Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy
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Chapter Four-Energy Rules -Junk Light Children
Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy: All images on this site are copyright 2001 and you are free to use them with care.
Blog by Dave McArthur 1 November 2007
You say three. I
say five. What makes a symbol come alive?
A small test, dear reader: How did you interpret that CO2_ symbol? It is not a common symbol. Did you figure my finger slipped on the key and you automatically corrected it to CO2… or CO2?
It was not an error and in that simple line or underscore symbol is the movement of billions of dollars and perhaps the fate of billions of human beings. Such is the power of symbols. It is all about your money, your child’s life and death. Which begs the question: what is a symbol?
A Web search of the symbol symbol throws up hundreds of definitions.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, sounds or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. A symbol, in its basic sense, is a conventional representation of a concept; i.e., an idea, object, quality, quantity, etc.
This is the best definition I could spot and I don’t find it very helpful. I think it is because it fails to express the full potential of the symbol symbol. I define a symbol as anything that conveys shared meaning.
When a skunk stamps its feet, growls, fluffs its fur and lifts its tail it is sending out a signal – do not come closer than fifteen feet. Now there are no skunks in New Zealand and yet I know the meaning of these auditory, visual and olfactory symbols. I vividly imagine myself giving a skunk plenty of space. No doubt the vividness of my image is in part due to my olfactory experiences as a child as I killed highly pungent stoats and ferrets caught in my possum traps.
And my experience tells me that dimensions of the skunk’s space or exclusion zone that are communicated by this symbol is variable. I might look skywards and note “mares’ tails” or cirrus clouds symbolising strong winds from the north. That abstract “skunk space” suddenly moves southwards of the skunk in my mind.
Did the same happen to you as read these words?
If you have ever ventured beyond the urban environment then the chances are we share a common meaning in this text. In other words we draw common meaning from these symbols communicating the meaning of the skunk’s multi-sense symbols.
It is interesting
to observe the symbol symbol derives from the Greek symbolon
Your views and mine coincide as a result of our use of symbols. We agree (or have a contract) that it is unwise to approach a skunk if it lifts its tail. The skunk agrees not to attack us. In sharing this meaning in these symbols you and I and the skunk can enjoy greater harmony. For instance, in this case if I go to the lands where skunks reside then I am less likely to be coated with a sulphur compound called N-bulymercaptan and become a miserable social outcast.
So I hope we now share the very wide meaning I find in the symbol symbol. A symbol is anything that conveys shared meaning between sentient beings.
An exploding volcano is a symbol of great power and risk to all creatures and plants that perceive it and this is evident from all their common reactions such as fleeing the area or seeking shelter.
This sentience may include plants, as we do know they respond to the pheromones released by neighbouring plants as they are browsed by animals and begin to release toxins in self-defence.
I attended a preview of the revised New Zealand Education Curriculum this week and noted it spoke of our children “Using language, symbols and texts” and “Using different codes, symbols and texts to express meaning”. If you share my definition of the symbol symbol then you too will fail to find sense in these statements.
Implicit in these statements is the concept that language, texts and codes are somehow not symbols. According to the definition I employ, language, texts and codes are just symbol forms. They are each a subset of symbols or a type of symbol. They are meaning made manifest in the same way that fossil fuels, trees, air and oceans are just energy forms or energy made manifest.
You ask why is this so important?
Well, for a start it indicates our new education curriculum is stuck in the same old mould that has generated our current unsustainable culture. Modern neurophysics employing technology such as fMRI scans, is confirming that we are Trace Beings in that, for instance, we may be conscious of a couple of thousand changes happening in any second while our subconscious is registering perhaps six billion changes. If the Sustainability Principle of Energy holds then any education system that denies change on this scale puts our children at great peril.
You ask how might this be?
When I use symbols in the form of, for instance, this text to communicate to you I am profoundly aware that the images they generate in you will be the results of computations based on the cumulative experience of your total being – and that experience includes the ancient wisdom of your genes. The images and associated responses will be a product of all your sensory experiences in your life. So, for instance, these text symbols are subject to a sea of transformations within your being before forming an image that you act on.
As a result I
know not to put much store by what you say or write.
Rather I evaluate the impact of a symbol use by the action it evokes.
This is because what you say
may be at complete variance with what actually happens. Neurophysics shows
A classic example is the women who express distaste for
advertisements featuring beautiful bodies while fMRI scans indicate
mirror neuron actively suggesting strong empathy and identification with
It is true the NZ Education Curriculum talks of the need to understand where children are coming from and of the need to equip them for lifelong learning. However its overall framework denies this and provides major obstacles to these objectives.
For instance, the curriculum teaches that science is a select and disconnected body of knowledge and that it is the domain of a select community of people called “scientists” or the “science community” –maybe about 2% of the population or less! It frames science as an activity like language, art, health and social studies rather than as the capacity that enables each of these activities to exist.
In so doing the NZ education curriculum denies the wonderful capacity for science that we are all born with – our capacity for inquiry, compassion, sharing (collegiality) and honest reflection. So while it talks of the need to be inclusive the Curriculum is thus actually very exclusive.
Its denial of the billions of transformations that each child represents is very apparent in practice: witness how our education system focuses on measuring what a child says or writes rather than what they do. This means a child can grow up to be a top professor in Environmental Studies or a world leading expert in Climate patterns dripping with academic accolades while being a powerful model in unsustainable uses of symbols and resources. At the same time a child condemned as a failure by our education system may actively lead a life of exemplary science and sustainability.
You say you know many examples where this is not true?
You are correct. However the framework of the new Curriculum clearly denies change on scale and if the Sustainability Principle of Energy holds true then we can expect it to increase rather than reduce the risks for our children.
The denial goes
deep and is manifest in the most profound metaphors used in our schools.
Our schools use Victorian Industrial Revolution metaphors to portray
atmospheric processes as in the Greenhouse model. This denies the
incredible capacity of air for thermal and other changes through
convection (wind). Similarly our schools deny the most fundamental
manifestation of change of all – the thermodynamic base of our
universe. You can read my discussion of our abuse of the warming symbol here.
Talking of the Sustainability Principle of Energy and our use of the global warming symbol reminds me. Recently I began to notice a few blogs and articles observing with some derision that “climate change activists” are starting to back away from the use of the global warming symbol to describe a human-induced thermal build-up of the atmosphere. These commentators took it as a sign that “climate change activists” had a poor argument generally.
What interested me was that the observations were being made by so called “climate deniers” or people with vested interests in obscuring human impacts on our climate balances. It so happens that this group of people provide me with some of the most profound insights into the re-engineering of our most vital symbols. So I did a search on “Sustainabilty Principle of Energy” and found the SCOOP News broadcast of my blog introducing the proposed Sustainabilty Principle of Energy rated near the top of the search pages.
So hopefully soon we will use the warming symbol being used in acceptance of change and with greater science from now on. We will thus be more able to all enjoy greater harmony as we are better able to understand the thermal balances that sustain us – and the risks from a human-induced thermal build-up in the atmosphere.
An educator said to me recently “Change is very important to you isn’t it.” I agreed and said something like “Well, isn’t that what life’s all about”. It seems to me our greatest problems stem from our inability to accept change and I do not wish our children to inherit them. Also the more I embrace change the more I find myself feeling liberated and filled with awe and wonder at the vitality of existence.
I know change and
acceptance of change has been at the heart of all the expositions of the
great sages. I was reminded of this last week as I looked at the life
scale bronze statue
of Mahatma Ghandi
And there inscribed in bronze at his feet is
this suggestion “Become the change you wish to see.”
Now I find
Mahatma apparently uttered many variations of this:
the change you wish to see.
the change you wish to see in the world.”
must become the change you wish to see in the world.”
The Mayor of
Wellington, Kerry Prendergast, said at the unveiling,
"Gandhi showed the world you can achieve social and political progress through peace and brotherhood. That is a valuable lesson to us all."
If Mahatma could look behind him he would see just the shell of a railway station now, with many levels now inhabited by Victoria University- the institution that contributed so much to the destruction of New Zealand’s national rail system and our electrical potential.
Looking to Parliament and our Treasury he would glimpse a deep hatred of rail in the hearts of our elite and an addictive infatuation with private cars and jet travel. A friend told me last week she just bought the cheapest fare by electric rail from Wellington to Auckland (over $NZ100) but she is flying back for $NZ35 – such is the wisdom of our Parliament and our policy wonks. That amounts to transporting a person through our stratosphere for an hour for about 10 cents a mile.
Or if you like our Parliament can arrange you three trips by air for the price of one by rail and each jet uses ten times as much fuel equivalent as a train per mile.
It is very appropriate that Mahatma looks thoughtful in this setting!
And what would he make of carbon trading (“Let The Market be the change you don’t want to see”), carbon offsetting (“Let someone else be the change you don’t want to be”) and carbon neutrality ("Let the children be the change you don’t want to be”.
Sustainability Principle of Energy suggests our
nation’s adoption of the carbon neutrality symbol is
particularly high risk because it is denial of change on an eonic scale.
This risk was highlighted last week in a Guardian
Steep decline in oil production
brings risk of war and unrest, says new study
The German-based Energy Watch Group will release its study in London today saying that global oil production peaked in 2006 - much earlier than most experts had expected. The report, which predicts that production will now fall by 7% a year, comes after oil prices set new records almost every day last week, on Friday hitting more than $90 (£44) a barrel.
In brief, there is no such thing as carbon neutrality. We burn mineral oil once and it’s gone. There is nothing neutral about that car trip down to the store to buy an ice-cream that uses up mineral oil that used otherwise could have put food on the plates of a hundred children. The nonsense of the carbon neutral symbol was also highlighted this week with this report
NATIONS: A U.N. expert on Friday called the
growing practice of turning crops into biofuel "a crime against
humanity" because it has created food shortages and sent food
prices soaring, leaving millions of poor people hungry.
And is this
UNEP report the change we wish to see?
Planet's Tougher Problems Persist, UN Report Warns
York, 25 October:The United Nations Environment Programme says that
major threats to the planet such as climate change, the rate of
extinction of species, and the challenge of feeding a growing population
are among the many that remain unresolved, and all of them put humanity
And sadly The
Sustainability Principle of Energy predicts this new organization called
Bethechange will probably be counterproductive because at heart it
profoundly denies change
Auckland October 25 - A major new campaign being launched tomorrow aims to get tens of thousands of New Zealanders active in tackling climate change.
..Spearheaded by Greenpeace, Oxfam and Forest & Bird, Be The Change will provide advice and encouragement to community groups and individuals from Bluff to Kaitaia, and from the cowshed to the boardroom, on reducing their personal impact on the climate.
Even this statement evidences a deep hostility to change. Why fight it? Why tackle it? (In New Zealand, a rugby nation, the tackle symbol has a special meaning – to seize, stop or throw-down your opponent.) Climate change is experienced as a wondrous process by those who embrace life. The change we need become is a change to activities that conserve the climate balances that sustain us. This involves changes to our state of being.
It is interesting to observe that Mahatma clearly understood that we are Mirror Beings – our brains are laced with mirror neurons so that changes within us are reflected to the world (“We need to be the change we wish to see in the world”). He, and for that matter sages like Jesus and the Buddha, did not have or need fMRI technology to understand this fact while all the modern policy makers with all their high speed computers and large incomes cannot even begin to comprehend the dynamic and intimate relationship each of us has with the world, less still our role as stewards. Yes the sad truth is the statue of Mahatma is surrounded by office blocks full of people in major denial of both change and stewardship.
because this fragile Earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It
needs change. It needs action.
Climate change is
real. We're seeing the effects all around us – polar ice melting, sea
level rising and extreme weather events.
If we want to
reduce the impact of climate change and have reliable energy sources, we
must make changes, at a government and individual level.
This denies the reality that our planet is a constant flux of change and action and the idea that it needs change is in direct conflict with Mahatma’s suggestion that we be the change.
Similarly I suggest he would say there is no such thing as an energy crisis but rather we have a resource use crisis - it is a crisis of our own making. Every time I hear that we have an "energy crisis" I look out the window, observe the universe is still functioning OK and wonder deeply at the psychology that denies this.
On the positive
side I see the Greenpeace Aotearoa website has ceased urging us to Fight
Global Warming and to Stop Global Warming, unlike Greenpeace
And they seem to
have pulled their Clean
Energy Guide with its urging of us to SWITCH OFF CLIMATE CHANGE
Maybe they read my last blog in which I pointed out that Greenpeace’s darling, Meridian Energy, has just signed a deal with Comalco to 2030 ensuring New Zealanders subsidise the production of cheap cars in Japan, Korea etc is neither “carbon neutral” nor very green. Maybe they have even realised that the Clean Energy Guide sustains a corrupt (fascist) structure in the form of the New Zealand Electricity Reforms? Or maybe they realise that there is no such thing as "clean energy". Energy is. It is what we do with it that matters.
Which brings me back to valuing our great symbols. I have discussed elsewhere in great detail how banking interests have re-engineered our energy and power symbols to serve their short term interests, thereby affecting the flow of billions of dollars in ways that put humanity at great risk. Recently the CO2_symbol hit the headlines generated by an interview with Tim Flannery:
Climate Change - critical threshold was passed in 2005
TIM FLANNERY:…. That's right. We thought we'd be at that threshold within about a decade, we thought we had that much time. But the new data indicates that in about mid 2005 we crossed that threshold. So as of mid 2005, there was about 455 parts per million of what's called carbon dioxide equivalent. And that's a figure that's gathered by taking the potential of all of the 30 greenhouse gases and converting them into carbon dioxide potential, so we call it CO2 equivalent.
Some of the media
reports of Tim’s statement suggest there is profound confusion of what
exactly a CO2
When some folk
debated what exactly the CO2_symbol means others suggested this
was just dancing on a pinhead. Steve Goldthorpe, who originally pointed
out flaws in the Celsias report, made this acute observation and plea:
“Please can I urge you to be more precise with your numbers and
definitions when dealing with greenhouse accounting numbers, even for
everyday statements. Now that we are entering a trading regime where
accountants and auditors will be scrutinising the numbers and the sums
of money are large then precision is vital, even if there is still
significant uncertainty in the underlying science of cause and
A word of comfort: do not feel disempowered if you still don’t know what the CO2_ symbol means even after reading the Wiki definition I linked to. Oscar Wilde is credited with the observation, “ The cynic know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
Understand that carbon trading is born of profound cynicism, as I discussed in my last blog. The platoons of accountants, auditors and traders that attempt to put prices on carbon would not be engaged in this activity if they cared for and valued themselves as Carbon Beings. These folk are symbols of cynicism and denial.
Understand you are part of a great carbon flux in which carbon is transformed in every moment. Value being part of it with your every breath and with your every mouthful of food and with your life and with your death. In so doing you will find your material aspirations alter and you will become a symbol of sustainability, enabling humanity to survive despite the carbon, “energy” and “power” traders. Rather than striving for carbon neutrality, enjoy carbon harmony through knowing carbon is incredibly precious. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Footnote: the cartoon panel that accompanies this blog was first published about four years ago. I had sent a cartoon character (Bonus Joules symbolising wise uses of energy) off on a search of the nature of energy. Another character emerged (Junk Joules symbolising unwise uses of energy) and they become twin complementary and co-evolving travellers together.
In 2001 I knew the New Zealand Government was preparing a booklet on “climate change” for our primary schools. I devoted much of my spare time to preparing a submission discussing symbol use so as to promote science in the publication. My endeavours were a complete waste of time, as this cartoon strip records.