Friday, 5 March 2010

The Economics of Habitat and The Invisible Natural Child

Tony Juniper @ LSE

Last night I attended a lecture by Tony Juniper, a well known ecology activist, at LSE. It was titled 'Education for Sustainable Developement.

“This event will explore the role of universities in driving the sustainability agenda.

Tony Juniper is a campaigner, writer, and a senior associate with the Cambridge University Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

Professor Janet Hartley is Pro-director for teaching and learning at LSE.”

It was for me an informative occasion. I learned nothing new about the problems we face.

So what did I learn?

I learned that for far too many ‘educated’ and ‘concerned’ people the blindingly obvious is absolutely unseen, and more importantly not felt.. Even when it is pointed out in the starkest of terms….

Tony Juniper started out by saying we have to look to where we are going, what is next, what lies ahead and reviewed what had already happened, what ‘we’ had already achieved.

By way of mitigating the worst or at least some of the worst problems that have arisen.

By way of pressure groups helping to drive some Government Regulation.

Tony pointed out that ‘we’ had some successes in the past since Silent Spring.

‘We’ had banned DDT and a few other powerful pesticides, and changed the methods by which pesticides and herbicides were applied – from a wholesale drenching to a carefully modulated application. What he did not mention was that the use of GMOs and novel pesticides and herbicides, in smaller quantities is still the standard practice for the bulk of the US and US AID sponsored farming wherever it is delivered…

Tony pointed out ‘We’ had stopped the production and use of CFCs. Tony pointed out that these measures did not preclude the use of fridges, etc etc. that solutions were found, alternative chemicals produced to do the same job.

What he did not say was what effect those new chemicals will have in the long term. He didn’t even mention this novel concept. Because no-one knows in the long term. Not really. Probables, with caveats. We don’t even know if the Ozone hole will repair itself..

Industrial Chemistry is one giant! really, it is an experiment. and the only pertinent data-set produced thus far has more to do with this is how NOT to do things... than anything else...

Tony pointed out that ‘we’ had managed to deal with acid rain, a by product of massive coal burning, by installing technology to clean and sequester the carbon emitted from power stations..

What he did not say was that the burning of coal in massive quantities for manufacturing was exported to countries with less onerous regulatory systems. So that they too could develop. By making our consumer products using cheaper labour, garnering greater profits for the brand names.

Tony was saying that ‘we’ have had some successes, that Governments have been able to encourage these moves, and to regulate them…

Tony also made the point that this was not just a question of economics, but of justice, and referred briefly to the imbalance in wealth, and in use of the earths ‘resources’ between the West and the developing world… the figures are well known, though variable…

Tony’s brief lecture ran over the salient points regarding the environmental approach that sees nothing but ‘resources’ in nature… and is causing untold damage everywhere that approach is actively being pursued.

Tony made comparisons between what nature provides as ‘services’ that are not paid for, ‘externalities’ as they are known in the economics trade.

The ludicrous, yet to all economists, sound evaluation of what those ‘services’ provide in dollar comparison looked like this at the time of the comparison : the world economy valued at $18 Trillion, nature’s services valued at between $30 to  $50 Trillion, all in US dollars? As if US Dollars are somehow a standard against which nature can be assessed.

Nature traded as a commodity.

Is this comparison itself not indicative of the myopia of the ‘educated’ and ‘concerned’? I think so. I feel it. However Tony suggested that the work done to point this out was good work. It was done by an LSE alumni, I believe.. well of course!

In essence Tony was pointing out that Government regulation must increase, and must be focussed on all of the above and on Justice.

Finally Tony pointed out that ‘we’ need to see our selves as part of nature, that there needs to be a philosophical, social and psychological element to the changes ‘we’ need to make.

 And that more or less was his lecture. Question time.

I was sitting in the front. I was determined to put the cat amongst the pigeons. I had no intention of asking Tony a question. I had a statement of fact to make….

I introduced myself as Corneilius, who is writing a book about the harmful effects of telling children what to think with sanctions imposed on them for any reasonable dissent, and that I was pleased to hear Tony’s remarks concerning a change in philosophy, as surely this was the basis, the baseline, if you will.

I pointed out that imposing thought on a child with sanctions for non-compliance was damaging to the natural child in much the same way we are damaging the environment, and is a cultural phenomenon that lies at the very heart of Compulsory State Education.

I mentioned ‘tabula rasa’, the blank slate, the empty vessel mode of seeing children, a mode of perception (not observation, and certainly not scientific) that viewed education as the process of pouring information into these empty vessels. And how that was the scientific basis of Compulsory State Education….

I also mentioned that the use of Ritalin as a means to manage dissent  amongst children no longer subject to corporal punishment was an appalling indictment of the culture.  I ended by saying that we do indeed need to change our philosophy and listen to the natural child.

Tony understood what I was saying, and pointed out that for example, the state spends £140,000 a year incarceration children who had been failed by the system, and that within the Green Party, they are discussing this issue.

Then questions went on to other attendees…. Mostly asking Tony what we need to do…. The great man advises ….. and to be fair his advice centered on the change of heart, of philosophy that is needed more than the technicalities….

There was one question, to my right, quite late in the session, that referred to my statement, by stating the following, quite energetically, after someone had pointed out the homogenising effect of the predominant culture….

 ‘It’s all very well talking about listening to children, but the problems we are facing are immensely complex, and require complex solutions …. For example The Body Shop spent 10 years and more getting to know the individual farmers and producers of their range of raw materials and products, so that they could say they knew who their money was going to, how it was being used to support those communities. This was a complex operation. Now the body shop is taken over by L’Oreal, a huge international corporation, for whom such an operation is way to complex… so my question is this. How can we get these companies to undertake these very complex processes?”

Tony’s answer to this question eventually came to the point that basically it all starts from simplicity.  I would have cited bacteria and simplicity as the very basis of natural complexity…. And thrown in a few well known examples… but there wasn’t time for Tony to do that…

I think Tony Juniper is a good man. I think he understands the problem of conditioning. The chair of the LSE lecture is a committed , conscientious educator. As are all those who attended. WE are all well meaning. The good intent is clear. Based upon my observations,  in nature results indicate intention... and there is much research to suggest this a fair generalisation.

Tony let us know that he would be  standing as a Green Party Candidate in Cambridge. That came up in response to a question what on the prospects for the environment were if David Cameron were to be the next Prime Minister. (Jesus wept!) Politics is irrelevant in this debate.

These issues lie beyond politics. Post normal science is the technical term for the philosophy behind climate change science.... decide policy in extremis, use focussed science to find what you want to solve the problem......

I feel the discussion did not pick up on the meaning and import of the statement I made at the start of the Q&A, not in any real way. Because for the most part people cannot see it, feel it. Really? Actually they can...

And is that itself not the core problem?

By not listening to, and acting on the sensing of the natural child 'we' are setting the grounds for the very philosophies and mind-sets that are creating the problems, and it is a mirror of the way in which nature is treated as a commodity. An object to be used, to be trained and coerced to meet ‘our needs’?


As ever 'We' discuss the symptoms, 'we' ignore the cause and 'we' watch the patient die…..

Tragedy and Farce…. Oscar Wilde would have known what to say…

“I am so clever that I do not understand myself” or words to that effect…

note :

It is of course truthful to say that I have omitted 90% of what actually was said during this lecture…

There will be a podcast and transcripts of the lecture posted on the LSE site in the next few days - and I will be interested to see whether or not my take on this event is at all accurate.

Kindest regards


Do what you love, it's your gift to universe

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cyberstarlet said...

thank you corenelius for your view on the event at the LSE. I really appreciate your comments as I missed most of it... well.. mmm

i must say that i really enjoyed meeting Tony Juniper too. From what i gathered he is a man with great conscience... shedding light on new ways of seeing our world based on holistic science where moral issues are being integrated into the scientific research... this is so important! this is where science has lost its path.. when it all became "resources" .. we must shake off this view of a mechanical world that only exists for consumption.. we must find meaning in all life and use science to understand the meaning of life and ecosystems... i'm so surprised that there is only one course in the UK that offers to study Holistic Science at Schumacher College.. it's just so expensive, i wish the course was funded...

I agree with your solutions to treat the cause of the problems by changing our behaviour towards children... and our society will start changing.. the problem is that parents and teachers will be passing on conditioning..

i'd also like to add that we need to change our leadership to a sustainable one.. based on different values than the western models.. i.e. indigenous knowledge in leadership.. that's the key! Integration of moral values, responsibility and commitment towards each other ;)

if we start to think outside the box ... we may be able to understand how to solve complex problems with simple solutions..

cyberstarlet :)

corneilius said...

I agree, Tony Juniper IS a man of great conscience, who has worked damn hard on this issue... and there are many, many more like him..

We do need to get the message about the natural child and societal conditioning out and into these public discussions on change, across all single issues campaigns, as a unifying sense of what we are changing....

Allowing our natural perception and feeling of nature to inform our efforts.

corneilius said...

I have edited this blog to remove my comments regarding Tiny Juniper and the Chair, Janet Hartly 'squirming' in their seats as I was talking...

Listening back to the discussion it sounds much more positive than I my recollections ..

Here's a link to a podcast of the lecture.