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Jason Lord - A Perfect Storm - Los Angeles Z-Day, 2012

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The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) ZDay 2012 University of Southern California Areas of Unfolding A Perfect Storm by Jason Lord Welcome to our 4th annual ZDay event in Los Angeles. My name is Jason Lord. I volunteer to take part in awareness activism for The Zeitgeist Movement. My personal involvement has been as a coordinator for the many chapters that have sprung up in California over the past three years. I'm honored to be here today and to do my best to communicate what the movement is and the train of thought that we're putting forth. I've entitled this presentation 'Areas of Unfolding - A Perfect Storm'. The movement advocates the need to move out of a market economy into a Resource-Based Economy. We use this term for many reasons and to this end, I will touch upon four major areas of unfolding in regards to our socio-economic system, describing what can be seen as the social imperative to transform our civilization into one that is sustainable and equitable for all the world's people. As with our usual introductions, the term 'zeitgeist' can be defined as the intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era. The term 'movement' implies motion or change. And thus, The Zeitgeist Movement is an organization which urges change in the dominant social values of the time, specifically the methods and values which would better serve the well-being of everyone through scientific unfolding. Our hope is that the direction we advocate becomes self-evident as the components of what comprises human well-being and social stability are considered. So, in this regard, let's open with asking "What are the underlying dynamics of conflicts and problems that we see in the world today?" "What can we expect as our social integrity erodes?" and "What else can we do that embodies the term 'sustainable'?" To start, we are looking at a huge topic; there is nothing simple about advocating a transition at a societal scale, namely our modern industrialized society. Over the ages, civilizations have developed as complex societies; history shows a long transition of culture and values. As complexity increases with the evolution of civilizations, they become organized around cities; they use agriculture, use writing and mathematics, and they hold the division of labor. They're centralized, with people and resources constantly flowing from outlying areas towards more densely populated hubs. And as described by archeologist Joseph Tainter "When seen in terms of complexity, there have been 24 civilizations from this perspective and all, except the current industrial civilization so far, have collapsed." Tainter describes the growth of civilization as a process of investing societal resources and the development of even greater complexity, in order to solve problems. But complexity costs energy, and eventually a point is reached where increasing investments become too costly and yield declining returns, since available energy resources are finite. And it's at this point where society begins to experience collapse. It's this notion of collapse I'd like to put into perspective. Think of collapse in terms of social systems shedding their complexity, undergoing a contraction of economics and exhibiting decentralization over time. This perspective is more accurate, helpful and probably less scary than imagining the single catastrophic event some of the existing worldly literature would have you believe. But it also opens avenues for reshaping the social landscape that is not offered by the apocalyptic vision. Our society is a dynamic and complex system, and it's in this view that we find where the root cause of our problems lie. Donella H. Meadows was a PhD in biophysics from Harvard and a research fellow at MIT, where she did much to bring the field of system dynamics into the public view. I'd like to read an excerpt from one of her published works regarding systems. "Hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, economic instability, unemployment, chronic disease, drug addiction and war persist, in spite of the analytical ability and the technical brilliance that have been directed toward eradicating them. No one deliberately creates those problems, no one wants them to persist, but they persist nonetheless. That is because there are intrinsically system problems, undesirable behaviors characteristic of the system structures that produce them. They will yield only as we reclaim our intuition, stop casting blame, see the system as the source of its own problems, and find the courage and wisdom to restructure it." The problems we suffer in today's world are symptoms of a systems disorder. The root cause of these negative outcomes are rarely identified, in this way, by the public at large. We have language for good and evil and even identify with such words, but most of the public has no frame of reference for systems dysfunction, and that's a problem. Without this frame of reference, without language for understanding a root-cause systemic issue, what do you think we fall back on? It will be whatever is in our frame of reference: politics, religion, nationalism, monetary-isms, the Democrats, the Liberals. In a way, the purpose for the awareness of today's zeitgeist is exposed. And with this cultural zeitgeist in mind, we're operating a value set that is making for a perfect storm of system failure on a global scale. We do not want people to suffer. We do not want a decline back into the existence of labor-intensive survival, and we don't have to. But, as our socio-economic system experiences a loss of complexity, here are the major areas of unfolding that pose our greatest challenge: monetary economics, labor for income, energy resources, environmental degradation. Let's take a quick look at these areas, starting with economics. When somebody identifies themselves as an economist or a capitalist, I have to remember that such identity presupposes the market system as a given by the structure of reality, the same as the law of gravitation or thermodynamics. At the same time, they often construe their asserted 'given' reality as the natural order. Ironically, this is done even when the given structure has to be imposed on a society that has chosen to reject it, such as one can find in the history of military coups or civil wars plotted and financed by the CIA and carried out through US military operations over the last 50 years, to accomplish just such an end. As the market economy has become the world's baseline, the concept of constant growth continues to be ignored by the status quo. The market economy requires constant growth through perpetual consumption to maintain the labor for income game. For many of us, we now understand that infinite growth is a paradox in a finite environment. Cyclical consumption is an underlying premise of the market model. This means that a business owner or employer pays an employee to perform work. This work means the creation of a product or service that can be sold to a consumer at a profit. The money from this transaction then goes back to the employer to pay the employee to continue their work. And then the cycle begins again. Of course, this buying and selling cycle presupposes the need to purchase any good or service on an ongoing basis. So in order to keep the structure from breaking down, it must be perpetuated, regardless of the social cost. Consumption, it's the new national pastime. Baseball, it's consumption, the only true lasting American value that's left, buying things, buying things, people spending money they don't have on things they don't need, money they don't have on things they don't need so they can max out their credit cards and spend the rest of their lives paying 18% interest on something that cost $12.50. And they didn't like it when they got it home anyway: not too bright, folks, not too bright. Another important component is the issue of debt, along with consumption. The more an economy expands, the greater the debt that is created, and this sets up an inevitable system crisis, for the money needed to pay the interest charged on the loans does not exist in the economy outright. Therefore, there is always more outstanding debt than money in existence. And once the debt grows larger than a person or a company can afford, the defaults begin, the loans stop, and the money supply begins to contract. This particular scenario of debt overpowering and nullifying expansion, along with the onset of austerity measures, is unfolding, as we speak, with our European counterparts. And to shed some light on our relationship to the astronomical amount of US national debt that we've all been saddled with, this is debt that you don't see and you don't feel directly, but since 1984 100% of the federal income tax that is taken out of your paycheck goes to pay the interest on the national debt owed to the Central Bank and nothing else. When we can't afford the interest payments on our personal debts, we know this is being broke, or going bankrupt. And as we've seen, it's no different with nations, and I find it insane that when this fictitious bubble pops, we'll run around as if the world is ending, while our available resources, our knowledge, our production abilities and our skills are unchanged. Another part of our economic unfolding is externalized cost. This occurs when a company transfers some of its moral responsibilities onto a community directly, or by degrading the environment. For example, railroads, airlines transfer cost of fuel and noise to a community through pollution output. This is done even with other nations, such as exporting US deforestation to Haiti. As they over-exploit their natural wood resource for import and consumption in the US, we have essentially externalized the problem of deforestation to their country. Many such costs become lost in analysis because the true cost is non-quantifiable, so in a sense, societies collapse as business realizes its profits. Then there's labor and your ability to acquire purchasing power with it. In a monetary system, your freedom is dependent upon your purchasing power. Your purchasing power is dependent on your ability to pull money from the money supply or income. For the most part, we do this through jobs, which is an exchange via differential advantage or exploitation, which we call 'labor for income'. This is affected by your social class and by the displacement of labor through automation and outsourcing. Another way to express this point is to pose the question "What is your degree of advantage to be exploited or to exploit in order to cover your cost of living?" In this context, this is all just a game. Now, before I move forward, the next part has caused a lot of dialog in my email inbox, and it has to do with this concept of employment, or jobs. And I want to express in advance, in a resource-based model there is no need to submit to employment, as we do in our current reality. There is no purpose for a job for money. The point here is that employment is not work; they are separate. Work is work, employment is an economic variable pertaining to markets, and in a resource-based model, your ability to contribute is not tied to your ability to find employment. There has been a long and growing trend in regards to employment, through the needs of the system itself. Companies undertake automation on the basis of cost efficiency in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. This translates to reduced labor costs, but to another phenomenon as well, in regards to productivity. In 2003, a study was done on the world's 20 largest economies, ranging from a period of 1995 - 2002, finding that 31 million manufacturing jobs were lost, while production output increased by 30%. This is a powerful observation, not just in regards to job displacement by technological innovation; it's the remarkable increase in efficiency that is also gained. Here is a simplified chart that shows the relationship of increasing productivity, coupled with decreasing employment. This is a powerful phenomenon showing, among many things, the benefits of our ability to automate. And this is what makes the application of technology so powerful, through the systems approach of a resource-based model. It also becomes apparent how socially irresponsible it is to perpetuate inefficiency and waste as we do now, but it's built into the current market structure, through the need to maximize profits and to reduce costs. Unemployment through technological innovation isn't new, but world unemployment is at an important area of unfolding in the monetary game, and I am going to quote "We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come, namely 'Technological Unemployment'. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor, outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for that labor." ~ John Maynard Keynes Now the third area of unfolding is energy. And this is a huge subject, so this will only be a summary looking at depletion, energy density and the current outlook. Today, it's knowable what our resources are, we no longer have to guess. The current age has brought with it, through innovation and scientific advancement, the means to survey and measure our world. While many corporations keep their data secret in order to protect their profitability, much data on the world itself is available for public view, through such organizations as ASPO, NASA or the USGS and many, many others. If we look at an example of US domestic oil production, we find there is a measurable gap, in this case about 35 years, between the oil discovery peak, which is the blue arrow, and that's the peak of when we discovered the major fields and when we reached the oil peak of production of those fields. In this case, the peak of US domestic oil production happened in 1971 and has become known as 'Hubbert's Peak', named after M. King Hubbert, who calculated this 30 years prior to the event. It's important to note that collapse problems start when energy production peaks and the decline sets in. The problems do not come down the road when the resource is depleted, as many may think. That's why we are at such a critical point in the world today; we're at that halfway mark. We can see the coming peak and decline of our hydrocarbon resources, and as this chart shows for all the carbon energy resources compiled on the planet, conventional and non-conventional, we're in a decade of world peak. This is another discussion all on its own, but the question I wish to pose right now is this "What makes more sense, to measure and consume all usable hydrocarbon as a commodity for the sake of GDP, regardless of the ecological cost from burning it all, or find a way to transition into a new renewable paradigm, leaving this monetary systems disorder behind us?" When considering something physical like oil, it may appear that all we have to do is simply divide how much resource there is by how much we use to predict how long it will last, but it's not quite that simple. There is a factor involved here, called EROEI, or otherwise known as 'Energy Returned on Energy Invested'. This is a method by which we determine how much energy can be gained at a significant energy profit, and this is chemical energy output, not money. The first oil well that we tapped in the US was easy-to-extract oil. It was just below the surface and it was under high pressure; it didn't take much to get it out, so little energy was used for the return of that resource. Today, we have to venture into deep water, through thousands of feet of ocean sediment and bedrock, just to extract small pockets of oil, just to keep the world running. The difficulty of obtaining a resource changes the timeline on how much net gain there is. What's really interesting, in this area of unfolding, is a relationship we can see in energy use, in the current monetary paradigm. World GDP and oil production growth-rates have been tightly coupled for decades, as is shown here. Now, if we let this game play out, it's not hard to guess the outcome, of a steady decline in our energy production and watching that economy just slowly grind and contract over time. Probable outcomes of the current system running its course could be surmised from what happened during the last US oil shortage in the '70s. Economically, the first decade of world oil decline may resemble the '70s very much from the US point of view, but only worse, with dramatic increases in inflation, long-term recession, high unemployment and declining living standards, along with social unrest. So, now the big question "What's all this costing us?" Our energy and mineral resources are used neglectfully, and products are designed not to last, wasting human energy and the materials that went into them in staggering amounts. And this constant multiplicity of consumed goods further wastes resources and pollutes our environment; and we depend upon our environment. Pollution of our environment is the major staggering cost. In the United States alone, three million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment each year, contributing to serious health problems, degrading the carrying capacity of the Earth. And on a personal note, I can't help but think of how future generations are going to look back on us as the most corrupt human beings that ever existed, with the ecological mess that we've created just so that we can continue the monetary game. And at the end of the day, nature is not going to care what we do; nature is a dictatorship. Therefore, we have to regard the environmental equilibrium on this planet, which is not currently done. It is possible to understand the carrying capacity of the Earth, which can be changed greatly by how we manage our resources, and which can be changed through the enhanced scientific unfolding and understanding that happens over time, and increased through the application of new technologies. But with the perfect storm currently unfolding, our continued participation in the current system shows all signs of bringing about our eventual demise. Now, I hate to sound so dark about it, but the reality check is all too clear for us to just keep tiptoeing around the issue. And finally, there is the cost to our well-being. As waste outputs pour into our life-support systems, the negative impacts on our collective health are immense, along with the bio-, psycho- and social stressors (which was also touched upon by Nicolas), which today is an epidemic; it's eroding the integrity of our physiology. Now, I know we all like good news, and I haven't given you any yet. So after this sobering review, let's bring it around a bit, before we all feel like this guy right here. Is there a way out of this storm? Let's have a brief look at where we want to go. Here is a hugely over-simplified look at the many attributes regarding the social transition to a resource-based model. In brief, here is a summary of seven attributes so you can differentiate from where we are now, in a market economy, and where we need to get to, a resource-based model. We want to move from a consumption model to one that preserves our resources. We want to transition from planned obsolescence and the breakdown of goods for the sake of profit and consumption towards optimal design. We want to transition from private ownership or property to an access system. We want to transition from an infinite growth economy to a steady-state economy. We need to transition out of the competition-based value system into a collaborative one. We want to move away from labor for income through applied technology and automation, unlike anything we have ever seen today and finally, the transition from scarcity and inefficiency towards an access abundance and social equality. The transition itself from our current system into a resource-based system is a complex thing to consider and the variables beyond our current foresight. The central issue right now is awareness, and this is where The Zeitgeist Movement comes in. If the public's consciousness can be expanded to understand and accept the incredible potential the future can hold, where poverty and war, where 95% of all crimes are phased out, and the mundane, repetitive, meaningless jobs can be eliminated, then perhaps people will most likely adjust their values accordingly. At this point, I think most of us understand how we are connected to the environment and to each other. We often symbolize this in simple ways, such as shown here, just to express the concept. But the reality is that it's not that simple. Here is a map of cyberspace, created at Bell Labs in the 1990s, showing the complexity of the network. As you can see, it is not a mere net, spiderweb or ring of people around the planet; it is complex. And advanced societies are complex social organisms. So to conclude, we have reached a point where our personal self-interest now needs to become the social interest if we expect to survive and to survive well. Our evolutionary fitness, if you will, is now becoming the social imperative, not a personal one. Our self-interest must be social interest because they are actually one and the same. Either we become globally conscious or we perish. We have the ability to avert this oncoming perfect storm. The question to you is "Will you join us?" I thank you for your time. [Applause]

Video Details

Duration: 22 minutes and 35 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: TZM Los Angeles
Director: TZM Los Angeles
Views: 131
Posted by: ltiofficial on May 13, 2012

As part of the global Z-Day 2012 weekend: This March 10th event was hosted by the Los Angeles chapter at the University of Southern California. Jason Lord presents "Areas of Unfolding - A Perfect Storm" touching upon the major areas of difficulty and challenge as the decline of modern, industrialized societies undergo a loss of complexity.

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