[Brian O’Leary, Ph.D., www.brianoleary.info, summary of presentation to the National Congress of Parishes on the Environment, June 23 and 24, 2011]
It is my honor to have the opportunity to share some thoughts about the deteriorating state of the Earth and how important it will be for us to come together in unity and find ways to create a truly sustainable future for generations to come. With its incredible beauty and diversity, my adopted country of Ecuador could lead the way in innovation to replace the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation—acknowledged to be the major contributors to global climate change—with radically new and clean energy sources, thus giving us a chance to start reversing climate change and global warming everywhere. The new Ecuadorian Constitution provides for the rights of nature and a plurinational state that respects our centuries-old tradition of buen vivir. Ecuador joins Bolivia in the desire to ensure that Mother Earth has a voice in our international deliberations. This sets a very different tone from virtually all other nations’ views in the climate talks, which have basically gone nowhere. The problem of climate change affects all life on the planet and can only get worse if we don’t take action.
When I was asked to speak about climate change in rural areas, it first occurred to me that this enormous, unsolved problem is truly international in scope with implications for all of us, especially in the poorer countries like Ecuador whose people depend on reliable supplies of food and water, which in turn depend on a stable climate. The Earth’s atmosphere is now loaded with greenhouse gases that do not respect international boundaries. Climate change is a global problem that is caused principally by emissions from the industrial First World nations. Ecuador will need to join Bolivia and other nations to hold those causing the problem accountable in reversing the climate change before it gets too late; in any case, the problem will get worse before it gets better even if we were to drastically decrease our emissions immediately, something the whole world will need to do if we are to sensibly survive these times.
Because of its progressive thinking and its unusually pristine environment well worth preserving, Ecuador is also in a unique position to research and develop clean breakthrough energy sources that could replace highly polluting and dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear power. When most people think about a clean energy alternative to coal, oil, and nuclear power, they think of solar power, wind power, hydropower, and biofuels. Although any one of these sources of power is far superior to coal, oil, or nuclear power in its effect on the environment, each of them involves substantial hidden costs in terms of materials, land use, and their associated grid systems. If these alternatives were our only options to replace coal, oil, and nuclear power, it would only make sense to put our best minds to work on developing them and implementing them in a way that would have the greatest chance of being sustainable over time. What most people are unaware of, however, is that there is a growing technology of alternative power that is far cleaner and more efficient than solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels, and which does not come with such an overwhelming burden of hidden costs due to materials, land use, and the grid systems required for delivery. I am referring here to what has come to be called “free energy,” due to the fact that its efficiency is orders of magnitude greater than the efficiency of solar, wind, hydropower, or biofuels.
This remarkable technology, although not widely known by the general public, is based on many years of solid research since the time of Nikola Tesla and depends on the huge energy potential of the vacuum, cold fusion systems, and innovative hydrogen and water chemistries. The reason this technology is not widely known is that it has been suppressed for decades by powerful interests whose profits are based on our continued reliance on oil, coal, and nuclear power. I have made it my priority to research free energy for several decades, and I can vouch for the fact that there are scores of scientists who have developed promising prototypes in this field, any one of which would far transcend the efficiency not only of oil, coal, and nuclear power, but also of solar, wind, and hydropower. I have documented these prototypes in my book The Energy Solution Revolution, but you can also search on the Internet for “free energy devices” and you will find a great deal of information about them that is not reported by the mainstream media.
Perhaps because the world has reached such a crisis due to our reliance on fossil fuels, the vested interests who profit from dirty energy are not now able to suppress free energy as effectively as they have in the past. Over the coming year, therefore, many free energy systems are likely to begin to become available worldwide. In Ecuador, we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity by supporting the development of this new technology. If we can convince our government and industry of the tremendous potential of this technology, we could create protected innovation sanctuaries to research, develop, and implement an energy system that would not only ensure that our future would be more sustainable, it would also mean that Ecuador would become economically more sovereign as we are gradually able to abandon our reliance on oil, other mineral exports, and on foreign banks. Ecuador could be a leader in introducing truly clean energy, and could thereby become a shining example to the rest of the world.
But free energy in and of itself cannot be relied upon as the sole “technological fix” for our environmental problems whether it be applied in Ecuador or anywhere else. This and many other potential nature-friendly innovations will need to be implemented by an overarching conscious governance system that understands the basic principles of natural law and Earth jurisprudence as applied to creating harmony with all of nature in terms of water, energy, money, agriculture, forestry, waste management, and the overall preservation, restoration and sustenance of the biosphere.
It is necessary for all of us to become educated about what’s possible and to develop strong public support for these initiatives, which must come from you all as representatives of the people of Ecuador. We must begin programs of innovation for the benefit of the people, rather than for the benefit of the few within multinational corporations that exploit our resources and create huge environmental problems. We need to convince the top levels of the Ecuadorian government that it’s in their best long-term interest to abandon these destructive petroleum and mineral extraction projects and convert them to sustainable ones, even though short-term revenues depend upon the exploitation and export of oil, minerals and large agricultural products. These measures surely don’t help us in the rural areas nor do they provide any lasting solution to our prospects for converting our energy, water, waste, forestry and agricultural systems to ones that are truly sustainable. If anything, the extra money from these exports further destroys the environment as we continue to build new roads that lead to deforestation, the displacement of villages, more traffic, more air and water pollution, more noise, more factories, more oil drilling, more logging, more mining and more agricultural monocultures. These measures can only harm the sanctity of our peaceful and beautiful countryside and the buen vivir that we value so much.
The problem is even worse than it first appears. The deforestation rate in Ecuador of 3 % per year is South America’s highest and will result in losing half our trees in just 24 years, mainly due to building roads into the pristine rainforests of Yasuni National Park and surroundings. Fully 80 % of the Oriente is being leased or is about to be leased to multinational oil companies for the drilling and export of oil (see map, attached). This is the most biodiverse region on Earth, inhabited by voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples, and the fact that it is earmarked for oil drilling will surely ruin their habitat. The Chevron-Texaco oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon that killed or caused cancer among thousands of residents is an indication of what might come if we don’t oppose extensive oil drilling in Ecuador. Furthermore, the resulting deforestation, refinement and end use of the oil combine to contribute significantly to global climate change.
The government’s Yasuni Initiative invites the international community to match funds with Ecuador in terms of potential lost revenues to keep the oil in the ground in the pristine ITT oil block. This is an admirable start to preserve the precious ecosystems and habitats of Ecuador, but it’s only a start. The ITT block is only one of thirty planned oil blocks in the Oriente, and none of the other 29 has any of the protections that are envisioned for the ITT block (see attached map of Ecuador with the oil blocks). Clearly, we need a radical solution to our energy needs if we are to have any hope of saving our pristine environment and protecting our indigenous people.
Mining, hydroelectric and pipeline construction are also on the increase, and create even further problems for the rural areas of Ecuador. A primary example of this environmental insensitivity is the forthcoming construction of the massive Chinese-built Coca-Codo Sinclair Hydroelectric dam which will obliterate San Rafael Falls, the tallest waterfall in Ecuador. We here in the Vilcabamba-Podocarpus area are gravely concerned about the intrusion of mining projects, which can only destroy rather than preserve our precious environment. We must oppose these practices and move to innovation for our answers.
About two years ago I proposed that we look toward clean technologies for our answers, technologies such as free energy, cleaning the mines and the oil facilities, re-converting to local sustainable agricultural, water and waste management systems, reforesting the countryside, encouraging eco-tourism and health tourism, increasing information technology research and placing a moratorium on all unsustainable practices. I believe that this “Ecuador Initiative” (attached) could lead to Ecuador’s becoming both sustainable and sovereign in the long run. But the interests of large corporations and governments seeking short-term revenues from the export of nonrenewable resources have so far prevented us from moving forward with these initiatives. I hope that, with your support, we can create a sustainable development program in the countryside that would begin the process of preserving, restoring and sustaining our precious environment, consistent with the new Constitution of Ecuador. May our voices be heard so that we may replace our unsustainable practices with an awareness of what’s possible. We all can come together to innovate our energy, food, water and other systems to new ones that are truly sustainable. Our lives will depend on that.
We can together create new initiatives to protect the environment. Just like the action of preserving the Mindo cloudforest and bird sanctuary from mining interests, we can together preserve Vilcabamba, Podocarpus and other rural regions as national heritage sites. We can together stop the mining, dirty energy production, unsightly grid systems, cell phone towers, big highway and waterway building, overdevelopment, and other heavy infrastructure that litters the rural landscape. We all appreciate the improvements to existing roads between population centers, but we need to be aware that the mindless expansion of infrastructure to exploit natural resources can wreak havoc on the environment and the quality of life for all citizens of Ecuador. We can replace the blight of unsightly development with truly sustainable energy, water, food and waste systems. Many people in North America have come to realize that the price of industrial dominance has been the loss of the beauty of the environment and the true quality of life, a quality that is still present in abundance in Ecuador. The people of Ecuador can still experience and share the buen vivir that only nature can offer in abundance.
I propose that we place a moratorium on any suspicious industrial activity including at least the following: new superhighways in special places like Vilcabamba, deforestation, pesticides and fertilizers in crops, large agricultural monocultures, overgrazing, GMO food, deforestation, oil drilling, mining, large hydroelectric projects, fluoride in salt or water, chlorine in water, unsustainable sewage, waste and water treatment, and excessive noise, water, air and land pollution. I also propose that a committee of parishes be formed to consider adopting sustainable new systems to replace the old, polluting systems—new systems that work with nature instead of against nature. Let’s put people to work to restore and sustain our precious ecosystems. Let’s get on the job now, as time is running out.
Many of us here in Ecuador have left North America to seek a more sustainable lifestyle and community. We came here because we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the qualities of our lives and our environment up North. Many of us feel we are in the midst of an Earth emergency and we all need to become more aware of and take action on preserving our precious environment while we still can. Unfortunately, we are beginning to see the same problems of over-industrialization arise here in Ecuador. Please let’s not do that; let’s make buen vivir our highest priority to act upon now. Let’s put people to work to restore and sustain our precious ecosystems. Let’s get on the job now, as time is short.
How Innovation could save the Amazon rainforest and other habitats while creating economic sovereignty for Ecuador
•The clean removal of mercury and refinement of gold in the tailings from mining operations;
•The development of clean breakthrough energy technologies under protection;
•The use of clean fuel technologies and additives such as HHO (Brown’s Gas);
•The cleanup of hydrocarbon waste through the use of biodegradable acid solutions;
•The clean removal of mercury and refinement of gold in the tailings from mining operations;
•The development of clean breakthrough energy technologies under protection;
•The use of clean fuel technologies and additives such as HHO (Brown’s Gas);
•The cleanup of hydrocarbon waste through the use of biodegradable acid solutions;
•The development of exportable jungle medicinal herbs and their safe biotechnical applications, independent of the large pharmaceutical corporations;
•Expanded eco-tourism, health tourism and educational tourism;
•The application of organic, biodynamic and permaculture agricultural methods;
•Ecological water purification and recycling through innovative technologies such as Schauberger’s;
•The cultivation of industrial hemp for textiles, paper, oil, rope and construction materials;
•Reforestation projects using funds and know-how from international sources to restore the forests’ former vitality and biodiversity and to employ Ecuadorians seeking work;
•Environmental technologies in recycling and waste management, etc.;
•Alternative currencies and regional trade integration;
•Information technology initiatives;
•The taxation of real estate profits to ensure establishment of high ecological standards for real estate development throughout Ecuador; and
•The purchase of permanent preservation land trusts through gifts and carbon credits.
Memo to a More Conscious American Leadership from a Fellow Achiever Who Is Gravely Concerned About Our Future
“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model; you create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”
-R. Buckminster Fuller
“If the world were to be run by visionaries, we’d have heaven on Earth.”
The first draft of this letter was addressed to President Obama shortly after he was inaugurated more than two years ago. The President has clearly violated his promise for “change” and instead led his administration and nation toward ever more darkness. There no longer seems to be any hope to appeal to him to lead us into a future of systemic change necessary for our survival. I’m not addressing this to any other existing politician either, because there aren’t any in high places who seem able to take on the mantle that is now required; they’re all too corrupt or caught up in a dying and dysfunctional system. Yet the appeal itself is still valid and must now be addressed to a new leadership and conscious governance that we so desperately need. This vacancy needs filling and there are openings. In this letter I assume such new leaders will have been elected and empowered to make those systemic changes necessary for our survival. –Brian O’Leary, May 15, 2011
Dear New Leaders,
I congratulate you on your election. As a former astronaut, Eagle Scout, Ivy League professor, frontier scientist, futurist, advisor to presidential candidates, and international author and speaker, I can identify with your feeling of significant motivation and achievement. But in my later years, as I now approach the age of seventy-two, many of those perks of recognition pale before a sense of urgency with which I feel we must approach our task of transforming humanity and our relationship with nature so that we can have an environmentally, socially and morally sustainable future.
I honestly don’t know whether we’ll make it through these times. You’re in the driver’s seat now, and your task is daunting. You will have to stand up to some very powerful interests who will not want to accept some of the decisions that you must make if we are to survive these critical times. I am sure that you understand this most basic conflict of interest in your position. But are you sufficiently aware of what is really happening to us all? Do you truly know the depth of the crisis and the breadth of opportunities before us?
I must admit that during my days of relative fame, I was largely oblivious to the deeper issues and the potential solutions that lie outside the box of conventional thinking. The spotlight itself has a way of distorting our perceptions of reality.
In today’s world there is enormous suffering, ignorance, neglect and corruption. Leaders nowadays prey on this condition. By supporting some of the most criminal actions of wanton genocide and ecocide, the powerful elite have created an atmosphere of mass obedience in a fearful and helpless populace. We are destroying ourselves, each other, and the natural world through the selfishness and greed of the few. As a result, unrest is brewing in response to monumental military, economic and political tyranny.
You must know that true knowledge, wisdom and compassion are threats to the status quo. As George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act,” and Isaac Asimov wrote, “When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent.” I believe we now live in precisely such a time, and this situation is particularly poignant for us Americans now paying for the expense of expanding empire while feeling the pinch of economic collapse. You come into office on the wings of conflict between an unaccountable private power that has given the orders and set the policies and a public clamoring for authentic change which so many of us have entrusted you with. You stand in the middle of an enormous gulf of interests, and I am sure that you struggle with this conflict in your deepest heart.
Those of us who take the road less traveled towards a greater truth always have been, and still are, founder-martyrs placed on the altar of change. These true heroes, often unrecognized in their own time, can become objects of adulation by religions or nation-states, which frequently turn into self-aggrandizing dogmatic institutions that have nothing to do with the original intentions and spirit of the founders—who must be rolling in their graves about how their contributions have become so distorted.
For effective leadership of these United States during this critical time, continuity and bipartisanship cannot be nearly as important as returning to the basic principles of integrity, civility and public trust. You’ll need to expose the lies that have been sold to the American people in our recent past if you hope to have any chance of re-establishing trust in government. Sacred myths that have been repeated over and over by the media—such as the official account of what happened during the JFK assassination, and the official story about what happened on 9/11/2001—become enshrined in a fog of false patriotism that forbids open questioning and even rational discourse.
You must know the truth of all this. It’s too obvious for you or any other intelligent and sentient being not to be able to recognize. You must know that we live on an imperiled planet that cannot endure the continued exploitation and neglect of humanity. You must know that we cannot rely on half-measures such as a slow withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, miniscule reductions in the defense budget, insignificant nuclear arms reductions, continuous bank and Wall Street bailouts. It will not serve the needs of the planet to advocate nuclear power, “clean coal,” drilling oil in sensitive ecosystems and carbon cap-and-trading as lasting remedies to climate change. You must know that such minutiae cannot solve these problems. You must know, at some level, about Einstein’s dictum that no problem can be solved at the level at which it was created.
Our species has invaded our home planet with such greedy violence and with so little conscious awareness or acknowledgement of the depth of our dilemma that it is hard to imagine how we can get out of this deadly matrix. But get out we must. It is much too late to fulfill Obama’s mandate to “change,” considering the advisors he immediately surrounded himself with and the destructive policies he proceeded to implement. You must know that these individuals and actions are throwbacks to prior administrations who epitomize an outworn ideological paradigm that cannot work in these times. Obama is only paying back those elite individuals and groups that paved and paid his way towards where he sits now. Have they so threatened him to conform-or-else that he can’t act differently?
For you to succeed, you may have to bite some old-paradigm hands that fed you and helped to get you to where you are now. You will have to feint your way as in a basketball offensive around and through the broken field of defending opponents, who include those who may have supported you financially. You will have to stand up in your courage and “betray” them (from their point of view), while being true to your oath of office to preserve and defend our country and the Constitution.
Are you up to the task? Are you willing to risk life and limb to lead us into creating a viable system of governance? Are you motivated enough to join the ranks of our brothers Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and John F. Kennedy to take bold actions toward a peaceful, just and sustainable future for humankind? Are you willing to evict the money-changers and militarists from our national temple?
At some level, you must be aware that President Obama’s definition of “change” in no way resembles the kind of change any sensible and knowledgeable person not beholden to vested interests would feel is truly necessary for our survival.
New leaders, we’re all in great trouble if you are unwilling or feel unable to address the pleas of the vast majority of the people of our nation and of the world. They cry out for peace, sustainability and justice. You must also address the fact that nature, too, has rights. Reforming the voracious appetites of the moneyed interests and of the military-industrial complex will not be enough. Look all around you at the degraded environment, at the suffering of the peoples of the world longing for food in their mouths and for the kind of leadership that could relieve their pain and give us all a reasonable chance to move forward.
The crisis of America is first and foremost a moral crisis, but we also are confronted with a physical situation that demands physical solutions if we are to have even the possibility of peace, sustainability and justice. We must immediately stop the wars, the torture, the criminal corruption and lies, the theft of the commonwealth, the surveillance of the innocent, the polluting of the planet, and the suppressions of true innovation. You must courageously lead us into a state of truth and reconciliation. Mr. Obama continues to say that authentic change is what he intends to create, but that isn’t what he’s doing. Like virtually all his predecessors, he has fallen prey to the life-destroying oligarchies of corporate power.
You cannot repeat the atrocities committed by Mr. Obama and his associates in the name of “change.”
I suggest to you that we need to define what is meant by change. The change Mr. Obama has so often promoted is what we might call incremental change. These are the small rhetorical feel-good kinds of changes that separate Democrats from Republicans, the liberals from the conservatives, the Tweedledees from the Tweedledums, all inhabiting a narrow spectrum of ineffective “centrism” and holding on to power for dear life as Rome burns. These are the kinds of changes that got Mr. Obama elected as he navigated through the narrow passage between special interests and the appearance of a public interest.
In contrast to Obama’s superficial change, we need to also consider progressive structural change, such as eliminating electoral fraud, serving justice upon past criminality in high places, re-regulating Wall Street, restoring the Constitution and the rule of law, re-establishing the “real economy” based on productivity rather than gambling away and squandering the public treasury, controlling the excesses of the Pentagon and an imperial aggressive foreign policy, restoring to Congress the power to print money and declare and fund wars, and allocating more resources to health, the environment, education and infrastructure.
Many progressives are desperate to restore this kind of common sense at the structural level and to create another New Deal for the economic crisis. The liberals would be grateful if that were to happen, just to get us out of the deep hole we now find ourselves in. They would be satisfied to go back to the Clinton and Roosevelt years, to regain just a bit more common sense in a world-gone-mad. Even some degree of neoliberalism, or economic globalization (i.e., exploitation and biocide by other means), might seem mildly OK, in this view. Yet we know these measures are not OK legally or morally; they are only the actions of economic imperialism.
In today’s world, it is obvious that even structural changes, in and of themselves, will produce too little too late, and may even be counterproductive in the long run as we become lulled into a false sense of security and buy a little more time before the inevitable collapse. Whereas incremental changes address mild corrections that really don’t amount to much, structural changes look at how the current system can be modified to bring things back to where they were in somewhat better times. These approaches only serve to provide a frame of reference to launch authentic change. What we must have is a systemic change to an entirely new paradigm of governance in the public interest that truly addresses the challenges of our times at the level they need to be met.
Structural changes cannot truly answer grievous violations of the public trust, nor can they resolve today’s deepest issues. Only systemic change can do that. Whereas structural change can relieve the stress of a crisis in the short term, it cannot survive the test of time. Structural change can restore some sort of sanity to our systems; it cannot address the inherent problems with the systems themselves. We must now challenge the precepts upon which our political, economic and military systems are based. We must deeply question the “isms” upon which we depend—such as militarism, neoconservatism, neoliberalism, centrism, monetary socialism, unrestrained capitalism, economic globalism, and Zionism. These various “isms” have dominated the modern world for decades and have shown themselves to be not only incapable of solving global problems, but morally bankrupt as well. We need the dawning of a new era—a new set of systems must be put into place in the near future if we are to survive. Can you in your heart agree with what I suggest here? Or, like Mr. Obama, do you deny the gravity of these problems from your high and removed perch? Like Mr. Obama, will you rely on misinformed and outdated advice from entrenched corporate hacks? For you to advocate and map out systemic change, you will need all the help you can get from other quarters.
What would positive systemic change look like? In general, it would require the following initiatives, in all of which you would need to take the lead:
1. Restore the letter and spirit of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This is the most major structural change, which we should do immediately.
2. Fearlessly initiate a program of truth and reconciliation, overseen by a jury of citizens without vested interests in the current system. Truth-telling about national crimes cannot any longer be dismissed as conspiracy theory. The greatest conspirators are now holding all the political and economic cards, and their crimes must be exposed, whether it be electoral fraud, excessive private campaign financing, illegal surveillance, torture, illegal wars, false flag operations, pollution or the embezzlement of the public treasury. All these things, and many more, will need to come to the light of public scrutiny. The process of reconciliation seeks to return us to the rule of law and to serve justice upon those who have violated it, with fairness and compassion for all.
3. Dissolve or stop funding those influential institutions with agendas that are blocking change toward global peace, justice and sustainability. Start over. Replace the leaders of most of our public institutions and build new ones from the ground up. Stop funding those private institutions that dip into the public treasury in ways that are clearly immoral and unproductive. It will require courage to dissolve elements of the current federal bureaucracy as it is (DoD, CIA, NSA, the current treasury, the FBI, Department of Justice (sic), Department of Energy, etc.). Expose nefarious elements within international institutions such as the Illuminati, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, the Federal Reserve and other central banks, big oil, big pharma, big agriculture, weapons manufacturers, and other groups representing elite moneyed interests. The current priorities of the U.S. federal government and of globalist New World Order organizations directly fly in the face of what we must do to survive the crisis of civilization. We need a clean-up like we’ve never seen before, and some heads must roll. So be it. The world can only be thankful for getting out from under this oppression.
4. Start over the entire systems of federal and global governance. Yes, we can still have a Constitutional executive, legislative and judicial system. We can still have a (much smaller) military, a justice department, an energy department, a treasury, publicly funded health care, environmental protection, quality education, infrastructure and all the rest. Yes, we can formulate a transition strategy to convert institutions and manpower toward the public interest, free of vested powers. Yes, we can convert our massive military, dirty energy and aerospace capabilities toward innovation in energy, the environment, food, water, health, education and infrastructure. Yes, we can create an Earth corps to clean up the environment instead of having an aggressive Army, Navy and Air Force. We can do all this without workers losing their jobs. Yes, we can begin to wage peace on the rest of the world through diplomacy and compassion. The world awaits a restoration of good will coming from our “rogue nation,” which has outlived its usefulness as long as it has been a warmongering and fear-mongering empire.
5. Form a global green democracy whose agenda would be almost diametrically opposed to the New World Order agenda. Representatives of all nations must come together to formulate a system that would ensure peace, sustainability and justice for all peoples, while encouraging local rule wherever possible. In no case should special interests, money or secrecy determine the agendas of these governments. At the root of this should be the principles of life, liberty, equality, justice, peace and sustainability.
6. Fearlessly foster (hitherto suppressed) innovation, such as free energy. We must go beyond the rhetoric of ineffective energy policies that would only slightly mitigate the effects of global climate change and pollution. We need to think outside the box and quickly develop energy sources that are truly cheap, clean, safe and decentralized, such as vacuum energy, cold fusion and advanced hydrogen technologies. Existing technologies such as solar, wind or biofuels are simply not up to the task of solving the energy crisis. We need to recognize that existing public or private institutions that have a vested interest in energy production will not want to support a radically new approach, especially if it threatens their profits. It will be necessary to dissolve institutions that are vested in old technologies and start new ones that can support rather than suppress the deeper truths and opportunities of our times. The unsung heroes of innovation will need all the help they can get to team together in an Apollo program for new energy development, frontier science and consciousness. Such research and development projects will form an essential cornerstone for a whole new way of life on our planet that can preserve the environment and restore the best values of our civilization.
You must know we all are entering the gravest crisis the world has ever experienced and that the situation can be addressed only by implementing the kinds of systemic changes listed above. Many of us are willing to support these efforts in teamwork with you, but it is essential that you begin to pursue these changes briskly. Otherwise, the degree of unrest, fear and repression will be too great to allow us to act without further violence, totalitarian control and ecological and economic collapse. We don’t want that kind of world. We want to have room in which to innovate our way from the very systems that have become so decadent, so destructive, and so tyrannical.
Is this an impossible task? Not if we act radically, decisively and quickly. We have no choice but to act. Crisis breeds opportunity. It is time to restore the ideals upon which our nation was founded. We have grievously lost our way from the practice of those principles. We are also rapidly losing a natural environment that can continue to nurture us on this fragile spaceship we call Earth.
I appeal to your intelligence, wisdom and compassion to facilitate a dialogue that will allow us to create new systems that can foster the kind of future we really want for ourselves, our children and their children. I in no way mean this critique to be personal or disrespectful. I wish only to help build a fire under all of us to begin the journey toward an exciting and positive new paradigm. Thank you.
Brian O’Leary, Ph.D.,
“Our institutions are constructed in such a way that trying to achieve anything is going to be extremely difficult…(We’ll need to have) a substantial popular movement which is not just going to call for putting solar panels on your roof, though it’s a good thing to do, but it’s going to have to dismantle an entire sociological, cultural, economic and ideological structure which is just driving us to disaster. It’s not a small task, but it’s a task that had better be undertaken, and probably pretty quickly, or it’s going to be too late.” -Noam Chomsky,
“We are living in a period of mass extinction. What is your personal carrying capacity for grief, rage, despair? The numbers stand at 120 species per day…This culture is oblivious to their passing, entitled to their every last niche, and there is no roll call on the nightly news…We’ve already seen the pictures of the drowning polar bears. Are we so ethically numb that we need to be told this is wrong?…If burning fossil fuels will kill the planet, then stop burning them…by “realistic” (most environmentalists) don’t mean solutions that actually match the scale of the problem. They mean the usual consumer choices—cloth shopping bags, travel mugs and misguided dietary advice—which will do exactly nothing to disrupt the troika of industrialization, capitalism, and patriarchy that is skinning the planet alive. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life they’re declared both realistic and a success.” -Derrick Jensen et al, http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/05/05-3?print
Two years ago I wrote a passionate plea to the newly inaugurated U.S. President Obama to make good on his promise to lead our beleaguered nation into a new era of “change.” I appealed to his sense of compassion and moral correctness to fearlessly dig into our system’s decay instigated by the powers-that-be and to co-create with expert visionaries unbeholden to vested interests a whole new set of systems that are truly peaceful, just and sustainable for generations to come. A first step would be to renew the spirit of the tarnished U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
I warned Mr. Obama that if we are to survive these times we will have to go way beyond the incremental changes of liberal reform and surpass the structural changes of a New Deal and the re-regulation of financial markets, environmental quality, corporate agendas and imperial overreach.
I wrote, “What we must have is a systemic change to an entirely new paradigm of governance in the public interest that truly addresses the challenges of our times at the level they will need to be met.”
I am deeply saddened that neither Mr. Obama nor anyone else in power has come even close to leading us out of our morass—whether it be aggressive wars, criminal financial greed, chemical and nuclear pollution of the biosphere, climate destabilization or species extinctions that threaten our very survival and most life on Earth. Instead Obama and other policy-makers continue to cave in to the very interests that created the problem in the first place. There has been no change except towards more war, more pollution, more greed and more denial of our dramatic decline. Mr. Obama seems to have been captured by the systemic malevolence of vested powers while brainwashing the rest of the populace into a bewildered submission, characterized by confusion and occasional feelings of fight or flight.
Escaping the Matrix and Starting Over
Our dramatic decline has been so great, it seems that there is little recourse but to desperately escape on personal lifeboats from a sinking Titanic in the frigid dark waters of imminent Collapse. We in the Andes can measure this response by the steady stream of frightened but awakening gringos from North America seeking to escape from the ravages of the North by heading for an uncertain but exciting new life in apparently safer places like Ecuador. A lot of young people, some with small children, are arriving here to avoid the radiation poisoning from Fukushima and many other accelerating political and environmental indignities.
Our eco-retreat center Montesueños is one of several receiving docks to greet the arriving flood of Noah’s Arks coming from the endangered industrialized world. But even here in the global South, we are threatened by economic and political hit-men violently encroaching upon ever more of our dwindling, biodiverse resources and disappearing indigenous peoples. Ecuador is getting trashed by the predatory greed of resource-gobbling corporations, which are often given free reign by our cash-strapped governments to rape the environment in exchange for money. In the end, there’s no place left on spaceship Earth to hide. Escaping the matrix in the long run is not possible unless we as a people join together globally to stop aggression and pollution and embark on an entirely new path.
This is all so very sad when we look at the details about the deteriorating state of the world. The Internet is ablaze with horror stories of genocide, ecocide and imminent collapse.
It is now past time to recapture the spirit and optimism of that letter to Obama and rewrite the letter, this time addressed to those of us who can truly lead and listen, and who can intelligently and passionately embrace the daunting task of designing systemic change toward a lasting peace, justice and sustainability.
If you don’t yet feel the depth of our grief about what humanity is doing to the environment, you need only look at two recent essays, one by the radical environmental author Derrick Jensen and the other by the brilliant elder scholar Noam Chomsky. Jensen has captured that grief and come out of the woods with flailing sword, declaring that we must do something about our assaults on the womb of Pachamama now—or else. While Jensen appeals to the emotions, Chomsky enlightens the intellect, but their conclusions are basically the same: a handful of very powerful people and corporations, motivated by a desperate predatory greed, have enabled themselves to destroy our environment as quickly as possible so they can get theirs while the getting’s good. The people and the environment are merely collateral damage in this blind quest for power and control. This handful of the rich and powerful are willing to accept a systems collapse in order to reign supreme as they consolidate their power.
Chomsky argues that while our financial crisis can ultimately be solved by putting the burden on the taxpayer, the environmental crisis is fundamentally irreversible under today’s rules of corporate behavior. The system is set up to optimize its continued survival by optimizing profits within a corrupt market economy that doesn’t account for externalities and that creates enormous systemic risks affecting us all. Within any large corporation, if someone decides to step outside that box and factor in systemic risks, he or she will be quickly replaced. Yet such a system cannot survive this kind of tunnel vision. Profits may be maximized within the system, but like the host of a cancer, the system itself will inevitably collapse, as the recent unregulated financial crisis has shown, if external factors are not taken into account. Systems can crash as a result of the very success of companies that follow their own internalized rules to optimize their profits.
A prime example of this self-defeating behavior is our global addiction to fossil fuels. Chomsky cites the sixty-year development of the U.S. interstate highway system, for example, as a highly successful effort to “redesign the society so as to maximize the use of fossil fuels.” We are now suffering the consequences of these actions as we go to scarce supplies of oil, coal and natural gas in increasingly sensitive areas such as the Amazon rainforest, the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and now the melting Arctic. Meanwhile, the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants might have already reached a tipping point beyond which we may not survive. The mandate we inherit is a daunting one: we must simply cease using both fossil fuels and nuclear fuels. Our energy systems need a complete overhaul now—nothing less will do.
Where to begin? If we think in terms of whole systems (e.g., energy, water, food, money, or waste) most of us can agree that these systems have been so grossly mismanaged and the specific technologies selected have been so grossly unsustainable, that the systemic risks have become too great for us to survive. In Chomsky’s words, we humans have become a “lethal mutation” that cannot last much longer if we continue to live under the current economic and political systems.
An irony in even proposing alternative systems and technologies is that the very idea of governance and technology often has extremely negative connotations for those of us who yearn for change. Environmentalists and progressives often dismiss “technological fixes” as a solution and yet have little to contribute otherwise, acting as if all technology initiatives must by their very nature be controlled by the elite. Building new systems, therefore, becomes a daunting task due to this blanket distrust, especially combined with the enormous resistance that naturally arises from vested institutions whose current governance and technology systems are so dysfunctional.
Many of us are conditioned to believe that all governments and technologies are bad for us. It is true that nowadays most of them are bad for us—but they don’t necessarily have to be. They can be designed to be friendly to us and to nature if we design them properly. If we don’t consciously design them to be friendly to people and the environment, then by default we will continue to descend into anarchy and unwise choices in our technologies.
So far, it’s been very difficult to envision and implement new designs in the presence of such resistance. Yet change we must. There are but few shining examples of truly responsible governance and clean technologies, so a lot of what we need to do will be starting from scratch. But we have to start somewhere.
During my decades with NASA and the aerospace community, I learned that in any coherent design process we start with what is called a concept design. This is simply a description of the kinds of systems that can fulfill the vision or set of goals upon which most of us can agree—for example, to co-create a peaceful, sustainable and just world. There are sometimes called design requirements that underlie the concept design.
For example, our choice of governance must truly reflect the will of the people to cooperate and fulfill these goals. Our choice of technologies must truly reflect the vision that we must have a sustainable way of living for generations to come.
In looking at our energy systems, therefore, it stands to reason that we’ll need to abandon most of our current energy systems—most notably the 93% of our energy that comes from fossil fuels and uranium—if we are to have a sustainable way of living. We have to go beyond even traditional renewables such as hydropower, biofuels, solar and wind because they too are unsustainable when materials and land use are considered. We have reached a desperate time on the planet when we need to see through the pervasive censorship regarding heavily suppressed breakthrough clean energy technologies such as zero-point, vacuum, cold fusion and advanced hydrogen and water technologies.
The main problem confronting us is this: within each existing energy technology there has been a buildup of enormous economic and political vested interests that can be measured in trillions of dollars per year. It’s not hard to see that the bigger an existing system has become, the more difficult it is to change course. The juggernauts of oil, coal and nuclear energy and their associated infrastructures (e.g., highways, pipelines, drilling rigs, coal and uranium mines, radioactive waste storage and the huge, inefficient and unsightly grid systems) dominate our policies and practices. Chomsky writes that for systemic change to occur, we are going to have to dissolve most existing institutions, and that means revolution. But as Buckminster Fuller wrote, “There is only one revolution tolerable to all men, all societies, all political systems: revolution by design and invention.”
We are in a global revolution even now. This revolution will destroy most of us, if it proceeds without some semblance of enlightened planning, or we could co-create a much cleaner set of design concepts upon which we can come together and agree. Those seem to be our choices. Our first step, then, should be to create a concept design for transforming our currently dysfunctional systems—our governance systems, our energy systems, our food systems, etc.—to new systems that will truly work for us. These designs should come from a number of interconnected advisory emergency councils that draw on our best knowledge and best practices and are deployed in local regions as well as disseminated worldwide. These councils would be made up mostly of well-informed and open-minded elders (I’ll volunteer!) to co-create conscious governmental structures and clean technologies designed to work with nature rather than against nature.
Unfortunately, virtually no politician on this planet has any interest in designing this revolution, and so by default our public policies only perpetuate the status quo and deepen the crisis. Republicans and now Democrats will in fact do everything in their power to shore up existing systems that support their continuing positions of power. Libertarians scream that we shouldn’t even have much government and we should let market systems and local governance prevail, not realizing that this can lead to anarchy and does not protect the environment.
We’re going to have to move beyond our current political and economic systems for our answers. We must move beyond media-amplified cults of personality and go directly to the principles that underlie our new system designs. Under today’s rules and expectations, no prominent politician can countenance any new systems that would even give the appearance of supporting these designs, except occasional vague rhetoric that we need to eventually develop renewable energy.
Existing governments need to be informed that the game is up and that the process of transition must begin now. Perhaps a massive public petition would be a place to start. In designing new systems we are merely stating what our requirements and conceptual designs are. At this point we are saying nothing about what this will mean for the ruling elite, or for the availability of jobs, or about what kind of transition scenarios or models of governance will be required. The process of innovating and designing can begin now, free of all the “stuff” that blocks it in today’s dysfunctional society. Thus we can immediately get on with the task of designing our new systems. Many of our most enlightened innovators can surely team up to redesign our energy, money, food, water and waste systems to our new specifications, much like designing a spacecraft that can go to the Moon.
In aerospace engineering parlance, we often refer to two different concept design philosophies as push and pull. Push generally means designing incremental refinements to existing designs, whereas pull means establishing designs to satisfy the new goals agreed-to by those unbeholden to vested powers but desirous of achieving them in new ways. Biofuels and solar and wind energy, for example, represent push technology, whereas breakthrough clean energy devices constitute pull technologies.
In today’s world, a dominance of the push approach supported by corporate managers and politicians can no longer work for us. More often than not, a push agenda can only commit us to yet more profits and pollution. We have no time for that. At its best, a push philosophy allows us to design a transition from what no longer works so that we are moving in the direction of what will work some time in the future. On the other hand, a pull philosophy allows us to go directly toward what we want.
Pullers are sometimes unpopular and misunderstood due to the populace’s fear that radically new designs will disrupt their lives too much, including their desire to protect short-term parochial interests (e.g., jobs, career, and economic “stability”).
Pullers, however, are truly the visionaries leading the way toward radical, sustainable innovation. I myself am more a puller than a pusher, because I have done enough research to be able to see what is possible in the intermediate future, which could be quite magnificent.
So What’s Holding Us Back?
Technology and government of any kind are two concepts that are deeply distrusted by many of us who could make a difference. In addition, systems-talk can be boring in the midst of the sensationalistic dance we’re performing on the deck of our collective Titanic. It may be necessary for those of us who choose to be pullers to design new systems by ourselves, knowing that widespread acceptance will need to wait for a more opportune moment. New governance and new technology systems can begin to be designed now. We can immediately begin experimenting with governmental structures and researching radical technologies to gain experience with both in the future.
We can begin by creating protected innovation sanctuaries, educational centers and R&D facilities. Let’s form emergency councils to mediate between the push and pull philosophy and to provide balanced advice to world leaders regarding new technology design concepts for a sustainable, peaceful and just world. Let’s openly discuss how we can make the transition to the new world as smooth as possible. And let’s team up and build our new world, rather than dwell on the dominating drama of the unfolding systems Collapse itself.
Grounding the Vision
A visionary is someone who expresses new and improved design concepts and persists in showing them to the world. We need teams of practical visionaries to design, research, assess and develop sustainable technologies. These teams would then educate the public about the new technologies and report about them to governmental structures for appropriate implementation. An example of such a team is the newly formed Global Innovation Alliance.
The gravity of the crisis confronting the planet calls to us to set aside our egos and join together in unity of purpose. It is essential that we begin the process immediately if we are to have any chance of survival. This is an initiative whose time has come.