One Boiled Frog

it's getting warm out there.

Who knew that Objectivism could be associated with any hippy dippy environmental perspective? For those few Objectivists out there, let me use your language to explain the importance of our inhabited environment for you:

Since things are what they are, since everything that exists possesses a specific identity, nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance. (Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It)

Do you ever wonder why shootings, depression, social anxiety, poverty, addiction, or crime now occur on a day-to-day basis? Why do so many that live in material abundance seek solace in their deformities and traumas? How can companies like ExxonMobile can provide so much to the world without one word of thanks? It is because nothing in reality can occur by chance; a near-ageless, complex, natural ecosystem is at odds with our established wants and desires.

How can this be so? Why can’t the natural laws of the earth and universe provide us with the abundance promised by our parents and their parents and their parents?

Unfortunately, it is because we have lived in an age of irrationality for 10,000 years, under the guise of civilization, which can be summarized as the belief that the human population may grow beyond what the planet can provide. Or as the Christian God said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and hav dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Don’t let Darwin fool you: the dominant species does not always last the longest. Our culture, which has dominated for ten millennia, can be brought to its knees by its own residence. The dominant species was able to clear the area of competitors for a period of time before it eventually starved, because it did not know the natural laws of the earth: that one cannot over-exploit an area for an extended period of time, that the earth can only support so much of one species’ needs, that the “success” of the earth is not predicated on the dominant species.

Objectivists, I ask you: What rationality have we had for 10,000 years when we extol the virtues of an agriculturalist who reduces the bio-diversity of the earth by one acre for each acre that they convert into corn and soybeans? We are now approaching 8 billion people compared to the few billion people we had in the mid-20th century: do you believe that we can continue converting the earth into agriculture for our growing population? Where do you find the rationality in the basis of our society? The basis of civilization?

Objectivists, I ask you: What rationality have we had for 10,000 years when our justice system is predicated on people breaking the laws? We have created a society in which people are incentivized to criminalize themselves to stay ahead of poverty and mediocrity. From the beginning of agricultural surplus, we assigned people to guard this abundance in case thieves would want to acquire food to stop their hunger. How can one blame these thieves, who were previously gatherer-hunters that could feed themselves in just two hours compared to the eight or twelve or sixteen hours that they must to earn food each day?

Objectivists, I ask you: Where do we go when we hit twelve billion, twenty billion people? Do we continue believing that another acre of corn will solve the hunger, or a larger government payout will solve the poverty, or more access to mental healthcare will solve the depression, or perhaps we just wait until people forgot that they were told from a young age to “be fruitful, and multiply”? How are we to deal with a culture that equates procreation with material success?

Objectivists, you have been trapped in a global culture that is at odds with the very foundation of your belief system. You have searched for small government and rational thinking to round out your ideological objectives. But as you push for these two goals, the world continues to burn because the Law of Identity is being ignored by the greater population: If A is A, then the Earth is a finite substance that can maintain so many of a species for so long. For the sake of rationality, consider the scarcity of land and inhabitable earth that we have when you are planning out another Objectivist rally or convention. In the most objective terms, we have given ourselves away to the mystics who promise unlimited fossil fuels, coal, and ozone layer, yet the facts tell us differently. Our near-8 billion population tells us that despite the growing number of industrial farms cynically producing our food, a portion continues to live in poverty—financial, intellectual, spiritual. Not even a portion with these terms; our spirit diminishes with every new destructive technology to harvest more fuel, with every new person created for no other reason of cultural pressure, and with every person set on keeping up with our global Joneses.

In my last piece, I recommended that the New Environmentalists should be more invested in the world. There are many effective environmentalist-activists that have engaged People to consider human-perpetuated climate change, and have affected positive awareness and changes to our political and social systems regarding the impact of People on their natural habitat. But these environmentalist-activists have noted how much of an uphill battle it has been since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. This is not because the powers that be, in dark, smoke-filled rooms are plotting to hide the damages large organizations (government, private companies, communities) have exponentially incurred in the past century-and-a-half; when these conspiracies are true, it is instead symptom of a more fundamental cause that in fact keeps both pollutant corporations and environmentalist-activists in business: neither party seeks for lower and middle-classes to go beyond passive donations and recycling bins, for these solutions are panacea for the cultural defect that is foundational to the philosophy of every nation on Earth.

Just about every sensible person snorts at the arbitrariness of territorial and national borders throughout the world, yet the American military—and many patriotic citizens—distinguish members who have sacrificed life and limb for these hand-drawn lines. Whether it be China versus India, Palestine versus Israel, Crimea versus Russia, or the nomads moving over Iraqi state lines, we are reminded and remark upon how silly it is that so much conflict occurs because of the settling of these lines, and forget that these lines are symbolic of national pride: would the U.S. National Parks be so special to Americans if they were in fact the U.K. National Parks? Or the Singaporean National Parks? No, because national ownership of these lands is paramount to the source of pride that Americans have for these beautiful areas. Would the Yosemite National Park feel as impactful if Half Dome were split between federal, state, and private lands? Three invisible properties, right down the rock face! The answer would be no, as the unspoken point of pride for Yosemite is that its borders of ownership did not highlight its own arbitrariness.

When the more modern person steps onto the four corners of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, they will focus more on the cheap, mass-produced novelty items sold around them than the notability of standing on a marker that has no power over the ground below it to conform to one of the four states. Decades before, the Four Corners was a minor national treasure, for the very basis of government bureaucrats having found the right latitude and longitude to change the earth’s name into four other things. It is less an appreciation of the land than a celebration of the march of socio-political history. And maybe from here I can give clue to a fundamental cause of the destruction of our habitat: an ideology that places man-made abstractions over reality, which in consequence separates the individual from their habitat so harshly that they can at times feel compelled to destroy it for man-made benefits.

Think of what the National Parks and the Woody Guthrie song “This Land is Your Land” represent: a dispassionate ownership of a land, without real impetus for why we own this land, why we should, or how we should maintain it. National Park Service founder Stephen Mather did not see value in the preservation of the land, but rather its entertainment value to random passersby: it was the kind of enjoyment that encouraged interacting and feeding bears, throwing beer cans and trash on the roads that were carved through the best parts of these parks, the kind of enjoyment where people enjoyed the juvenile actions of destruction of wildlife at car-sped scale. What is there to learn from Guthrie’s lyrics but that God gave us this land to take dominion over, without any conception whatsoever that the land could have been used by others in the future as well. The pride of our national ownership of land is one that has the very real potential to seek destruction as a reminder that one has agency over the earth and their own lives, like the 2nd Amendment advocates that open-carry weapons just because they need to feel that they can. The teenage sociopath does not enjoy the actual pain they cause to small animals, they enjoy that they can finally invoke immediate consequences on something, anything, and unfortunately it is that which cannot defend itself that gets targeted the most⁠1.⁠

Our global culture has developed environmental sociopaths, and just like those we place into prison, our only solution is to make them stop, but not compel them in any way to do so besides the most mundane of tasks. Take away their weapons—switch to electric energy—community service—put the cardboard in the blue bin—put them in solitary if they disobey—carbon taxes—let them out early if they’re on their best behavior for a certain amount of time—carbon credits. When you raise someone as a criminal, treat them as a criminal, and regulate them as a criminal, they will in fact become a criminal. We have developed an expansive and rigorous system of punishments for environmental crimes—and it is growing everyday—and are starting to put the carrot before the stick, as if people were innate destroyers that will only do good when some economic incentive is put in front of them. What a wonder that for three million years, our species were not considered as perpetual criminals, and could survive for so long, yet crime and punishment became more prevalent once we started owning land at a grand scale after the Agricultural Revolution! Environmentalist-activists: perhaps the goal is not only to prove that climate change exists and to reveal the economic damages that result, but to relate societal issue that we have raised our children on the belief that This Land is My Land, So I’ll Do What I Damn Please?

And every time I ask this, someone will wrongly interpret the answer as “more programs, more regulations”, but programs don’t change the vision of a global culture, they just beat down infractions and hide society’s corrosive vision of People’s dominion over the planet, with imaginary borders that people care nothing and everything about, willing to die for their land and destroy it. What will change the vision of People is a re-staking of local and community culture in reality: the reality that doesn’t care whether it’s named Utah, Colorado or New Mexico; the reality that would crack and destroy the roads cutting into National Parks just months after it is abandoned to natural physics; the reality that puts up deaf ears Guthrie’s vision of the United States—and in extension Earth—who will let the ice caps melt and Miami flood and animals go extinct because reality understands that carbon emissions causes that, and no amount of “God Bless America’s” are going to change this reality. Reality and its constituents like Earth are amoral beings that speak nothing, yet we glean all of our greater truths from it through rigorous science and a healthy vision of it.

No, the prescription I give is not the age-old hippie belief that all the borders should vanish overnight. In fact, while borders may be fundamental to the concept of national pride and habitat abuse, it is also a symptom of a greater root cause that I cannot get into now. But borders are located at a conceptual level worth considering when we realize that the Old Environmentalists and Scary Corporations are playing in the same colosseum: onlookers don’t seem to question why the colosseum exists in the first place. The Old Environmentalists want to redefine American nationalism to include environmental conservation, but it willfully forgets that patriotism is a pitting of People against their habitat, for national land ownership regards dominion as an American, global ideal. The broadest prescription I can give is to reject Guthrie’s argument that this land was made for you and me; we were made for Earth, by proof of our species’ success over three million years, and flipping our values upside-down to think that Earth was made for us is a recipe for our failure of vision—and ultimately, a failure at survival.

1 Let me reiterate, our habitat can defend itself, but not in the way we want: we can burn all the forests and raise the sea and burn more holes into the ozone layer, and ultimately destroy ourselves; our once inhabitable earth spins on, having finally shrugged itself of a pest that could not learn how to ride the bull.

The largest accomplishment of technology is its capability to astound people into completely new ways of living. Agriculture astounded people into lives in which food should always be at one’s doorstep. The city astounded people into lives of the marketplace economy. The vehicle astounded people into mobile, transient lives on the road.

Unfortunately, technology’s ability to astonish also distracts people from consequences: Institutionalized inequality derived from agriculture, the economized lives of city folk, the unending dependence on personal vehicles for food and livelihood—in our astonishment, our spiritual centers have been replaced by tools.

Benjamin Zander’s 2008 TED Talk is one of the very few that have stuck with me for nearly a decade now. Zander gripes over the way classical music fans approach the genre’s (un)popularity:

How would you walk? How would you talk? How would you be? If you thought, “Three percent of the population likes classical music, if only we could move it to four percent.“ How would you walk or talk? How would you be, if you thought, “Everybody loves classical music — they just haven't found out about it yet.“ See, these are totally different worlds. 

Benjamin Zander’s approach to classical music—to meditate on a subject while listening to a classical piece—was baked in the then-growing practice of mindfulness, which accepts that thoughts do pop up in one’s head, but it is the act of sublimation that raises the thought—and piece— to new heights. That a thought was not just wanton, but could be connected back to the performance is a deliberate and cooperative process of call and response that great art has always achieved.

More importantly, Zander’s above quote, stating that“everybody loves classical music” with so much conviction, recognizes the capability that every human being has for individual change. For Zander this means the potential to enjoy classical music, but for our habitat, it means People’s capacity for understanding climate change and moving to solve it.

Thus, it is a challenge to hear the uninspired, cowardly objectives developed within treaties like the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, who declared that their ultimate objective was to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” In this objective, I don’t hear a group of leaders finding opportunity in aligning our global values with that of our habitat’s sustainability. I hear a small being asking for bulls to be a little more careful within china shop.

Then the 2015 Paris accord had a new wording, looking to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.” So at least they’re not just saying “let’s just not destroy our habitat to dangerous levels” like the UNFCCC, but now they’re saying “let’s keep our own destruction at a level not much higher than before this millennia-long mistake”.

Imagine two prisons with two different objectives for its inmates. The first seeks to find opportunities for inmates to find interests that long distance them from their criminal past. Hobbies, jobs, discussions, all facilitated in a way that tries to understand why the inmate committed their crimes and what would satisfy them so much that they don’t think about criminal activity anymore. The second prison seeks to just stop them from committing more crimes. Solitary confinement, threats of losing parole, a half-way house that keeps the inmates socially separated from “normal citizens”, and a lifetime marker that one had committed a crime, so employers can stay well away from this Other. Which prison has the most potential to create a better person after they have been lawfully punished? Of course, the first prison won’t always succeed, but the second prison is so set on keeping that person a criminal that the first prison at least appears to be a chance at something better.

The Paris accord and Kyoto Protocol are so disappointing in their vision that the only way its enactors could make it exist is by reassuring each nation that they don’t actually have to follow its regulations. This is a prison that not only wants to punish its inmates, but wants its inmates to voluntarily submit themselves for punishment. So to answer the original question: if we seek to turn climate change action into punishment rather than reward, then yes, climate change action is faced with the Prisoner’s Dilemma, for in a world of resource competition like we have right now, we see our place in the world through economic means rather than through national and global values.

This is all affirmation of William Nordhaus’ contention in the [Foreign Affairs essay “The Climate Club”] that climate change action should be guided with the carrot, not the stick. Within the realm of global capitalism, nations would be willing to participate in carbon emissions reductions if they find that there are great economic and political opportunities in doing so. Thus, Nordhaus introduces a club structure to climate change participation:

The principal conditions for a successful club include that there is a public-good-type resource that can be shared (whether the benefits from a military alliance of the enjoyment of low-cost goods from a round the world); that the cooperative arrangement, including the costs or dues, is beneficial for each of the members; that nonmembers can be excluded or penalized at a relatively low cost to members; and that the membership is stable in the sense that no one wants to leave.

The only thing I’m not a fan of is his wording for the status of nonparticipants: rather than rewarding participating club members, Nordhaus proposes that nonparticipants or member nations that don’t fulfill obligations should be penalized. I agree that non-committal club members should be penalized by being kicked out of the club or by reducing rewards. Nordhaus is accidentally circling back to the Stick Method. The Carrot Method is this: follow the obligations set by the club and have access to economic, political, and military access of its members; fail these obligations and become a nonmember, losing these benefits. A fitness club can only “punish” non-members by charging higher daily rates—which is not really a punishment when the non-member opted to accept that inflated rate—so why would the “Climate Club” be any different?

Nordhaus admits that the club’s purpose is to provide “powerful incentives” for countries to be part of it, so I know we’re both on parallel lines, but the words “penalty” and “sanction” do not develop greater visions; these are words for an institutions that has little regard for its members or potential invitees. To show respect, you reward and support those who follow the obligations set by the club, highlighting their methods of success.

This club should be exciting to join and fruitful once a member. A nation’s people should look upon its members like one used to keep up with the Joneses. To do this, the standard of obligations must not just be stringent, but also futuristic. The incentives should promise—and deliver—a bright future for that member nation’s people, for the Climate Club will inspire no one by being an organization for earth, but an organization serving People by protecting their habitat. A bright future is not achieved by giving up things, it is by providing a vision of the world that inspires people to forget that they don’t even have something because their values are so fundamentally changed. Perhaps the Climate Club’s membership incentives won’t even have to be economic or military: political capital can be collected on one’s success and innovations in aligning the nation with the sustainability of their habitat.

We are trying to get away from those climate change activists who wish that they could just minimize—or “stabilize”—our destruction. Every single person on this earth, when presented with a new vision of our relationship with our habitat, will live and breathe a sustainable life. The Climate Club has the potential to make even warlords and oil barons jealous by showing what kind of futuristic toys and organizations can be made when sustainability is a fact of life rather than part of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The Club just needs the right members to make a habitable world cool again. I think the Club could do with more New Environmentalists.

P.S. Interestingly enough, the Climate Club also falls into the New Identity Movement, the near-decade old phenomenon in which exclusion has become a foundational element of identity. The New Identity Movement stipulates that identities must either raise their standards for inclusion or break off into specifically defined subgroups to maintain a feeling of personal connection between its members. Possibly as a reaction to the passively inclusionary Kyoto-Paris agreements, the Climate Club (at least the one I’ve described) develops exclusion as a way to motivate non-members to step up their game to reap the rewards of membership support.

About a year ago, I wrote about the [“Most Likely Environmentalists”], and responded in the reactionary way that I do:

People who are invested in the world are inherently environmentalists, for they have much to do to secure their investment. Likewise, can one really respect the efforts of those “deeply committed to the environment” yet put no dime or thought into long-term investments in alternative energies, food productions, or cultural changes? Those people you see on social media with pixelated reposts of old bromides admonishing humanity for its evils: how can this compare with the accomplishments made by those who put their money where their mouth is, and also speak coherently about how the average person can proceed in investing and securing their investment in this earth?

If you continue to read the previous essay, I think you’ll understand that I’m not an apologist for money makers that are only invested in the short-term exploitation of the earth—at the cost of their own lives and others. But something I might have implied is that financial investments is the primary means for an individual or community to push for an environmentally-sound industrial future. This is a point that I must clarify and mostly invalidate.

To clarify: That essay gave Foreign Affairs’ contributor Rebecca Henderson the benefit of the doubt by setting an argument within a capitalist context. This is why I started the essay with this:

If you want the the so-called benefits of civilization and capitalism, you must follow the reality of its system: Environmentalism can only viable when it is profitable, whether in the short or long-term. For the capitalist world, there is no altruism, but the constant question of “What's in it for me?” The tides are turning, and companies see that there is money in environmentalism, so they jump…

So, given Henderson’s capitalist environment, I do believe that financial investments are a primary foundation for expression; the other would be consumer choices, which can be a dead end, as “giving up something” to consume for a principle like environmentalism is a negation that is easily trampled by capitalist inertia: As consumers, we will go for the easiest and the cheapest until we see direct causation between frugality and self or communal harm. Product manufacturers, who see that this is doing just fine, will have little incentive to change its product for the better (unless it dealt with some competition). In other words, we’ll keep on buying bleach until some study correlates bleach-use with cancer, and producers will keep on selling variations of the same chemical until they lose consumer good will or are banned from selling it.

How I summarized it in the previous essay:

Low-and-middle class people are told to recycle and not throw trash on the streets, as if our only actions can be to mitigate the failure of our existence.

On the other end, financial investments are a method of hoarding money in such a way that it benefits the hoarder with more monetary resources. This is a positive action: One is not “giving up”, but “putting in” for direct benefits. This would be like people running to the local grocery store to purchase “UnBleach X”, which is not only just as effective as bleach, but is edible and is fortified with Vitamin C, and fifty cents cheaper. People are much more apt to reach toward something rather than give something up. Financial investments are a reaching towards, and in the supposedly rational system of capitalism, people should reach toward investments that are not only stable and consistently growing, but will also contribute to their own well-being and safety. Why don’t they? Because the constantly shifting narratives over green energy and work muddles the water, not allowing a potential investor in on the truth that industries that make people healthier, safer, and in a more beautiful place will inevitably be those that have indefinite growth.

However, I want to pull away from the idea that financial investments are a primary means of expression for a positive environmental impact on the world. It is simply an important method in our capitalist environment. I do not believe we live in a capitalist environment, but between human and natural environments; capitalism is a human environment that has been given a little too much seriousness and universality, so we mistake capitalism for the overall human condition.

I continue to agree with the energy of my past essay, but I must wave away its narrow scope (the capitalist environment) and broaden the vision of the “Most Likely Environmentalist”. In summary, and of course something that will be addressed in more detail later on, the most likely environmentalist is the product of a cultural inertia. Look to the Industrial Revolution: No important contributor to that time had to ask themselves whether they were an “Industrial Revolutionary”; there were no business or self-help books or self-flagellating over whether one was adding to the revolution: The people, caught up in the inertia of a technological movement, simply did. The people added their two cents, and all these isolated contributions snowballed into the modern age wholly augmented by industrial technology. Ignore the inhumanity of the Industrial Revolution and appreciate the fact that it was a significant event in civilizational history, all brought along by a decentralized network of inventors, thinkers, and pushers, who simply breathed experiments and contributions.

Can this cultural energy be applied to environmentalism? Can technological, philosophical, scientific innovations breathe sustainability and earthly well-being? Only if Nature can be integrated into our cultural inertia. Did you know that growing plants in a certain way can preclude the need for herbicides, pesticides, most irrigation and boring rows of crops on flat territory? Did you know that you don’t need to pay nearly as much for the energy bill during the winter with a cheaper, twig-fueled heater? Did you know that you don’t need toxic, factory-produced chemicals to clean your home, but could use cheap, naturally-available compounds? Did you know that your own locale might be the perfect place for a vacation, rather than enduring hours of plane layovers and expensive hotels? Did you know that there are ways to live a life of luxury without the boats, planes, cars, televisions, and technologies that give one moment of novelty and another decade of debt payments?

The Most Likely Environmentalists will have found from their parents, ancestors, or communities that a life well-lived is one that doesn’t require the current rat race of money hoarding, debt growing, and product consumption currently promised by the “capitalist environment”, where all one can do about the environment is live a more impoverished life. The Industrial Revolution, for all its failures, succeeded because it didn’t promise sacrifice, but overwhelming gain that would have been unthought of by those just a generation prior to the technological movement. The Most Likely Environmentalist will most likely never call themselves an environmentalist, because what they live and breathe is simply better than the lives of their predecessors, with their contributions unfettered by the failures of humanity, but by the successes of innovators who took Nature in mind when they found an even better method of living comfortably.

Note: There are multiple that I attack a topic: From the perspective of civilization and a perspective that is skeptical of civilization. I believe that capitalism is the height of human relationships within civilization—so I must defend it when speaking within the “pragmatic” context of living within civilization. However, capitalism is ugly, desperate, and inhumane—just like civilization. So I must step outside of the “pragmatic” and into the anti-civilizational to criticize capitalism, as it is merely the end product of civilization.

*This essay implies that you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you want the the so-called benefits of civilization and capitalism, you must follow the reality of its system: Environmentalism can only viable when it is profitable, whether in the short or long-term. For the capitalist world, there is no altruism, but the constant question of “What's in it for me?” The tides are turning, and companies see that there is money in environmentalism, so they jump—people rejoice, but at the cost of having never learned the lesson that capitalism ever cared—it was only following its own pragmatic logic, and it coincided with the popular notions of green energy and sustainability.*

My initial reading of Rebecca Henderson’s Foreign Affairs published “The Unlikely Environmentalists” led to one simple question: If BlackRock CEO Larry Fink stated that “climate risk is investment risk”, then why would the world’s largest investors be “unlikely environmentalists”? Is it really a surprise that investment firms like BlackRock, who manage trillions of dollars in the world, is in fact invested in its future as well? If you have one hundred percent of your investments in a single industry (in this case, the Earth Industry), wouldn’t you want to keep the growth going in perpetuity? But for this author, those invested in the world are “unlikely” to consider its longevity.

Now that this unfathomable truth has been discovered, my second reading discovered that the author had to move goal posts, establishing a new standard of what the “likely environmentalist” represents: “altruism or a deep commitment to the environment”. However, these investors lack both, instead they are driven by “a function of economic interests”, which Henderson qualifies:

For the world’s largest asset owners, climate change is not an externality—it is a profound threat to their long-term returns. It will, after all, be significantly harder to make money in a world where most of the major ports are underwater, harvests are failing on a routine basis, and hundreds of millions of people are on the move.

A rather tongue-in-cheek explanation that summarizes exactly why investors would be committed to the environment, yet supposedly arguing why it is only driven by economic interests. What is the difference between a person driven by a “deep commitment to the environment” and one by “a function of economic interests”? Let me re-word the above quote:

For those deeply committed to the environment, climate change is not an externality—it is a profound threat to their long-term survivability. It will, after all, be significantly harder to survive in world where most of the major ports are underwater, harvests are failing on a routine basis, and hundreds of millions of people are on the move.

The only difference between two above groups of people (it is noteworthy that the author finds the two mutually exclusive) is that investors are able to articulate climate concerns in actionable ways, where those “deeply committed” have found themselves stuck with inspirational and apocalyptic quotes to be pasted over nature documentaries. I only diminish the efforts of this group of people because a group that Henderson does not list have made more impacts on the cultural consensus on climate change. These great world-changers are natural scientists, who are not mutually exclusive from any of the three previously mentioned categories, but may also be driven by personal vision or curiosity, not some duty to others or the earth.

The physical sciences are the method in which People (my replacement for “Man”) understand the nature of their reality in its most practicable of ways: we know that an apple falls toward the ground, that higher elevations have less oxygen in the air, that we cannot breathe underwater or in an enclosed, airtight space. Economics is the practicable understanding of reality to exchange physical or arbitrary capital between People with efficiency and stability. If the physical sciences can discover that a certain rate of fishing makes a lake useless for the task, then economics can determine a regulating system of fishing in accordance with the rules of reality—what is the population growth rate of fish, do pollutants or other disturbances affect their breeding rates, etc.—in an effort to gain from a resource in perpetuity. If economists were out of touch with reality, their systems would fail either immediately—or more insidiously, over time—but will eventually fail if unmodified or replaced with better intellectual parts.

This perspective on economics and the physical sciences should make it obvious that when overwhelming scientific evidence presents a challenge to current societal systems, the most likely to change would be the economist, investor, or business, so long as they are driven by reality. However, the challenge that People face with regard to climate change is that people—and the businesses they run—are not driven by reality, but by a mix of ancient and new cultural concepts that drive a wedge between People and the natural world they are part of. The economist cannot escape the fact that overfishing makes fish disappear, but the Culturalist may look to God, their tribal enemies, “Fate”, or perhaps outright denial to reconcile the information at hand. The irrationalities inherent in our current culture render a formidable portion of the world’s population as the “unlikely environmentalists”, for they will find any excuse to deny participation in climate action.

We can modify a dated quote from William Levitt, the post-WWII housing developer for America’s middle-class:

“No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist,” he once said. “He has too much to do.”

People who are invested in the world are inherently environmentalists, for they have much to do to secure their investment.

Likewise, can one really respect the efforts of those “deeply committed to the environment” yet put no dime or thought into long-term investments in alternative energies, food productions, or cultural changes? Those people you see on social media with pixelated reposts of old bromides admonishing humanity for its evils: how can this compare with the accomplishments made by those who put their money where their mouth is, and also speak coherently about how the average person can proceed in investing and securing their investment in this earth?

Guidance for the average person is woefully inadequate at this time. It appears you have to be Al Gore or Elon Musk or Larry Fink to look as though you are moving mountains with regard to climate change. Low-and-middle class people are told to recycle and not throw trash on the streets, as if our only actions can be to mitigate the failure of our existence. And that has made the average person the world’s most unlikely environmentalist, uninspired and cajoled down a path of mediocre climate action.

But I can provide a little guidance for the rest of us: research and invest in the world, so you can be more in touch with reality. I don’t mean to say that last phrase as a pejorative: I personally don’t even know how a bed frame is made, or a French press, or a door knob. They arrive at my house pre-furnished, and I am completely out of touch with the nature of their reality. The glass and metal is somehow excavated, melted, bent, formed, and attached and placed at my doorstep, and I have no idea whether the process is a sustainable process, because I don’t know even know if it is a process.

Consider every object around you and the thousands of hands that may have touched it—and the tens of thousands of minds that came up with its initial production—and realize that reality is in fact a distant land, as we live in a cultural abstraction to feel comfortable in our lack of knowledge in the world, thinking “someone else is always figuring this stuff out”. But as we see from Rebecca Henderson’s article, some people might be re-discovering some of the most obvious truths we have, and we could have saved their time by considering it ourselves. Capitalism and economics only work if we all consider it, and let no one else think for us. Irrationality lies at the gaps of our knowledge, and Culturalists seek to exploit that so they can sell another book about our failures and ways to further disconnect ourselves with reality. This can be combatted by investing.

Whether you have money or just your mind, invest what you can into the world. If money is invested, it will come back in spades (but research accordingly!); if intellect and time is invested, you may find a world of individuals with the same intellect joining and enriching you. As a secondary consequence, the earth will return time to you and future generations of People—in spades.

Thanks for reading. I actually have more issues with this Foreign Affairs article, and will continue the criticism in the future, even if I already jumped to a remedy by the end of this piece.

In last argued that communities should be given the right to manage the public lands around them. I said they had a right to sacrifice themselves and their land for profit, just as they should have the right to protect it fiercely. For the former, I want to expand on the concept of Informed Consent. Usually this is a healthcare concept, but I believe it relates to community rights and privacy. In essence, Informed Consent is the process of letting a person known what they are signing up for, and letting them decide whether they should proceed or not. If they wish to proceed, they sign an agreement fully acknowledging the side effects or consequences of doing so.

When an oil baron or land developer comes up to a community who manages the land around them, they should be subject to the conditions of Informed Consent. This means that most, if not all, community members should be informed about not just the gains they might receive by having a corporation enter and exploit their land, but the tangible side effects involved as well. An oil fracker must tell the community members that workers and neighbors of oil fracking operations die due to chemicals and underground processes that have blown up buildings and killed families. A land developer must tell the community members that the water run-off from extra paved roads will ruin any aquifers that run below the community, thereby poisoning their water and destroying both flora and fauna. The community must know that they are signing themselves up for the risk of death, decay, and degradation that comes with industrial exploitation. Then, and only then, should the community decide whether or not they should proceed with taking the revenues and profits of these industrial corporations.

This is the ideal of Informed Consent, and I do not believe that it has been applied toward environmental/ecological efforts because state and federal governments only care about permit applications and half-assed NEPA assessments, forcing death, decay, and degradation down upon communities as they fight tooth and nail to keep these corporations out of their area.

Back to privacy, which has become a growing topic of conversation for technology companies over the past decade as they become more ubiquitous in our lives. Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. all have different takes on privacy, the former of which has harped on a new take on it: Privacy As Human Right. Somehow, as we have concocted human rights over the past few centuries, we never considered that privacy should be included, except tangentially in the case of legal authorities being barred from entering private residences without a warrant. Now, as the internet takes root in the most basic aspects of our lives, privacy transformed from the passing romantic thoughts of anti-urbanists into a (supposed) modern ethical dilemma.

This is a dilemma that only exists because of technology, and as we can see from the likes of Apple, who markets itself as a privacy-first company, it always takes technology to solve the problems of technology. Apple has been on the vanguard of Privacy As Human Right because its business model is not predicated on data mining like most other companies, but on releasing physical products that people want. If the new Apple product promises the bonus of “More Privacy”, then why not? Why would I want less privacy?

Because we are talking about Apple, I’ll provide a couple quotes from Steve Jobs on privacy:

I believe people are smart. Some people want to share more than other people do. Ask them […] Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain language, and repeatedly.

Jobs didn’t describe privacy as a human right, but as an agreement. The ideal process to ensure adequate privacy for a user is to tell them what private details they need to give up in order to use a service, and to let them agree or deny giving up these details. However, since he described privacy so many years ago, the ideal of Informed Consent was never used by tech or marketing corporations, who hid their use of data use behind terms and agreements that were unreadable to everyone except for the most patient lawyers. Knowingly or not, these term sheets dissuaded 99% of users from giving their Informed Consent.

Rather than solving this issue by enforcing Informed Consent, privacy-first companies, politicians and activists are instead pushing for Privacy As Human Right, which has done nothing but muddy the waters on how data is collected and used. If privacy is truly a human right, does that mean no personal data should ever be collected? What if someone wants to share their data? Does that mean we have to establish “Personal Data Sharing As Human Right?” People have a right to live, which is heavily enforced, does that mean we now have to establish that people have a right to die when they choose?

Establishing a new right in the modern age simply means that governments and corporations must walk on a different set of eggshells to accomplish what they want. It is a reshuffling of terms and definitions so that it can include the new Right, but do little to change how it operates in light of this addition.

On the other hand, Informed Consent is a tangible solution. In a transparent, easy-to-understand fashion, all services, government or corporate or otherwise, should explain what it needs from the individual in order to operate, describe what the effects from sharing this information, and then let the individual choose whether it wishes to share this information or not (Of course, governmentally, we must accept the terms in front of the barrel of a gun).

Every serious moral philosophy, every decent legal system and every ethical organization cares deeply about intention. (Bret Stephens)

I’d take it one step further: a serious moral philosophy focuses only on intention. A serious, practical philosophy balances intention and outcome.

What is intention? I would define it as the spiritual objective of an action. Some organizations intend to stop hunger, save the environment, or fight against the injustices of the world. To the “serious moral philosopher” like Kant, this might be enough.

But what came out of these intentions? Hunger prevails, land, air and water are painstakingly compromised, and injustices seem to multiply each year.

Even worse, intentions can be corrupted from inside out. Do you think genocides were committed by groups that acknowledged their actions as evil? No, they developed a reasoning system in which the intention to do good involved the deaths of thousands or millions.

If you told a participant in genocide that their good intentions would lead to so much death, they could offer two responses:

“My intentions must have been worth it.”

“My good intentions won’t lead to mass death.”

Both answers have a lot of assumptions to unpack, but most resoundingly, good-intentioned folk would opt for the second response. Outright denial, because their intentions do not involve death. Their intentions typically involve the movement toward a better, healthier person or society. Death was not on the menu.

As people were murdered by these folk they were still able to outrightly deny that their good intentions leads to death. How could such a cognitive dissonance occur?

Capital punishment via firing squad—at its most formal—involves several squadmates who are given pre-loaded weaponry. The weaponry is pre-loaded because only a few of the squadmates will have real bullets. The others will have blanks. They are not told whether they were given the blanks or the real bullets. This practice allows every executioner a waiver of culpability for the killing. The executioner can always believe that they just shot a blank; perhaps it was someone else who killed the person.

Intention isolated mirrors the process of doling out blanks and bullets. Powered by the intention to do good, people can decouple the spiritual objective from the factual outcome of their actions. Where Person A and Person B intend for the same thing, Person A can watch in astonishment as Person B’s actions cause death, misery, and mayhem. Person A reassures themself: “Well I just intended this, Person B’s heinous crimes against humanity can’t reflect upon me!” When some intentions are very broad, that can be true, but in the case of many genocides, Person A most likely participated indirectly in supporting Person B’s actions, whether through economic, ideological, or cultural support.

During the Holocaust, there were many Germans who did not believe in the furor of the Third Reich, but did intend to support Germany through thick and thin. Little did they know, their small businesses and support for their own troops and bureaucrats helped contribute to the deaths of millions.

There are a lot of nuances on why intention isolated will ignore its very real consequences. There were many Germans who saw people disappear, and heard rumor of what might be happening, but because they did not see it with their own eyes, they had little motivation to change the status quo.

There is a relevant aside from Bill Hicks: > “I watch the news all the time, every day. You ever watch CNN? I turn on CNN and all I hear is: War. Death. AIDS. Famine. War. Death. AIDS. Famine.—then I open up my window and all I hear are birds tweeting. Where is all this shit happening? Is CNN making this shit up?”

When you live in relative comfort, far from the rumors and hearsay of evil, what could ever get you out on the streets?

The modern phenomenon (as modern as the Agricultural Revolution, which continues to this day) of intention isolated—the sequestering of good intentions from awful outcomes—arises from the increasingly complex division of labor. When you tread down the path of specialization, you are committing to confusing the forest for the trees. The lone accountant, the lone mechanic, the lone logger—these are all products of social, economic, and psychological isolation. When you start leaving the soldier to specialize in death and warfare, you start to disconnect yourself from the immense scale of death and warfare they will participate in—so you don’t have to.

Milton Friedman described the amount of global work that is involved to produce a No. 2 pencil:

There’s not a single person in the world that can make this pencil. Remarkable statement? Not. The wood from which it’s made—for all I know—comes from a tree found in the state of Washington. To down that tree, it took a saw. To make that saw, it took steel. To make the steel, it took iron ore. This black center: We call it led, but it’s really graphite. I think it comes from some mines in South America. The eraser, a bit of rubber, probably comes from Malaya, where the rubber tree isn’t even native, it was imported from South America by some businessmen with the help of the British Government.

Does the logger know where their wood ends up? Do the South American miners know where their graphite ends up? No, because all that matters is that they can eat food because they put in the work. Their intention: To feed themselves and their family, and survive another day of work to keep the cycle going.

If you can reduce each person to a specialized working resource with intentions that can’t extend past survival, you will be able to make any object in the world. If you can reduce a person to a specialized working resource with intentions to better themselves, their community, or their nation, you will be able to achieve astonishing amounts of inhumanity. This is because you are able to separate intention from the outcomes of their specialized work, for specialized work enhances systems, not people. One just needs to promise that the system will achieve people’s intentions.

There are periods of time in which the systems of people become much more malleable—that is, people are able to fundamentally change systems of governance, economics, social relationships in one critical period of time. For instance, American independence questioned the power of the British empire and its nobility; the success of the United States’ bid for independence coincided with the Haitian Revolution and the French Revolution. The phenomenon we can see here is a group of people realizing that governmental institutions are not set in stone and one has the ability to go another direction. The results of these “revolutions” are complex and mixed in its success to establish something completely different; now, an air cynicism is cast on all revolutionary thought over the past two centuries. Nevertheless, we saw revolutionary activity because people were not fazed by the intimidation of centralized powers.

Someone might think that revolutionary activity may only occur when a human system imposed on the group is failing. This is not true, as shown by the Industrial Revolution, a technological revolution that did not react against failure but acted for greater success. The lightbulb was not invented because the candle failed. The automobile was not adopted because of a failure of horses. These innovations saw a working model and improved upon it without any expression of reactionary behavior. The Industrial Revolution was an intellectual revolution that encouraged success instead of mitigated failure.

Nowadays, the global, cultural consensus appears that we do not want to live without air conditioning, toilets, computers, and planes, and that the overwhelming period of human existence before these conveniences would be unacceptably uncomfortable and boring. In fact, the more domineering nations in this global culture went even further to denounce our past circumstances, considering people without these conveniences as poverty-stricken. It is easy to view progress in relation to human-made devices because the realm of technology is one of visible concretes. This resulted in national governments conceiving technological adoption as that of human development. Now we have started to measure the development of nations based on computers and vehicles and electricity and lightbulbs per capita. The Industrial Revolution was transformed into a global mandate.

The most impactful revolutions were never considered as such in the beginning until its narrative was consolidated into that of capital-r Revolution. American independence wasn’t conceived from the Declaration—it was decades, perhaps centuries in the making. The American Revolution was the product of complex cultural forces, from the colonists’ development of a Frontier identity as opposed to a British one, to the geographic distance and limitations of the British empire to maintain cultural and economic identity in colonial areas. While Massachusetts was an epicenter for notable anti-British events and sensibilities, “American Independence” is a phrasal container for thousands of small, unrelated actions that ultimately ended up with the creation of the United States. These small actions were fueled by a cultural spirit that was not fazed by the British empire, and perceived the human world as a particularly malleable construct worth molding to one’s own specifications.

This is why I find Samuel and John Adams’ “Suffolk Resolves” to be hugely important to the spirit of revolution: The Resolves show that two individuals, with local interests at heart, found it worth their time to propose something radical, which called for a nearly complete doing away of British rule. Submitted before Congress nearly two years before the American Revolution, the Adams cousins weren’t riding a wave of revolutionary action, but added words to a growing American spirit that did not see Britain as its ruler in the near-future. The Suffolk Resolves were the product the a perspective that saw human systems as malleable in that particular moment.

I repeat the word malleability because it is key to understanding the enactment of radical change to pre-existing human systems: If Samuel and John Adams did not feel as if British rule over America could end, they wouldn’t have spent the time ruminating over it. This unformed feeling is the seed to change. If the feeling is there, the plants of revolution can grow—but that doesn’t mean they won’t get cut down before maturity. In an alternate reality in which the feelings of revolution existed but its soil was not fertile, the Suffolk Resolves would have been submitted to Congress and completely ignored. Ideas of change do not mean inevitable change, or else we could live in a Communist world right now. However, the theoretical-Communist spirit that saw malleability in human systems appears to only have lived for a few decades in the late-19th, early-20th centuries before, turning into a husk of its former self with the advent of the global-authoritarian-economist spirit that we still live with today.

Every human system adopted—whether it’s a national government, environmental program, capitalism, global supply chain, etc.—has no malice in its heart when it thinks that it is impenetrable to gaming, exploitation, or failure. When these systems are established, they actively educate its participants that, unlike all systems in practice before it, this is the system that no person should undermine because it man’s final version. When these systems are naturally gamed, exploited, and fail the average person, small revisions are made, but its stewards hold to the narrative that at its core, the system is infallible. The institution at hand will never give an inch regarding its fallibility until someone considers an alternative means to reach that system’s objective, or to do away with that objective altogether. Unfortunately, that is the institution’s job—to run and advocate for itself until people find it worth the time and energy to abolish. The British empire did not concede to the colonists until it had lost more than it could afford—even if it was apparent that British rule did not work in America, it was not like the King or his subjects would ever consider letting it go—because that would mean that there was something wrong with the system of governance, and by extension something wrong with the British empire. Like a psycho-analytic patient requiring catharsis to feel as if something has changed, the British empire required a full break from the colonists in order to end its failed reign over America.

Is there a way to capture the spirit that has powered the Industrial Revolution for about 300 years now, and employ that on the political and economic institutions we constructed so that our cultural spirit can encourage and adopt that which works for people, rather than what entrenches incumbents?

His own calling he conceives as that of a doctor; for, as he said of Plato, Nietzsche himself also “received from the apology of Socrates the decisive thought of how a philosopher ought to behave toward man: as their physician, as a gadfly on the neck of man” (IV, 404).

Nietzsche’s prescriptions are, in Kant’s language, hypothetical imperatives and do not involve any absolute obligation. If a man does not want to be healthy, the most that can be said against him is that he is diseased to the marrow or, in Nietzsche’s later terminology, decadent. The criterion of naturalism should be found in the sanction of valuations or moral imperatives. In Nietzsche’s early value theory the sanction is, unlike Kant’s, naturalistic. No principles are invoked that are not subject to investigation by the natural sciences.

Nietzsche’s difficulties in this essay arise from his consideration of the “supra-historical.” With the “historical” and “unhistorical” he had been able to deal in terms of life and health, not profoundly perhaps, nor brilliantly, but apparently to his own satisfaction. The “supra-historical point of view,” however, threatens to upset his entire scheme. What, then, is the “supra-historical”? Nietzsche imagines the question put to a number of people “whether they would wish to live through the last ten or twenty years once more.” He is sure that everybody would answer “No”—but for different reasons.

In Nietzsche’s words, they “believe that the meaning of existence will come to light progressively in the course of its process.” The “historical man” has faith in the future. The “supra-historical” man, on the other hand, is the one “who does not envisage salvation in the process but for whom the world is finished in every single moment and its end [Ende] attained. What could ten new years teach that the past could not teach?”

Empirical facts do not seem to him to warrant the belief that history is a story of progress, that ever greater values are developed, and that whatever is later in the evolutionary scale is also eo ipso more valuable. “The goal of humanity cannot lie in the end but only in its highest specimens.” Perhaps there is no more basic statement of Nietzsche’s philosophy in all his writings than this sentence. Here is the most crucial point of his philosophy of history and theory of values—no less than the clue to his “aristocratic” ethics and his opposition to socialism and democracy.

He maintains in effect that the gulf separating Plato from the average man is greater than the cleft between the average man and a chimpanzee. Most men are essentially animals, not basically different from chimpanzees—distinguished only by a potentiality that few of them realize: they can, but rarely do, rise above the beasts. Man can transcend his animal nature and become a “no-longer-animal” and a “truly human being”; but only some of “the philosophers, artists, and saints” rise to that point (U III 5). The unphilosophic, inartistic, and unsaintly mass remain animals. Hell is, so to speak, man’s natural state: only by a superhuman effort can he ascend into the heavens, leave the animal kingdom beneath him, and acquire a value and a dignity without equal in all of nature.

Then Nietzsche looked at the productions of the great artists and philosophers. Would he gauge the worth of these men by the mass of their productions, by the average excellence of their works—or by their greatest works?29 Again, the answer cannot be in doubt. Leonardo has left fewer paintings than have most painters; but we should not judge him a poor painter on that account. We judge artists, and also philosophers, by their “masterpieces.” We say that if Beethoven had just written some one symphony which we consider his best, then he would be as great a composer as has ever lived, even if he had never written anything else. If Shakespeare had written just Lear or Hamlet, his place would be secure. If Spinoza had written only the Ethics, he would still be one of the greatest philosophers of all time.

The birth of tragedy, Dionysus and Apollo, Socrates and Goethe, Strauss and Wagner become, in Nietzsche’s vision, symbols of timeless themes. The conception of organizing the chaos turns out to be of the utmost significance: introduced in an apparently historical account as the essence of the Apollinian genius, it remains one of the persistent motifs of Nietzsche’s thought—and nothing could show more clearly how the connotation of the Dionysian is changed in his later works than the fact that Dionysus is later associated with this very power of integration and self-discipline.

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