Comment on Jay Hanson's analysis/prognosis : LUSENET : Running on Empty - The Coming Petroleum Exhaustion Dieoff : One Thread

Jay Hanson has written the following:

In fact, all alternative methods of energy production require oil-based energy inputs and are subject to the same inevitable increases in entropy. Thus, there is NO solution to the energy (entropy or disorder) problem, and the worldwide energy-food crisis is inevitable.

When we can no longer subsidize modern agriculture with massive fossil energy inputs (oil-based pesticides and fertilizers, machine fuel, packaging, distribution, etc.), yields will drop to what they were before the Green Revolution![7] Moreover, billions of people could die this coming century when the U.S. is no longer able to export food[8] and mass starvation sweeps the Earth.

Is there nothing we can do?

We could lessen human suffering if all the people of Earth cooperated for the common good. But as long as political systems serve only as corporate errand boys, we're dead.


My comments (scott):

Very interesting! Of course, it reflects a standard and common anti-corporate message, which is very easy to resonate too. Certainly multi-national are controlling governments and raping the earth.

My only question is about complicity. These corporations, nefarious as they are, are not working in a complete vacuum.

Are any of you using a PC right now ? Who produced that ? Drinking a Coke ? Flown anywhere lately ? Eaten any beef or corn that you didn't slaughter or grow ? Who did these things for us ?

Corporations are ugly because human desire is ugly. The only really consistent person I've seen on these issues is the Theodore Kaczynski (Unabomber), who critqued corporate captitalism from his unheated, unelectrified cabin in the woods.

Sounds real shallow right? But if nobody wanted to drink sugar water, would the Coke and Pepsi behemoths exist ? It is just too easy to say "that desire was completely created by marketing." Are we infinitely malleable by advertising/marketing ? I think not. If desires have no root in our individuality, and our common genetic heritage, why are do corporations not create completely arbitrary and infinite desires in all of us ? How could a Theodore Kaczynski even exist ?

Jay Hanson's analysis of classic economics is right on track. But one thing the economists have got right is the infinity of human desire - when given "half a chance" to express itself. And corporations, ugly as they are, are the "personification" (corpora-tization) of these desires.

-- scott (, March 02, 2000


Thanks very much, Hallyx. Can you post a link here to the "Big Body" conference you mentioned, for us ?

-- scott (, March 03, 2000.

Excellent point, Scott. It echoes Mitchell Barnes statememnt on personal lifestyle simplicity which he expressed on the "Sustainability" thread below. Watch the "Big Body" conference. If this point is not well and sincerely made within the first few day, I enthusisticaly encourage you to expand this post into a cogent essay and submit it to the conference.


-- (, March 03, 2000.

Ahhh, Scott, I see you're at your computer even as I type this. Get yourself a free copy of the AOL Instant Messenger (from so we can chat in real-time occasionally. I highly recommend it to anyone here within the sound of my keyboard. Best thing AOL has ever done.

As for the "Big Body" conference, that's the coloquial expression for the "Internet Colloquium on Corporate Being and life on Earth." Sheri posted this heads-up by Tom Atlee on Greenspun's TB2K last Sunday. It starts today (Fri 3-01-2000)

From Tom Atlee.... Dear friends,

Wow! I am so excited to tell you about this upcoming online conference, March 3-20, 2000. It will feature dialogues among some of the most influential people in my life (and perhaps yours) -- people like Ernest Callenbach, Fritjof Capra, Noam Chomsky, Hazel Henderson, David Korten, Frances Moore Lappe and Ralph Nader. Perhaps even more remarkable is that they are going to be talking about the challenge presented by corporations AS BIOLOGICAL ORGANISMS, as gigantic life-forms competing with us for resources and life-options.

In my eyes, this is a breakthrough. Never before have significant social change groups or leading activists talked seriously about large-scale human systems as living entities. I believe this opens the door to new directions in activism -- not only in limiting the power of malignant human systems, but in enhancing the healthy capacities of more benign human systems. This, of course, is the work I've been pursuing for almost a decade. So this is personally exciting for me as well as transformationally promising for all of us.

Most activists would be surprised to learn that thousands of intelligent people think of organizations as living, adaptive systems -- even as biological organisms. Most such living-systems thinkers are consultants and executives who use such "new science" insights to increase corporate effectiveness -- to make bigger profits... to more efficiently change the Earth into commodities... to more successfully reshape ecosystems, communities and societies into servants of corporate expansion... the kinds of things most activists don't like. On the bright side, they often create less hierarchical, more interesting and creative workplaces. Often they go beyond "biological systems thinking" to incorporate the powerful insights of chaos and complexity theories, field theory, quantum mechanics and relativity, cybernetics, and a variety of holistic perspectives -- applying them all to the human systems in and around their organizations. One of the literary classics of all this is Margaret Wheatley's recently revised and reissued LEADERSHIP AND THE NEW SCIENCE: DISCOVERING ORDER IN A CHAOTIC WORLD, originally published in 1992, when it was widely acclaimed as "the best business [or leadership] book" -- of the year, of the decade, of all time... In short, a great book. I recommend it very highly. Many of you know Meg Wheatley as one of the earliest social-transformation visionaries in the Y2K movement. Others of you already know her organizational transformation work. She is a remarkable agent of change. I've been quite surprised over the years to find out how many brilliant, passionate change agents are operating as organizational consultants in the corporate world and government -- a fact that reveals my own history and biases.

Meanwhile, people working for progressive, environmental, community-building or pro-democracy causes -- my lifelong activist community -- have hardly ever discussed corporations as living systems or biological entities -- or applied the new scientific knowledge or metaphors to their activism. Most activists seem quite oblivious to the powerful new-science-based management experiments going on in corporations -- and even in the military. Traditional activism is an expression of what many refer to as the "Newtonian-mechanistic worldview": i.e., that we live in a world of objects and forces, where the challenges are quantity, speed, resistence, prediction, control. If you blend this mechanistic perspective with mythic narratives of White Knights (us) battling the Darth Vaders (them), you get something like the activism I've been part of for most of my life, that is deep in my bones, even as I try to change it. For decades we have been mobilizing our good forces to battle various (bad) dominant powerholders, using cause-and-effect strategies and brilliant David-and-Goliath heroism and hard work to overcome (or at least slow down) those we see as dominators and destroyers. Many of us envision corporations as gigantic buildings all over the world... or as masses of faceless men-in-suits rushing around cutting deals... or as nighmare legal fictions which will vanish if we can just wake up from the legal spell we've been under, of "corporate personhood and limited liability". The one thing we _don't_ think of corporations as, is organisms.

This difference in viewpoints -- the corporate consultants' and executives' living systems/new-sciences view of organizations, and the activists mechanistic/mythic view of social change dynamics -- has, in my view, served to empower corporations and undermine social change efforts. This isn't to say that activists are not effective, or that we should abandon all linear, adversarial forms of activism. But it is pretty clear who is making the most progress nowadays. So I eagerly welcome activists exploring the new sciences for their implications for activism, just as the corporate people have been exploring the new sciences -- for more than a decade -- for new approaches to productivity and market share.

My own living-systems activist thinking has focused less on the dynamics of corporations and more on the dynamics of communities and societies. I believe we need to better understand both --

- what we need to work AGAINST (the growing power of toxic collective organisms like many large multinationals and bureaucracies), AND - what we need to work FOR (the growing power/ intelligence/wisdom of life-supporting collective organisms like communities and cultures).

The conference described below is well organized to explore the former -- the dangerous mega-organisms we need to work AGAINST. Since I've recently been invited to participate in the conference, I will certainly be talking about how we can effectively work FOR the giant, benign social organisms that we are all part of -- our communities and societies -- to make them healthier, stronger, wiser and less harmful to the natural systems around us. If we're _really_ lucky and wise, some of us in this conference might even combine the new sciences with some very old spiritual and indigenous understandings to discover radically different forms of creative activism so effective that we no longer need to fight AGAINST things so much, because the whole flow of Life is working with us, and we with It. (I know I'm dreaming here, but I sense we're moving into times where anything is possible, and I can smell the bakery around the corner....)

In any case, the fact that leading activists are now interested in thinking in terms of living systems theory is so new and important that I suspect the mere calling of this conference constitutes a significant breakthrough. If, during the conference, some of the participants discover the social change potentials of focusing on improving the capacities of communities and political systems, then this event may well prove to be a watershed. I'll be working for that.

But enough of my verbiage. I turn you over now to the verbiage of others. I've included below some tantalizing descriptions of the conference and its related ideas. More information -- including more theoretical papers -- are available at the conference website LINK.

You are all invited to watch, at least. The organizers are still figuring out what sort of public participation makes sense, so stay in touch if you're interested.

What a time to be alive... even as a little living system like me.


Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * Eugene, OR LINK

-- Sheri (, February 27, 2000

-- (, March 03, 2000.

Here's the link to the conference website to which Atlee refers.

-- (, March 03, 2000.

Interesting, Hallyx! This concept of corporation would have to fit into Darwinism somewhere. Following Susan Blackmore's generalization of gene as "selfish replicator" which she views as a group including now gene and meme, we could perhaps have a related genre, the "selfish perpetuator", the best examplar of which would be a modern corporation. But the question that interests me is still: what is our social and individual relation to the corporation ? Is it just exploiting us parasitically as a kind of raw material ? Or are we complicit somehow ? Is it a symbiotic, parasitic, predatory, or some other type of relationship ?

-- scott (, March 03, 2000.

As for disaster coming, when it does, it will be due to the deliberate policy of government,not to the machinations of some corporate organism. Although recently, we have seen what happens when there is absolutely no government or corporate organism. Not good there either. You had better hope both stick around. Otherwise you get a Soviet Russia or a central Africa. The thing is to make sure they don't collude because then you might get a Nazi Germany.

-- Richard C. Trochlil (, March 05, 2000.

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