Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You Cannot Do Anything? ... a query to StockholmResilience.org

Stiftelsen för miljöstrategisk forskning
Kund-id : LKH1365
FE 108

From M.A. Reader mar58@cam.ac.uk

Dear Kontakt - Mistra,

Please could you be so kind as to suggest why nobody, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, replied to my polite enquiries.

I emailed to an officer, followed up, and then emailed to her manager.

But I received no response whatsoever.

Are they all
- paranoid?
- just plain unhelpful?
- free riders?
- too overwhelmed with emails?

I do not think that my question was very difficult. So it seems strange to me that nobody from the SRC responded.

Best wishes

Rural Business Unit
Department of Land Economy
University of Cambridge

To: xxxx@su.se
From: Mark A Reader mar58@cam.ac.uk
Subject: Fwd: [query] -- investment in communications

Dear xxxx

We share allied goals, and I respect the expertise of your institute, so I wrote to one of your colleagues, working on communications strategy. Asking for advice. However no response was received.

Perhaps you might like to comment, on how one person (with modest resources) can most effectively work for the public good? In communications and media.

Best wishes

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "M.A. Reader" mar58@cam.ac.uk
Subject: [query] -- investment in communications
To: yyyy@albaeco.com

Dear yyyy

I have a sum to invest each month in communications - for resilience, or for accident prevention.

Buying Eikon, for awareness and alerts, is one possibility. Or a subscription to the Gorkana media database is another possibility, for contacts.

And finally, I could do a paid campaign on Adwords, Twitter or LinkedIn - but I wonder how much cut-through I can achieve there.

Would you like to suggest which you think will be best?

Best wishes

Rural Business Unit
Department of Land Economy
University of Cambridge

+44 1223 337 163

Affirmation and the Post-Truth-Politics

President Trump will rule America shortly, despite lies, errors, bigotry, and sexual misconduct. He won a resounding victory - against the odds of most media and huge funding behind Clinton.

Similarly the disillusioned of Britain voted, in BREXIT, against the elite EU project - even though it brought a long peace and other huge benefits - which were biggest to the very regions that voted most strongly to reject the EU.

The Brexiteers and Trump Republicans wanted another roll of the dice, with uncertain benefits, and reject the consensus. Which they feel has been an elite scam, in which they saw no benefit.

The trouble is that the consensus presents an awkward picture. Of a finite world, of limits to consumption, global pollution, as well as ageing populations. In other words the end of, seemingly, rightful and endlessly growing consumption.

Presenting the difficult answers to these, very concrete and real challenges, Hilary Clinton and the campaign to REMAIN in the EU were rejected. In favour of delusion. Promoted and diffused by politicians and business who affirm errors of fact, bigotry and an extremely short term perspective.

Without the "public goods" - of truth, transparency and respect - democracy fails. And in another vein of public goods - being intangible rules and institutions - all citizens need affirmation - of their own divine worth and inalienable rights.

For me the problem appears to be how to deal with that feeling - of great affront and injustice. That "we may be wrong, but we are entitled to our opinions." How do we spread justice and respect at the same time as acknowledging that "we cannot just go on consuming more" - and "have to compromise and respect others". Or, affirmingly communicate limits.

And, as is evident to anyone with half a brain, computing and IT does not work for the masses. So everyone can readily see that what they can access is but a tiny fraction of computer and info power, that is so exulted in the media.

I do not believe that that the answer is a matter of limited resources and consumption, but more of expectations and feelings. The Brexiteers and Trump Republicans were (in some way) "treated like ***t by the elite" - for holding the wrong opinions. And democracy offered politicians, and social media, who affirmed voters in the wrong opinions.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Great Evils in Society: 1942 and 2017

In 1942 William Beveridge MP was given the responsibility to find out what was needed for Britain to take care of the basic needs of the people and create a set of reforms that would look after the basic needs of the people giving everyone a basic standard of living.

In his report, Beveridge proposed a new system of social security, which would include everyone and provide benefits 'from the cradle to the grave' and tackle what he saw as the 5 Giant Evils of society.

The Five Giants

Beveridge believed that want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness stood in the way of social progress.

GIANT EVILBeveridge in 1942
WANTToo many people were living below the poverty line
IGNORANCEToo many children left school at 14 without any qualifications and went into low paid jobs
SQUALORMany people lived in overcrowded slums and there was a shortage of good houses
DISEASEMany people suffered from poor health because they could not afford medical treatment
IDLENESSUnemployment was very high before the war and caused poverty

To fight these giants a proper system of sickness and unemployment benefit was needed. This would include a proper national health service, family allowance and a full employment policy.

GIANT EVILin 2017 (???)
WASTEObscene levels of consumption (structured into an economy that requires waste to distribute resources equitably)
IGNORANCESocial expectations and advertising are highly unrealistic - low uptake of opportunities - evil agencies
AGEINGNeed for care and financing of the ageing population
DISEASEObesity and sedentary living - drunkeness, tobacco and opiates
IDLENESS (automation)Economy may not provide meaningful jobs for the skills and capacities of all people
POLLUTION and EXTINCTIONSGreenhouse gases, habitat loss and depletion of biodiversity - owing to reliance on inefficiencies and resource intensive infrastructure

To fight these giant evils a proper system of allocation (economy) that rewards all virtues and an ecosystem services policy is needed. This would include a proper set of behavioural signals and incentives. And, coordination of the monetarised sector with ecosystems and with the family sector.

GIANT CHALLENGESConservative Party 2017 Election Manifesto[comment]
1. The need for a strong economy.We need to make the most of our existing strengths, invest in infrastructure and people, and ensure that the whole of our economy across the whole of our country can grow. Without a strong economy, we cannot guarantee our security, our personal prosperity, our public services, or contented and sustainable communities.l.o.c. - meaningless bollocks - ?more is better?
2. Brexit and a changing world.We need to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union and forge a deep and special partnership with our friends and allies across Europe. As there is increasingly little distinction between domestic and international affairs in matters of migration, national security and the economy, Britain must stay strong and united – and take a lead in the world to defend our interests.l.o.c. - meaningless bollocks
3. Enduring social divisions.For too many people, where you end up in life is still determined by where you were born and to whom. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their talents and hard work, whoever you are and wherever you are from.an important challenge
4. An ageing society.We need to respond to the reality of an ageing society, giving people security in old age and caring for those with long-term health conditions, whilst making sure we are fair to younger generations.an important challenge
5. Fast-changing technology.For the sake of our economy and our society, we need to harness the power of fast-changing technology, while ensuring that our security and personal privacy – and the welfare of children and younger people – are protected.an important challenge

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I file emails, why can't I file webpages?

Google! I file away my emails, so why can I not easily file away web pages that I have visited (into my cache)? On all browsers and devices.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

SUV's and Cleantech Events - Sustainability

In Cambridge, UK, we work to address the issues of our era. It was, one-time, a centre of the Reformation and home to Erasmus, and lately host to the discoveries and sequencing of DNA.

So today we have Cambridge Cleantech (www.cambridgecleantech.org.uk) and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (www.cisl.cam.ac.uk).

And, until recently, there was the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR), headed by the very keen Prof Doug Crawford-Brown. However the inertia and reluctance to spend anything means that change in Cambridge is moving at a glacial pace, unlike global warming, which is fast outpacing any move to mitigation.

In this context I wonder how does the media impact of "SUVs New York auto show" (eg [1]) (or "Iran to buy 100 Airbus") compare to the overall media impact of cleantech?

How will it be possible to change the main game (which might soon be the survival of humanity)? And, what is the main game (which might be winning tokens for myopic shareholders, Trump and Islamic loons)?

Or is there, actually, no hope?

[1] www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/03/22/suvs-take-center-stage-new-york-auto-show

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hollowing and the Assets Bubble - FT letter - not published

Letter to the Financial Times - January 18th 2016


The hollowing of margins (Sainsbury's Home Retail bid, FT 17 January), and the end of the growth funding scheme (Zoellick/Rogoff, FT 18 January), might be a harbinger of bigger needed adjustments.

The only way that the giant grocery retailers in the UK might survive the onslaught of our heavy discounters is through ruthless cost cutting. So how soon will we see robotic grocery pickers and stackers? And driverless taxis - which it will be trivial to build for retrofit - using the algorithms of Google, Mobileye or Delphi and off-the-shelf hardware?

But where will that surplus, which formerly went to employees, accumulate. In a hollowed out world, where needs are met by the few, it will not trickle to the least skilled humans, or to the less resource rich regions.

And the model, of perhaps the last 160 years where redistribution flowed from growth financing, has probably reached it's logical conclusion in absurd asset bubbles.

In this context redistribution - through explicit wealth, and consumption, taxes - will grow in urgency. Likely when we face calamity. And the time will come when we are surely driven to devise allocation systems beyond just "rewards for productivity, and for frugality".

Mark Reader

Twitter: @READER_MA

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Capturing Rents, or Creating Wealth?

Real wealth consists of tangibles, like cars, food and commodities, as well as of services like social care (of which we can only provide so much). This real wealth can only be consumed if its creation is adequate. We can't consume wealth that has not been created. So wealth creation really matters.

People's needs, however, are unrelated to the levels of wealth created in the economy. These needs are finite. Being physiological, social and intellectual (ie identity/spiritual). However as primates of 60-90kg we tend to be rather limited in perspective and so can be greedy, self-seeking, narcissistic and often inconsiderate. Especially when confronted with a choice of placing a small burden on many others and extracting a large personal benefit. Or, particularly, in avoiding a large perceived personal loss.

Thus, when confronted with a choice of paying the full cost, or of placing a burden on society, students in South Africa felt that education should be seen as a low cost "right" (#FeesMustFall). However, there are very real direct costs and great opportunity costs in providing education. An excessive education sector will reduce wealth creation - and so, necessarily, will deprive other people of the fruits of the economy - and make most people poorer.

Similarly in the outsourcing dispute in South Africa (#OutsourcingMustFall), which was framed as black workers getting their rights - but, actually, doing away with outsourcing just redistributes money (ie tokens or promises to pay) (and the consequent consumption) without any compensating increase in wealth creation. And, in practical experience, will lead to losses of efficiency. It was a dispute about pure economic rents - in other words about capturing a surplus - pitted against efficiency savings and so consequently against wealth creation.

This socially engendered sense of entitlement to rights, and of passive expectations, may be the fundamental defect in the South African economy.

Fortunately markets (which arise legally or otherwise for scarce resources or real wealth) give incentives to be: i) productive (with rewards for efficiency and wealth creation); and to be ii) frugal (being able to access more resources or real wealth, by spending less). And the scarcity of resources usually leads to crisis, so that pure rents tend to be swept away in history.

What South Africa, and perhaps the whole world, needs is some way to reward virtue (or "being good") rather than the narrow perspective of the market (just productive and selfish). The students and strikers lose nothing by disrupting exams and lessons - but destroy much real wealth. As well as do damage to norms and values, that maintain a just society.

Tax - a fraction of the flow of money (promises to pay) in the economy - seems to be an inadequate source of financing redistribution by the state (which is absolutely fundamental to just society). So we see addictions to growth through deficit financing - with all of the undesired incentives for excessive consumption and obscene waste. For this, there are likely better types of economy (allocation system), beyond capitalism and socialism.

And the appeal of rents - pure redistribution or capture of surplus - leads to imposing short-sighted burdens on the rest of society (like "cheap education" and "ineffective services"). In this situation it is the poor and truly deprived who suffer most, because education is underprovided and less wealth is created.

As the elite of the next generation, and leaders, one would hope that students and activists can see the full cost of these short-sighted actions. And be insightful and considered, rather than follow the examples of obscene rent capture we see by financial and political elites.

But appeals of seemingly simple matters of "rights" often obscure the bigger picture of norms, wealth-creation and redistribution.