thing to do, something you know, not something you know anything about. You hate because you don’t know anything else to do.

I say America, you need a time out (I would recommend a spanking but to administer 300 million spankings would take me quite some time). You need time away from your television and those raging pundits, time away from your media and their constant urge to create a fear of everything around you. I want you to take time away from your Blackberries, your iPods, your computers, your twittering masturbation, your media frenzy. Put down your Xbox controller, your PS3, your Wii-motes, remotes, and get up from your sofa.

Stretch. Go outside. If it’s unpleasant weather, bundle up, go anyway. If you have a dog, take it out. If you have a cat, chase it out. Grab your kids, your wife, your husband, your girlfriend. Go to your nearest neighbor and introduce yourself. Then get them to go with you to your next neighbor and do the same. Do that until every house and every door that you can see from your door has a name on it. Then go home, sit with your family and marvel at their tales of their day. Savor the food on your table, if you do not have a table, remember when you did, and visualize the day that you will again.

Let go of the false divisions that the media use to keep us polarized. Those false divisions of race, creed, color, religion, political party, economic status, class, degree, and neighborhood are all created to keep us at odds. They are truly false. Turn off the lights and all people become the same. If you have a problem, close your eyes and put yourself in the place of the person who is asking you for your time, your support, your largess, your succor. You would hope he will be as helpful for you as you will be for him. Ultimately humans are herd animals, seeking shelter in the collectiveness of our cities and towns. But as herd animals if we can be divided we become prey to any unscrupulous predator that happens by. Nearly anyone who provides a major service to you can be a predator in the right light.

None of us will be free of this madness until we remember that we are all in this together. Gene Rodenberry’s fictional but highly logical race, the Vulcans, posited the IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, an idea that promotes that true intelligence promotes and accepts diversity to spur innovation and invention. We would be wise to consider this idea. There are no strangers, only friends we have not met yet. Once we realize that each of us is all of us, we will be able to be angry but only for a moment. The same way you are angry at your husband when he does not take out the trash, but forgive him when he remembers to help with the dishes. We will be able to realize that each of us is imperfect and yet perfect just the way that we are.

We are all bound together through that ultimate equalizer, Time; “it slays kings, ruins towns, and brings high mountains down.” We are all mortal and none of our works will last unless the least of us is as important as the best of us. We have an entire world that is looking to us to be our best. And since we are so fond of claiming that America is the best, shouldn’t we be finding new ways to prove that?

I do not fear the future. I am confident that we can overcome all of the mistakes that have led us to this fork in the road. We can continue down this road we are on, self absorbed, lost, angry, fat and apathetic or we can opt to notice that the Future is coming. Get up, put on your best, think, learn what the future requires and then build it. Grab a friend or two to help you. Hurry up; it will be here before you know it. Who has time to be mad?

Thaddeus Howze © 2010, All Rights Reserved

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Forget about Saving the Earth, We Better Concentrate on Saving Ourselves

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Saving the Planet?

I can’t stand when I hear people saying that we need to “Save the Planet.” The people who are propagating this meme to the general public are usually media people who don’t know megatons from megaliths. We cannot save the planet because the Earth is not in danger. We are. As an amateur scientist and professional technologist, I am too aware of the science regarding end of the world scenarios and anything with the real potential to end the world is beyond our ability to stop, save for the one that we are bringing on ourselves; our ability to create, manufacture and destroy the environment for the sake of profit.

It is theorized that during the Cretaceous period, approximately 65 million years ago, an asteroid crashed into the Earth in the Yucatan peninsula. This ten kilometer piece of space debris, weighing nearly a trillion tons, moving at nearly 10-30 kilometers/per second (20,000 – 60,000 mph) and with the force of 100 million megatons of energy, (more energy than all the nuclear weapons on Earth today) created a crater nearly 150 kilometers across, blasting tons of earth and rock into the atmosphere. This impact in turn caused seismic events, created tsunamis and initiated volcanoes which added to the blanket of ash that reduced the temperature of the Earth all over the world.

This major reduction in temperature caused the demise of 70% of all plant life on Earth. There is controversy as to whether this killed the dinosaurs immediately or whether it took another 300,000 to 1.8 million additional years to cause their demise. Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for over 145 million years and in the relative blink of an eye, they were gone. But the Earth is still here. Such an event today as the Chicxulub (pronounced CHICK-soo-loob) impact would end all higher life on Earth in a matter of years due to starvation.

There have been at least six other known major extinction events that occurred on Earth, as near as our science can tell. This means that nearly 90% of all life on Earth has been destroyed several times in our planet’s four billion year existence.  There are million of species that remain on Earth today filling every niche and environment possible. The Earth is resilient and life returns again and again. Individual species are another matter entirely.  I say it again for those who can’t handle the truth, the Earth is not in danger, we are!

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How did I get here, again?

As a technologist, I am fascinated by the effect of technology on the human species and the human condition. Recently there were three catalysts that made me think about this again. The first was receiving an email regarding electronic waste or e-waste and its dumping on the African continent as well as its illegal trade in Chinese communities. Wayne Hicks, a leading member of the BDPA posited the idea that something should be done about the dumping of toxic e-waste on the shores of Africa and he asked the question: Does BDPA need to take a public stand on the issue of e-waste? After some research, I applauded Wayne Hicks interest in this controversial issue and agreed with his question. A more definitive stand is required.

The second catalyst was a program produced by ABC Television News called ‘Earth 2100‘ that premiered June 2, 2009 at 9:00 PM.  This show talked about a possible future in the next 100 years that would show the eventual decline and fall of the human species. It was during the viewing of Earth 2100,  I heard one of the wisest things I have heard said in years and at the same time the scariest. It was spoken by Van Jones, Founder of Green for All, during the early part of the Earth 2100 show. He said “People are complaining about the economic crisis we have right now? You ain’t seen nothing yet. You know, if we continue down this suicidal pathway where we basically turn living stuff into dead stuff and call that economic growth, this will look like the good old days.”

I don’t personally know Van Jones, but he and I would be kindred spirits because I am in totally agreement with this statement and wonder why our economy is continuing down such a final and disastrous path. Van Jones is the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). This science fiction documentary could very easily become science fact if humanity continues down this slippery slope of denial and adherence to our failing economic models. And like global warming it will be ignored because it is unpopular until it is too late to do anything about.

The third was a catalyst that I had considered about 10 years ago when I created a game that discussed how mankind would one day wage war over the limited resources and the failing ecosystems of the future. When I created this game, I thought it seemed like a logical, but unfortunate, progression. Humanity has never done well with scarcity and the future promises, that we would eventually market ourselves to death, selling products we do not ultimately need, creating an engine of economic prosperity that does not take the maintenance of the future into consideration. Well, I was not alone in this idea and it appears that the Center for a New American Security had also considered this premise and created their own “Climate Change War Game” to see what the future has in store for the ever-combative, ever short-sighted human species. You can download the materials for this game. These three catalysts lead me to thinking about this again and asking why is there any question as to what needs to be done.

I was reading about natural law theory and realized that humanity, or at least those in charge of the path that humanity is taking as a whole, had forgotten natural law theories.  To quote Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.:

“What do we mean by “natural law”? In its simplest definition, natural law is that “unwritten law” that is more or less the same for everyone everywhere. To be more exact, natural law is the concept of a body of moral principles that is common to all humankind and, as generally posited, is recognizable by human reason alone. Natural law is therefore distinguished from — and provides a standard for — positive law, the formal legal enactments of a particular society.

To sum it up, then, we can say that the natural law:

  • is not made by human beings;
  • is based on the structure of reality itself;
  • is the same for all human beings and at all times;
  • is an unchanging rule or pattern which is there for human beings to discover;
  • is the naturally knowable moral law;
  • is a means by which human beings can rationally guide themselves to their good.”

I reference this because I feel that certain concepts have simply been forgotten in the name of profit. The concept that things happen at a certain rate and no faster is known by farmers, geologists, paleontologists and astronomers (and assuredly lots of other occupations that cannot force nature to occur at any rate faster than it does naturally). They never forget these natural law theories because it is part of the underpinnings of their craft. Farmers cannot force plants to grow any faster than they do (yes they can alter their size, appearance, output but nature determines their overall development rate, for the moment). Geologists and other earth scientists cannot make tectonic shifts take place any faster, indeed they are hard pressed to predict them at all, paleontologists study ancient cultures and don’t expect to see drastic shifts in the nature of those cultures overnight, nor can astronomers who have to work with the speed of light as their limiting agent, see the universe as anything other than a picture whose images are displaced by millions or even billions of years between when we see them and what they may actually look like now. Light may be the fastest thing in the known universe, but even it must bow to the nearly immeasurable distances of inter-galactic space.

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Bringham Canyon Mine is the largest open pit copper mine in the world—deeper than twice the height of Chicago’s Sears Tower. 

It’s Economic Development

Our business models, our economic models, our advertising models, and the manufacturing model that we are propagating all over the Earth, in the name of democracy and free trade, are failing to remember natural law. With the advent of the Industrial and Manufacturing Age, we have compressed time to the point that we can only make money at this new and accelerated rate. Everything must happen right now. Dividends must be maximized; profits must be realized without delay regardless to the cost of human suffering or long-term loss. We must continue to extract resources from the earth, create new, cheap and potentially toxic processes for refining those materials, and in turn, take those refined materials and assembly line the creation of those products that we then must advertise and sell as quickly as possible for a profit. And that is where we curiously, as a society, stop watching that device or product.

The manufacturers no longer take responsibility for that product once it leaves their hands and comes into yours. We forget the other half of that product’s lifespan. That product is used. If the manufacturer built into it a pre-programmed obsolescence date (which, whether they admit it or not, most manufactures understand that their product has a limited lifespan) that product will stop working and will likely be unable to be repaired due primarily to its cheap cost of manufacturing.

This poorly manufactured product is likely created with a process that has deadly by-products during its creation, and those by-products are likely still with this product when it is time for it to be returned to the other half of its existence, as a waste product. Deadly plastics whose by-products include dioxins or poly vinyl choloride (PVC), heavy metals such as lead, selenium, cadmium, barium, and mercury are used in the creation of high-tech products and can leech back into the environment when disposed of improperly. If you are interested in seeing what toxins might be in your community at large, you can use a web-based service called Scorecard.

So how is it that a product that was conceived of by a business, the natural resources harvested from the earth, manufactured in a factory, advertised to the consumer, sold to that consumer, used by the consumer, disposed of by the consumer, in the tens of millions, possibly even billions, should only be a cost to the consumer, when the corporation that created the need for the product in the first place walks away with all of the profit and the consumer (and its attendant government) must deal with all of the costs for the disposal of that product and its potentially deadly side-effects.

Let’s take a quick look at natural for a second. In nature, everything is part of the cycle of life and death. When anything dies, nature has a process, which recovers the natural elements of that organism and returns them to the environment from which they are ultimately derived. It is eaten, broken down, waste products are produced, which are then broken down again either chemically or physically until it is able to become part of the cycle of living things again as part of a plant or animal.

Mankind has failed to take a note from nature’s handbook and build our own devices on a similar path of intelligent design. (And for the record, I am not espousing “Intelligent Design” that religious ideal that there is a greater intelligence in the Universe that we are not aware of.) I am simply noting that nature has managed to work both sides of the creation and destruction cycle by including a transformation element to convert the living back into the component materials from which it is ultimately derived. Mankind has failed to include such a transformation element and it is coming back to us in the form of deadly byproducts of electronic waste.

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A Problem of Scale

This is a question of the scale of the problem. We are addressing the disposal of technology at a linear scale. This means a small percentage of the human race is attempting to deal with our waste management and the problem is left to this tiny segment of the population. But we are manufacturing technology at an exponential scale, increasing our need and dependence on technology and its increasing affect on how we do business. And the more technology we create, the more technology that is necessary to manage it. Unless, we as a species, begin handling our technology collectively, we will be overwhelmed by the waste products created today in the name of economic prosperity. Some may say this has already become the case as our oceans become more polluted by environmental run-off from factories, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers necessary to feed our populations.

How many computers are there on Earth today?

There are currently nearly 1 billion computers in use today. Forrester Research indicates that by the year 2015 there will be 2 billion computers in use. The source for this data is IDC, the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker gathers PC market data in 55 countries by vendor, form factor, brand, processor brand and speed, sales channel and user segment. The research includes historical and forecast trend analysis as well as price band and installed base data. It took 27 years for there to be one billion computers, it will only take seven or eight to reach two billion. How fast will we reach three billion?

How many cell phones are there on Earth today?

John Jackson, consultant wireless analyst at Yankee Group, indicated that in 2006 that the global market, with 1.8 billion mobile devices, will have 49 million new smart phones by year end. Yankee expects the number of smart phones to double again, to 98 million, in 2006, while the number of cell phones worldwide creeps ahead to 1.85 billion. With number like these, you can expect that in 2009, the number of cell phones will exceed 2 billion cell phones.

How many game consoles have been created since their inception?

Since 1983 there have been over 1 billion game consoles from all of the manufacturers sold worldwide. These numbers do not deal with accessories or components outside of the actual device. We are not going to even address: monitors (CRTs, plasma, LCD, and televisions of all types but you can assume there are at least as many monitors as there are computers), fax machines, which were extremely popular for at least twenty years in the US, radio technologies including clock radios, boom-boxes, internal home stereo systems and enhanced car stereo systems, old style telephone systems that are being replaced by Voice over IP telecom systems, large scale mainframe, mini-computers and server systems that are becoming obsolete faster and faster.

Not Rocket Science

For the BDPA, whose chapter leadership shows little or no interest (at least as far as their bdpa.groupsite.com news group link showed) in pursuing the question of electronic wastes, I say, shame on you. I understand you have other issues that need addressing. Equality of your membership in the workforce is definitely a worthy cause that I salute. But I say to you this: If you have no other causes for which your organization will fight for, why should anyone consider your primary cause worth fighting for. The shores of China or East Africa may be far away from you now, but when this current trend of ‘economic development’ is done, America may find itself a ‘second or third world nation’ and suddenly find e-waste stealthily being sent to its shores in poor urban communities where the bulk of the next generation of BDPA’s members may find themselves relegated to, due to the poor standard of living that people of color have to contend with in America. This is part of that being able to pay attention to natural law that we were discussing earlier. A paleontologist may be able to point out to you that as empires lose power over time, they lose the ability to protect their population from stronger or more vigorous empires who take their place. This may mean as the United States grows less powerful, more powerful nations may take to doing to us, what we currently do them under the guise of economic development.

Get your leadership to draft a letter, sign it and send it to your Congressmen, your senators, and to the President if necessary. There are thousands of you (as you are fond of saying in your literature) so use that power to be the change you are looking for. While you are at it, get the creators of all of this technology that eventually becomes e-waste to discuss a plan to make technology that can be returned to the Earth, reused, or recycled in a responsible way because that way lies the future of all of us. Find those corporations that understand that we need to do better and use them as a standard for the creation of more organically considered technologies. We need to get people to see that economic growth divorced from Natural Law will be the death of all of us. Not right now, but in the future that is rapidly approaching us.

This is the letter I plan to send to our local government representatives. I doubt that the scale of the problem will register but they cannot say they were not informed. I have included links that will help you find your representative for your local area. Most can be reached by email but for those that have snail mail addresses, I have included links for those as well. If you feel this letter finds some accord with you, feel free to send your own copy to whomever you think will listen.

The White House (courtesy of Wikipedia)

The White House (courtesy of Wikipedia)

A Letter to Your Representative

To the United Nations, United States Congress, US Senate, and the President of these United States:

We the Undersigned, in the month of our nation’s independence July of 2009, find it reprehensible that nothing is being done to prevent the creation of potentially toxic electronic devices without a viable and safe means of disposal of said technologies. These technologies are being created in the millions annually, purchased in the billions over a decade and disposed of in the hundreds of millions every year. These technologies are showing up on the shores of our neighboring nations as well within our own landfills and poisoning the land and the water as well as killing populations everywhere, all in the name of progress, economic growth and gross domestic product.

Please don’t bother telling us about the economic engine of the world being powered by the creation of new technology and that businesses have a right to create technology that people need. Most people don’t need the technology that is being created at the rate that it is being created. The concept that we should be creating technology that lasts should a part of a well-considered plan to future generations. No one should need a new cell phone every two years. This is irresponsible and wasteful. That need to buy new technology constantly is driven by the very effective use of advertising to convince the populace that new technology should be purchased as quickly as possible, whenever possible. This should be seen as a crime against humanity.

To add insult to injury, those technologies are being manufactured with planned obsolescence in mind, so that technology such as cell phones, which are created in the hundreds of millions, for example, without a plan for their eventual disposal find themselves being sent to third world nations under the guise of “technology exchange” but is more  a euphemism for ‘technology disposal and dumping.’ If it were only cell phones it would be a reprehensible practice but it is cell phones, computers, computer monitors, televisions, telephones, fax machines, copiers… Do I need to go on? Millions and millions of these devices are being created without a plan or a method of disposal or reuse. The cast offs are sent to third world nations without any understanding of how those technologies will be harvested for what little value remains in them. They are likely burned and their plastic housings will release dioxins and other poisons into the atmosphere. The heavy metals within them, those that cannot be harvested for value, like gold, will make their way into the soils and remain there indefinitely, poisoning the land and the water, making those areas potentially un-inhabitable. The current locals who are forced into this slave labor by crime cartels or economic desperation will eventually die, exposed to toxic smoke, heavy metal poisoning, pollution of their ground water or food supply. This is happening right now, not a conjecture, clearly just a fact.

Not an American concern, you say. Not your problem, you say. We don’t have control over businesses that are not in the United States, let alone those that are. If you claim you want to reduce health costs, you might want to consider that many of those health issues can be traced back to manufacturing processes, by-products of manufacturing, or to the disposal of those products at the end of their unnaturally short life spans. If you, as representatives of the people, want to make the world a better place, then it is up to you to review the information regarding e-waste and for that matter, all waste processing and see what can be done to improve those processes, reducing the deadly by-products and work to ensure that the true cost of manufacturing is laid at the feet of everyone involved.

Corporations should also carry the burden of dealing with the toxic by-products even if it increases the costs of their products. It might also force them to make those products last a bit longer and keep them out of the waste cycle, poisoning our air and water supplies. America is a big country and we can hide the bodies of our manufacturing dead for a long time before it becomes an issue to us. We can deny it is a problem almost indefinitely. The operative word is almost. We have seen the effects in China and other nations that are attempting to keep up with the standard of living of America and other first world nations. Such trends cannot continue. We must help them become citizens of the new millennia without the extravagant waste that was part of the American Legacy to the world.

You are right; it is not an American concern. It is a world-wide concern. Everyone needs to be involved. Greed and short term profit are the key operating forces in this orgy of manufacturing genocide. What are you going to do about it, representative of the people? You can keep sitting there and we will replace you with someone that eventually will give a damn. We all keep talking about saving the planet, but the Earth has experienced at least six extinction level events where over 90% of all life on Earth was extinguished and it has survived with tens of thousands of species remaining. If we make the Earth uninhabitable for ourselves, the Earth, living in geologic time, will simply replace us with something else, hopefully more intelligent and capable of planning for the future.

Signed,

Thaddeus Howze
Paladin/CEO: Have Flash Drive, Will Travel
Hayward, California, USA
Earth, Orion Arm, Milky Way Galaxy

Links for further reading:

Environmental Protection Agency as a general source of information regarding the environment and our place in it. The definitive source of all things environmental in the US.

The Futures Group: A young think tank out of Singapore with some avant-garde thinking showing our connectedness and concerned about the future of Singapore. On their site they link the Map of the Decade Illustrated created by the Institute for the Future. They have also made a collection of the IFTFs previous maps and other thought-work available at the List of IFTF and other maps.

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is an independent, nonprofit research group with over 40 years of forecasting experience. The core of our work is identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace.

Green for All: A green work organization that is studying the potential future of green jobs in the US.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board is the State agency designated to oversee, manage, and track California’s 92 million tons of waste generated each year.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance provides innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs; to maximize human, material, natural and financial resources; and to ensure that the benefits of these systems and resources accrue to all local citizens.

Worldometers: is part of the Real Time Statistics Project, which is managed by an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available in a thought-provoking and time relevant format to a wide audience around the world. Chief project coordinator is currently Sir Thomasson.