Joules and the Knowledge Economy
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Chapter one -Formative Experiences - Hard times in my Youth
Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy: All images on this site are copyright 2001
BLOG March 30 2005
Market forces determine pay rates.
So reads the headlines in the Wellington Dominion Post (5 Feb 05). The local investment guru is pronouncing on why the average wage in New Zealand is lagging behind other indicators in an "expanding economy". I am cynical as I took the gentleman's advice a decade ago. As a result I now I have a mortgage and a much reduced lifestyle. This is not what disturbs me. No. What worries me is that if he is right about market forces, then human society faces catastrophic failure and vast misery. How different if it might have been if the headlines read:
Common Decency determines pay rates.
In my last blog I mentioned the concept of negawatts. The intent behind the concept is most admirable. It is a move towards common decency and runs counter to the truly daft age we live in. People are paid the wages of professors to stand up in front of vast schools of impressionable people and teach them that if a use of energy cannot be measured and taxed then, it does not exist. This is the dark world of modern Economics. It is a murky, violent, amoral, heartless world. A miserable world of deprivation and crisis. "Energy in crisis."
With the symbol negawatts Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute colleagues are attempting to show there is another world – a world of sunshine, colour, joy, poetry and fun. It is a world in which a person sits in the sun and keeps warm and does not make the Gross National Product shrink. Their decision to enjoy the solar sourced warmth and not huddle over an electric heater is seen as a positive act, an efficient use of energy. The units of electricity not consumed can be measured and are called negawatts. And traded.
I first meet the concept in the early 1990s.It comes as a vast breath of sanity. Believe me, it is the sweetest salve. Like meeting a dear and long-lost friend. You have to understand the insanity of the Economic Reforms being inflicted on New Zealand at this time. Sure. A negawatt seems a pretty daft concept. How can you measure something that is not used? What’s the limit of the amount of energy we can say we don’t use? The mind boggles.
But wait. It is no way as daft as is the new Economic Order. In this doctrine, even concepts of personal and environmental well-being do not exist. Any such thinking is a being excised from the national consciousness by an army of MBAs with the precision of a lobotomist’s scalpel. They call it “restructuring” and “releasing.” The latter term brings to mind ancient practices of drilling holes in people’s skulls to release the demons inside. And lancing boils.
A revealing joke of this time is that if you wish to make the greatest contribution to the Economy, then develop terminal cancer, get a divorce and write your car off. Derailing a train in the process was even better. Combined, this really puts a rocket under the precious, gross-consumption statistics. By comparison the heathen who insists on remaining sane, healthy and perhaps writes a love poem in the sun to their family is an anathema to the New Order. Worse. They undermine The Economy!
In this miserable world anything that cannot be taxed and traded by the corporations does not exist. Our most sustaining and civilised uses of energy do not exist. A hug of friendship counts for nought and less. A fist propelled in violence to another is positive for The Economy. Our universities overflow with business schools overflowing with people overflowing with this doctrine. There is no money in swimming against this tide. Only dinosaurs and cockroaches dare to. Yes, that is how the New Economy evangelists dismiss us. It is the 1990s and “no one owes you a living”. Times are getting tough for those of us who persist in believing there is more to life that the GNP.
2000 Fortunately they do not know that dinosaurs are not extinct. Birds are living dinosaurs and we continue to fly. Somehow we survive into the 21st Century. We are surrounded by a feeding frenzy over the remaining fossil fuels. A new wave of slaughter is about to be released. SUVs choke our roads and lungs. Enrons and OnEnergys thrive. Arthur Andersen and Co rules our lives. The flow of funding for the creation of negawatts dries up, diverted through the coffers of corporations to become floods of Greenwash. Caught in this vast sea of corporate spin, it is easy to feel like a sparrow trying to cross the Pacific Ocean. The concept of negawatts, flawed as it is, is the most welcome atoll. Blessed relief.