Richard Moore

From: "Brian" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 23:51:19 -0700


An important lesson for me in attempting understand
stable and unstable cultures was the understanding of
what anthropologists call "world views" (Weltanschauung
in German, I think).  Learning that Durkheim believed
that a culture's religion is a reflection of the
culture itself  I found it important to consider the
different types of human cultures.  There are bands,
tribes and states.  The cosmologies of each of the
three types of human cultures well reflects the
differences between the major human cultures.  Bands
and tribes have reciprocal world views, whereas
state-structured cultures have exploitative world

Our state structured culture began to radically change
in the 60s from exploitative to reciprocal.

Reciprocal cultures are balanced, exploitative ones are
like cancer.  Expect the revitalization of bands and



Many thanks for your wellspring of optimism.

Yes it did start to change in the 60s... and then 
what happened?  This is 40 years later and we live
in a totalitarian state (some of us anyway).

I'm sorry but I just don't buy trends, hundredth
monkeys, and aquarian ages.  I do buy the kind of stuff
you spend your time doing... up and down the coast,
building connections, helping people help themselves.

Change will happen as we _make it happen.


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Date: Tue, 03 Sep 2002 10:53:58 -0500
From: Maureen Van den Bosch <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>

Hello Richard,

Thanks for your Sustainability and Development.  I have
enjoyed much of your writing and thinking for the past
couple of years, and you have led me to some new and
important insights but I have some serious questions
about the underlying assumptions you make in this

I'm with you through the historical background and
agree with you about cultural sustainability and also
about consensus decision making within a community. 
Where I depart from you is when you try to define
sustainability.  This is a thorny issue to present to
the public (your public) who enjoy great richness and
who may be loathe to consider a "lesser" standard of
living.  Of course, lesser is in the eyes of the
beholder.  I for one believe that people in primitive
societies live rich and fulfilling  lives in a culture
of awareness that we cannot even begin to understand. 
I say this because it seems to me that you skirted by
some critical and obvious questions.  Why?

What you refer to as appropriate technologies are, in
none of the examples given, compatible with
sustainability, either on the ecological or societal
levels.  Following are a few questions that I think
must be part of any discussion on sustainability:

Who will manufacture these techno solutions to our
energy (comfort) problems?

How is resource extraction (metals for circuitry, oil
for plastics) in any way sustainable?  What type of
"sustainable" community is going to mine the minerals,
extract the oil, refine these materials, manufacture
and distribute them?

Who is going to feed these drones of production? How
will it be determined who gets the benefit and use of
these products? How, when production remains a center
point of our society, do we not recreate the systems
that now plague us?

The basic principle of production, sustainable or not,
relies on the subjugation of some to produce for
others, unless we believe that some people want to
climb down a mine shaft, mix toxic chemicals or pull a
plow. Economic coercion is the only reason that people
can be forced into these occupations.  Any kind of mass
production (and the products you list require massive
inputs and outputs) require a division of labor that 
reconfirms hierarchical structures.  Not only that, but
if these "benefits" of technology are not universally
available (that is, available to everybody, equally),
what type of social structures can we expect to arise? 
Making these benefits universally available is
obviously not sustainable either. It sounds to me that
we have not learned Quinn's basic premise about the
"technology" of agriculture.

In your final paragraph you wrote "As long as
development is going on anywhere in the world,
sustainability is denied to all."  I agree and I think
that production and development are one and the same.

Frank Van den bosch


Dear Frank,

I appreciate your contribution, but PLEASE do not copy
my whole posting when replying.  I nearly didn't
download your message because it looked like some
kind of spam attack.  Any message over 40K gets
deferred for approval and I don't get much info about
what it contains.  Use your sense.

I appreciate your insistence on rigor about what
is sustainable and what is not.  I was perhaps careless
in my choice of examples.  The point I was trying to
make is that we do not necessarily need to go all the
way back to weaving baskets from leaves and using stone
mortars to grind grain. There has got to be something
of value in the technologies that have been developed,
at such a great cost and with such sacrifice.

Consider that there will be a transition period. 
Consider that when the automobile is abandoned, as it
must be, we will have billions of tons of steel
available for recycling use.  Couldn't we build lots of
wind generators with that?  On the other hand, maybe we
won't have a lot of need for electricity.  That level
of detail is far beyond my competence to talk about,
far too many variables between here and there.

My contribution, for what it's worth, is to keep our
thinking from being too static, too doctrinaire.  This
isn't the time to work out all the answers, this is the
time to work out how to work out the answers.

Also, my emphasis always is on the politics, not the
economics.  You ask what social structures will arise
from this or that means of production.  My answer is
that the social structures must come first.  What we
then do we will do by consensus.  You and I may have
different intuitions about where that process will
lead.  I certainly am not proposing that a new society
inherit any particular imperatives about any particular
'appropriate technologies', least of all the ones I
came up with on the spur of the moment.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with your emphasis on 'available
to everybody equally'. Everybody in what community? 
One principle I do believe in is localism.  That seems
to come through loud and clear from so many different
sources... from history, from current thinkers, from
the insights of ecology, from personal experience.  
Life just doesn't need to be the same in Brooklyn and
Fiji.  There doesn't need to be a global court ruling
over everybody and making judgements about equality. 
Is it a crime that cactus in Arizona do not get as much
water as the trees in a rain forest?

The liberal mentality is a centralist mentality.  The
greatest good for the greatest number is tyranny. 
Liberals are always trying fix everything.  One more
change and we'll get it right.  What they keep missing
is that the authority structures that enable them to
keep changing things is itself the problem.

Production and development are not the same thing. 
Production is like velocity, and development is like
acceleration. Acceleration can never be sustainable;
velocity can be.  There is a carrying capacity, and it
is non-zero.  But it is not infinite.  Production
levels can be kept below the carrying capacity. 
Development is never satisfied with any given level,
and never stays within the carrying capacity.

If people don't want to do a certain kind of
production, then it won't happen.  But don't confuse
production under the control of the community with
production under the control of capitalist owners.

bye for now,
Date: Tue, 03 Sep 2002 18:16:51 +0000
From: "Kevin Carson" <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••

I'd say the rise of state capitalism, especially over
the last 200 years, is at the heart of
unsustainability.  The state subsidizes privileged
business interests by allowing them to externalize
their operating costs on the taxpayer.  It allows
access to the resources on state-owned lands (which
were originally preempted by state seizure on behalf of
privileged classes) at below market prices.  It
provides below-cost transportation infrastructure, and
thus allows corporations to externalize their
long-distance shipping costs.  If it weren't for
transportation subsidies, immanent domain, etc., the
economy would be a lot more decentralized and use a lot
less energy.

It's one of the most basic lessons of free market
economics that a price system links supply to demand,
and provides information to the consumer of a commodity
about the real cost of providing that commodity, so he
can make rational calculations about how to allocate
resources efficiently.  Subsidies destroy that
information link.  In a human body, when a hormonal
feedback loop is destroyed, you get cretinism or
gigantism.  In transportation, you get centralized,
Stalinist networks in which the system is clogged by
demand growing many times faster than the system can be
expanded to accommodate it.  That's why the most serious
repair needs of the interstate highway system are
accumulating several times faster than money is being
appropriated.  That's why (before 9-11 at least) planes
were stacked up six high over O'Hare.

When the consumption of something is subsidized, people
use more of it.  When consumption of resources by big
business is subsidized by the state, they have no
incentive to economize.  Instead of using existing
resources more intensively, they will consume the
resources extensively, by adding more inputs.


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