If we want to be a sustainable civilization we should know what one looks like. To help visualize it, consider a sustainable international space station? It requires oxygen, food, and energy to support six people. Over a long time period everything wears out and has to be replaced - from people to toilets.
There are also some social aspects of sustainability. One astronaut cannot eat all the food and leave none for the others. One cannot smoke and impose waste on the others. Astronauts cannot invite their friends for a visit. There are limits as to how much one astronaut can inconvenience another because there are no resources in the budget for conflict.
The space station depends on supply ships to bring everything that cannot be manufactured on board. These ships fill the energy and oxygen tanks and the food pantry. And yes the solar panels provide some power but it is a small fraction of the enterprise. Without supply ships six astronauts cannot be sustained. Everything, water, air, experiment rack space, is part of the accounting. Even the pee in the toilets is conserved, recycled, and re-shared.
In many respects earth is like the international space station except it has no supply ships. It has incoming solar energy to warm it, create its weather, and support photosyntheses. Over millions of years photosynthesis has filled earth's batteries in the form of fossil fuels. The earth creates soil that can grow food, forests that produce oxygen. A symbiotic environment has emerged that keeps itself running as long a the sun shines and its components are not poisoned. The cosmos has deposited minerals and metals in the crust that humankind uses as long as the deposits are rich or the batteries are full enough to perform extraction.
However, our current civilization is no more sustainable than the space station. 7 billion people cannot sustainably live on it.
A sustainable civilization would have to have:
To establish a sustainable earth, we will have to reduce the human footprint so it balances with the earth's ability to continuously support it:
To attain these civilization attributives requires changes in the social contract.
I have proposed democratic processes for making these changes to the social contract which are similar to that used to establish abolition and suffrage laws. That is, people vote to give up some personal freedoms to gain the larger benefits provided by the altered civilization.
Next let me outline some changes to the social contract so people know what they have to "give up" to get "more of what they want" or less of "what they don't want."
In the cited article above, I have already proposed a birth lottery to lower global population to 50 million and a reorganization of our distributed global civilization into three small enclaves which are powered by three hydro electric grids.
This note to you, is asking for help in visualizing additional laws that:
2) The transition from present civilization to the new community described below is completed.
Assuming this part of the new civilization is in place, what additional elements in the social contract can solve the last three sustainability requirements.
Below the proposed changes are presented as they apply to the three goals. However, a single law may play a role in more than one goal.
===== new social contract elements part 1
There are two sets of new laws. The first set maintains the sustainability of the 2% of the land area within the three enclaves. And the second set of laws which provides protection for the 98% of the land area, air, and oceans outside of these enclaves
The protection of the commons outside enclave (98%) is mostly accomplished, initially, through limitations in the distribution of available concentrated energy. There are no services out there because to provide them would dilute the energy density of the enclave. Too low an energy density and the advancement of the arts, sciences, and technology would suffer.
However, limited initial energy distribution will not provide complete protection for two reasons.
Laws would have to limit access and use under both circumstances. For example, except for wilderness hiking no human impact is allowed in the 98% area.
First, people are not allowed to build a log cabin in the woods and live off the land. If people were allowed to do this, they would represent a loss in human capital inside the enclave. The investment in their education, healthcare, and potential contributions to society would be lost to a society that needs their skilled input same as the space station needs a full complement of abilities. The contributions do not have to be science. The person lost to the wilderness might be the lead violinist in the symphony. Take the person out of the conclave and the symphony cannot perform.
Second by living far from services, each represents a risk to civilization. This risk is similar to the risk created by the person who rides a motorcycle without a helmet.
Third, if they were allowed to live outside the enclave besides diluting human capital within the enclave, they would lower the efficiency of energy use. That is to deliver their goods and services would require higher transport energy.
Fourth, the recycling of non renewable minerals and metals and the restoring to initial conditions (explained in part 2 below) would be more energy intensive.
Now let me focus on new laws required to protect the commons inside the enclave (2%).
The definition of the commons in old English law is land that the community shares. No one can be excluded from using it. An example was the pasture where everyone put their milk cow.
The commons model of ownership has an overuse problem as described by Garret Hardin in his article "The Tragedy of the commons."This problem must be overcome with changes to the social contract. Overuse must be constrained to establish sustainability. That is, the social contract must be amended to limit commons overuse while equitably distributing its services.
Some pieces to the puzzle can be derived from the space station civilization. On the space station there is very little private property. The astronauts own their glasses and their wrist watch. And they pretty much share everything else. A person is assigned space and gear when he or she arrives and this allocation is absorbed back into the commons when he or she leaves.
In this imagined sustainable civilization on earth, it follows that all services (space, materials, power production, and natural recycling services) are part of a commons.
Each of the 50 million passengers on earth has equal rights to these services. For example, each gets an equal portion of the produced hydro electric power.
However, every person may not have a need for his or her allocation of zinc. The collective holds these rights for the individual and leases (with incomes from the leases returned to the individual in the form of energy tokens or social services) to a user on a per time period basis. the actual location of the zinc in the system may be in manufactured inventory, or in product in private use. When the period is over, the individual returns the zinc to the stockpile (some times passing through a recycling process) and stops paying the lease. The lease costs are paid first by the manufacturer, then the inventory holder, and finally the end user whose appliance contains a very small amount of zinc.
The leases replaces our current notion of private property. And the leases apply to not only material stockpiles like zinc, but land, and air, and water, in all their productive and restorative capacities. The lease payments are ascribed to the lessor which is the person who did not need his or her entire allotment of the commons' zinc.
If the commons's service can be degraded, as a contingency of getting a lease, the lessor has to show that his proposed use will not degrade the commons' service. That is, the same service exists at the end of lease as existed in the beginning.
For example, a person can lease land. They can build a building on the land. The can live in the building or rent the building, or produce goods and services within the building, or grow food on the land. However, when the building or growing project is no longer viable, as part of the lease agreement, the lessee has to have in escrow the energy and resources to take the building down or return the land to the state it was in at the beginning of the lease. They can transfer the leases and escrow to another person who then assumes payment of the lease and responsibility for restoration. There are no corporate entities but their are shared leases. Each share holder is also a pro rated lease holder
The same conditions of use apply to civic projects (infrastructure). Infrastructure can be built only if there is an escrow account for the energy and process for returning the property back to the original state.
Other changes to the social contract, for example, are that toxins created within the enclave are handled within the enclave and are not allowed to bleed through the enclave's boundary to the natural area.
============= new social contract elements part 2
Metals and minerals are also part of the commons.
Originally these were part of the earth's crust. However, during previous civilizations, using human, and fossil energy, they were mined, processed, stockpiled, and integrated into infrastructure. The rest is embedded in waste, or diluted beyond easy recovery.
There are still quantities of these non renewable resources left in the ground but they are so dilute, it is assumed that soon it is easier to recycle minerals and metals in use in our current civilization than mine the low concentrations of ore still in the ground.
It's assumed that during the transition of the 7 billion people distributed across the globe to 50 million living in 3 enclaves, these metals and minerals will be scavenged and stockpiled within these enclaves.
These stockpiles will be consider part of the commons. Portions can be leased to individuals for intervals. Since they cannot be created or destroyed each user (as part of his or her lease) must place in escrow the energy required to recycle the material back to its original leased form and restored to these stockpiles. Since they can no longer be privately owned. They cease to have value as a monetary unit. Jewelry will have sentimental value, art value, and an associated lease per unit time cost.
Initially people lease these materials from the stockpiles. When these materials are incorporated into products and sold, along with the selling price the buyer accepts responsibility of paying the monthly lease reflecting the material's value to the commons. Also included in the selling price would be the recycling charge (put in escrow) required to extract and return the material back to the stockpile.
When reselling a product, the monthly lease is transfered to the new buyer as well as the right of demand on the escrow account for recycling fees previously paid by the the original lessor. This reselling of subsequent leases continues until the object is abandoned and the escrow account implements the recycling.
There would have to be some insurance system to cover lost/stolen leased material. The lessor would be obligated to put up some collateral, or pay some insurance premium, to protect against the lose or theft of the leased object.
============= new social contract elements part 3
For life on the space station, social conflict, that consumes resources, is not very useful. Every injury to an astronaut, every damage to a piece of equipment, and every resource diverted to conflict is a loss to the space exploration project.
It is not much different for spaceship earth. Conflict diverts resources and services that do or could support human activity. In a global system at saturation or in overshoot, diverted resources cause die-off of humans and further destruction of the environment.
When conflict leads to civilization collapse, losses of economies of scale, protection of trade, and specialization of labor, result in reduced productivity. The result is more scarcity, more conflict, more die-off, and more environmental damage.
Conflict could leave our survivors in an environmentally damaged dark age. The happiness of our children depends on finding and enacting elements of the social contract that greatly reduce and limit social conflict.
Let me focus on two biological forces that create conflict through increasing scarcity that are beyond the biological force that encourages procreation. Lorenz and Morris describe the first as the desire to control territory (that is exclude others from that space.) And the second is to establish hierarchy among others in your environment. These two forces are also in our genes, taken up residence in our lower brain, and have been written into our culture. For example, our laws that define private ownership and establish authority.
These forces have brought humans both progress, and a chance at extinction. It has already been argued that letting our genes determine how many people exist on the planet does not produce good prospects and should be limited by the social contract. Maybe territorial rights and hierarchy both need to be constrained by new elements of the social contract to avoid conflict that reduces the added benefits provided by civilization.
To a large extend, the motivation for conflict depends on one's self view of personal wellbeing. This view has two components:
By evenly distributing the most valuable contributor to wellbeing, energy, we have greatly leveled the playing field. and create a high plateau as the minimum base. This large component of universal services provided by the collective to individuals includes education, healthcare, transportation, civil infrastructure, and discretionary income. This results in an extremely high self determination of personal course through life. The monthly allocation of energy tokens also prevents loss of wellbeing relative to the individual's requirements.
However, if individuals rise above this base support, with work or cleverness, this elevation puts them at risk of loss of wellbeing. It also creates the opportunity for great stratification of wellbeing and forms the basis of discontent and conflict.
Which leads to the question what elements should be added to the social contract to keep these trends and elevated states from creating the conflict that wastes resources.
I need your help in the design of these constraining laws. I will present some I have considered. However, there maybe others that accomplish the task better. Or the ones I have thought of are not needed because of other elements of this new civilization's design.
Again if these are to be implemented democratically, they must appear to the average person to be -- "The giving up of personal rights to gain incremental improvement in life within a civilization." The benefits have to appear worth the added constraints. (think traffic signals are better than traffic delays or accidents.)
The processes (new laws) I am reviewing are:
(Remember that public ownership of the expanded definition of commons, leasing of commons service, and escrow accounts for maintaining non renewing natural resources also play strong roles in constraining the stratification of wellbeing.)
Idea 1) energy tokens have expatriation dates. Whatever you earn in tokens you have to spend in a finite time period. Saving and accumulating tokens is difficult.
Banks will find a way to roll over tokens that need to be used soon for tokens that have longer life. However, since the bank of "longish tokens" has fees for the exchange and has to pay depositors a premium for the longish tokens they deposit, These transactions redistribute the wellbeing from those with tokens they want to save to those with a need to use the energy immediately, that is the operations of the general public.
Idea 2) Limit elevated wealth to one generation. Remember that tokens expire so there is no metric of cash wealth. There is leased wealth but this is a token flow Thus wellbeing is measured in both token flow (consumption) and changes in productive capacity.
Death ends personal consumption. Any energy token flow must be given to other consumers. The social contract might limit the size of these redistributions. For example, the bequeathed flow cannot enrich any individual more than, for example 5x, the lowest paid employee creating the flow.
Distribution of the owner's equity stake in his company, will also go though a similar dilution process. For example, his shares must be bequeathed to no less than, for example, 15 individuals.
As an alternative, the ownership of the stake can be transfered to a public benefit foundation. The foundation must do public benefit with 100 % of the income stream of the original owner's stake. Or if there was no income from this steam then the foundation must make contributions of, for example, 10% of the stake's worth annually. Again the salaries of the foundation administers cannot be more than 5x the base rate token flow of the lowest paid employee,
Let's assume Bill Gates type writes an operation system and sells 10 million copies and the energy tokens roll in and make him very token rich. The alternative to consuming them all, he can invest in the material supports or labor of another product.
These social contract changes allows very rich men to result from production streams they create, but prevents the creation of highly concentrated wealth leading to social conflict.
No civil employee, legislator, judge could be paid more than, for example, 5x baseline no work income.)
Maybe you can think of social contract constraints, laws, besides dilution, that reward a highly productive individual with great riches and still prevent the social conflict that results from the natural tendencies of individuals to create hierarchy.
In summary, no civilization is sustainable forever. The second law of thermo dynamics prevents this. Perfect sustainability is also impossible due the losses in every recycling process. However, as long as hydroelectric generation can be maintained, estimated to be as much as 400 years, this design could continue to operate at non diminished levels of wellbeing as long as resources were not diverted to social conflict.
Your comments are needed.
============= End of SKIL Note============ End of SKIL Note
============= extra ideas below ============ extra ideas below
Transferring to sustainable enclaves:
The above description is just a design. While it does describe how we get the population down to 50 million and hold it there, and while it does suggest rationale for 3 enclaves, it does not include the transition pathway which must be traversed as the current energy sources become inaccessible by 2100.
It does not describe how to clean up the unpleasant residue from our existing civilization so it does not poison either the enclaves or the wilderness areas. For example, the toxic dumps, radio active storage, or chemical processing plants.
The design did not present a plan to scavenge and move to the enclaves the mined resources now in stockpiles or embedded in infrastructure, or long term care waste dumps.
The design did not consider the problems of an aging population or orderly decommissioning of cities and continuing re-consolidation of the remaining parts of the present civilization until only the enclaves remain.
----------- more ideas below -----------
The value of the energy tokens, is measured in terms of the goods and services produced. Efficiencies can change the value of a token. I am not sure but I think this appreciation will not be a problem because of the expiration dates of tokens.
Captains of industry pay the public for commons's services at auction. I think this will ensure their highest use ( maybe you can show more considerations).
The total human footprint is fixed to the energy available; just as it is on the space station. There is no increase in available power, so there is no growth in human footprint. There is a continuous redistribution of energy allocation by market forces.
What is the rationale for expiration dates of tokens?
Leasing housing or manufacturing plants or farm land, or recreational space.
Work is exchanged for
Company profits can be plowed back into the company or paid in dividends.
The company has
Civilization collapse potential
A person will not be happy about losing their excess wellbeing but they may not be interested in breaking this system which created it. The guy who is a little frustrated by the delay at a traffic signal at two in the morning, is usually not motivated to race through every traffic signal at 100 mph.
The social contract must prevent people from making a profit from conflict - for example no private arms builders.
While the motivation to be top dog remains great -- this model creates constraints using
Other throttles on the creation of the super rich
They work less because the base stipend is large and guaranteed.
I just don’t know if it is enough to prevent conflict.
I don't know if this will make people not very productive. Or if this will slow down the advancement of the arts and sciences and technology.
Maybe part of the dilution of the wealth generator's stake in the company should go to the employees.
Individuals that vote for the new social contract must measure the penalties of additional limitations on personal freedom against the benefits which accrue when civilization doesn't collapse.
In the end, tokens that have little life are redeemed only for immediate energy delivery.
Even inventory does not maintain its value because the commons lease per unit time must be paid.
Services can be delivered and paid for later or prepaid.
The business has no fiscal identity outside of its leases, escrow holdings, and tokens.
The brand identity belongs to the investors
Products of the business can be bartered for more than their energy costs to produce. So the owner/s end up with dated to expire KWH tokens. Or a leased warehouse full of yet to be sold goods.
Dam energy flows determine the number tokens issued and their expiration dates.
Leased parts of the commons are liabilities like rent.
Even the machines anyone owns have leased elements.
A production system is owned by any individual or group of individuals. The system can exist only if it can pay its leases. When it fails to pay its leases, these leases must be assumed by another person. Same for inventory. Failure to make the transfer, the inventory or buildings, are assumed abandoned and each is recycled with money set aside in escrow.
A person can get really wealthy during a life time, in terms of flow of goods and services he or she enjoys. Obviously these flows stop when he dies.
I am not sure a man that holds a lot of leases is wealthy. He is more like the man that has rented a lot of buildings. Wealth may derive from the production of the leases.
Normal markets determine what gets produced, but the total energy produced by the dam limits max throughput in physical items.
A lease is a liability not an asset. At death someone assumes it. Or the resources is returned to the commons.
Private possessions (elements created from materials that are leased from the commons, for example art work, instruments, tools) can be sold or given away at face value far above the lease values, but these buyers assume the lease payments.
I don’t know if this imaginary system limits the stratification of wellbeing enough to limit conflict. It is not designed to limit it within one generation. It is designed to to limit it between generations.
5/16/2014 revised 7/9/2015
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