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  Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy



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Prototype Framework for  Education Curriclum
(Educating for sustainable human beings)


Key ideas from  Rationale for Curriculum

Requisites for 
to exist:



Collegiality openness 
and sharing; 


Honesty and trust; 

Time and reflection 


Science  and creativity:

 The above requisites enable quantum leaps
 in insight.


The power  of symbols:

Symbols convey
 meaning and enable civilisation


Conserving the 
potential of 
our key symbols:

Any failure to
 conserve them 
puts us at greater risk.




Link here
 to a list of 
sustainable uses
 of key symbols
 - including

energy  efficiency




Negawatts and Junk Joules
Bonus Joules finds the way to hell can be paved with good intentions.

Click on any cartoon

Chapter Five - Land of the Other- Negawatts and Junk Joules

JOURNEY Index                                                               


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 26 January 2008

White, rich and raring for a horrific world war. What’s with my fellow Anglo-Americans? Insane or just ignorant?  If it’s the latter then here is a remedy.

Yes, maybe our Anglo-American culture has lost hope and is insane. We have become as a people a mass addict in a death spiral and are driven by some collective suicidal urge.

Then again maybe we are just ignorant and it is our education system that is hopeless. With this possibility in mind I recently had a closer look at New Zealand’s new national education curriculum and found it is indeed fundamentally flawed. And as it is basically a clone of other Anglo-American curricula they too will be putting us at major risk.

It could be European, Japanese and other curricula are equally flawed. I cannot comment because I only understand the English language. All I know is the Anglo-American education system can be considered the product of and produces a barbaric culture. This might sound extreme until you look at the way of life our education system promotes. It is a way of life built on the constant increase in consumption of resources and the pillaging and trashing of other cultures and all manner of environments. According to current accounting practice these activities are evaluated as indications that we enjoy a healthy economy.

My analysis is radical: I evaluate a nation’s education system more or less the same way I evaluate a person – by their walk rather than their talk. I am radical because our education system evaluates success by the talk and not the walk.

In New Zealand the talk looks great. We present ourselves as a 100% Pure Clean Green Country and pride ourselves on the excellence of our education system and our relatively high numeracy, literacy and “science” ratings in international comparisons. However we never see the same sort of headlines about how we actually use these skills. The acid test is not applied: Does our education system produce sustainable human beings? If it were then the headlines would read: “Education System a Desolate Failure.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in numeracy and literacy. I am also aware that they are not necessarily associated with wisdom and sanity. Our nation is proof of this. New Zealand has been one of the most highly literate nations for several generations now and I have read we have had a considerable influence on US literacy standards.

Apparently US Defence officials could not understand what would motivate New Zealand and Australian men to travel across the globe in 1915 to invade Turkey, sustaining a suicidal campaign to take the cliffs of Gallipoli, enduring appalling conditions and in general fighting against lunatic odds. The US observers noted these troops were uniquely literate and observed that this literacy meant they could be more powerfully motivated to fight where others might have revolted and retreated. Up to that point the US Defence officials had believed an illiterate soldier made for a more compliant soldier. The New Zealand example proved otherwise. Thus literacy and numeracy courses were instituted in the American forces.

So being numerate and literate is not sufficient to being a sustainable human. 

For further proof of this we have only to look at the footprint of the walk of the average Anglo-American around the globe. The following figures are only indicative but even using conservative calculations they form a severe indictment of our education systems.

Let us assume that worldwide there are 4.7 biologically productive acres available per person and this does not include the needs of all the plants and animals.
The lifestyle of the average USA citizen requires the use of almost 24 acres – if every human adopted that lifestyle we would require the equivalent space of almost five planet Earths. Sample figures for other nations are:  
Canada 22 acres
Italy 9 acres
Pakistan less than 2 acres  

Or if you like it in hectares per capita:  
USA 9.57 global hectares per capita
Canada 8.56

New Zealand 8.13

Australia 7.09
United Kingdom 4.72

By comparison people in the regions home to the majority of humanity use less than two hectares per person. For instance
in China  average demand is 1.36 hectares and in India it is  0.76.

I have spotted other calculations suggesting it would take the equivalent about 9 Earth planets to sustain all of humanity if everyone consumed resources at the rate we Anglo-Americans do. It is indisputable that the majority of humanity’s most vital resources are now on the fast down slide to depletion now. To my way of thinking any education system that produces people who consume at a rate greater than one planet Earth can sustain long term is rated a failure. It fails to get a C pass. It gets a D minus where the D stands for dolt, dearth, deficiency, danger and death. The education system is deemed in urgent need of remedial work.

The Anglo-American education systems clearly fail on even the most conservative measures.

Of course, this news will be upsetting for our Government officials here in New Zealand as they have just released a new national education curriculum after years of reviewing and revising it. I not only give it a D minus. I also give it the big bad I.

The “I” grade stands for Inflationary and inflation is bad. Inflation is the sign of a failing economy and often foreshadows societal breakdown, disease and war. Inflation is what happens when communities fail to be in harmony with their changing environment and cease to conserve resources. Inflation is what happens when compassion, from which we generate science, does not exist. The costs of basics like food, shelter, heating etc rocket and increasing numbers of people lead deprived lives. Household debt rockets and credit systems collapse. All the requisites for war are set in place.

And that is precisely what is beginning to occur here in New Zealand, despite our abundant resources per capita, and what is happening in other Anglo-American countries. For generations now our schools and the media have taught our children in a thousand subtle ways that mineral oil and gas are energy and can be consumed without limit. Science reveals a very different story – mineral oil and gas are just fuels. They are not bounteous like energy and their combustion involves mining our atmosphere.

And so our Anglo-American education systems have produced national economies based on fallacy, not science. Check out our mineral oil consumption figures:

 "Today, the average American uses roughly 25 barrels of oil per annum, whereas the average Chinese uses a miniscule 2 barrels per annum and the average Indian burns less than a barrel per year!  Some of the more developed Asian nations such as Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan consume roughly 17 barrels of oil on a per-capita basis.  It is worth noting that despite extremely low per-capita consumption levels, today China and India combined, consume 11% of the world’s crude oil versus 6% at the start of the decade! If current growth rates continue over the next decade, we would require an additional Saudi Arabia to fulfil this demand."      

 New Zealanders are right up there with the big league consumers of mineral oil and along with other Anglo-American countries consumes considerably more per capita than even the OECD Europe average. We do not even have a large manufacturing base like Japan. And we are right up there in the big league too with our per capita emissions of the Warmer Trace Gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

You have only to look at the politicians our education system produces to see  badly flawed it is.

Last year our Prime Minister, Hon Helen Clark, proudly announced her plans to make New Zealand the first “carbon neutral” nation on this planet. Any person who is the product of a quality education system knows the concept is nonsense. It is plain dangerous. We are Carbon Beings. Our every action affects the balances and flows of carbon and, for instance, when we burn a barrel of mineral oil there is a high likelihood that it will never be replaced again for the life of our planet. There is nothing neutral about consuming a carbon-based resource that when burned contains the equivalent of about 25000 man-hours of labour in each 42 gallon barrel.

Our Finance Minister, Hon Michael Cullen, previously a senior lecturer in history, clearly has little sense of 20th century history and the profound transforming role of our use of mineral oil in it. The idea that the resource is limited seems beyond his comprehension and indeed, according to his officials its price should be dropping to $25US a barrel any day now. For seven years he has invested billions of NZ dollars in motorways etc as though cars and jets have been and will be forever. The results:

Fuel and motor vehicles lift retail sales


Seasonally adjusted total retail sales increased 2.0 percent in November 2007, Statistics New Zealand said today. Most of the increase was due to automotive fuel retailing and motor vehicle retailing… Automotive fuel retailing sales increased 9.0 percent, the largest monthly increase for this industry since the series began in May 1995. Motor vehicle retailing sales increased 4.3 percent."

And last year he began pouring precious taxpayers money into schemes like KiwiSaver in a futile attempt to create national savings. Most of our savings will disappear down the voracious maw, which is our stock exchange powered by an insane mineral oil/Gas investment policy. In July last year when stock markets were humming I wrote a blog entitled KiwiSaver= Kiwi Killer. I argued KiwiSaver will surely fail us and the only beneficiaries will be the share brokers and a few bankers. His policy will leave most of us poor and cold in our old age. Many probably dismissed my predications as hysterical but now they are being proven by history as superannunation funds begin to evaporate.

The leader of New Zealand’s dominant political party is no wiser. Hon John Key worked as an investment banker for decades - including for Merrill Lynch around the world 1995-2001 and was a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York 199-2001. Today he is on Radio New Zealand National trashing the Government for inheriting interest rates of about 4% in 2000 and now they are over 8%. 

Well John is correct. The Labour-led Government has promoted inflation by failing to address the underlying cause – our addictive uses of mineral oil and gas. In fact it has actively stoked the addictive behaviour. New Zealanders are now forking out billions of dollars in unnecessary interest charges, just so some of us can flit around the globe in jets and drive in cars to the supermarket to buy some milk.

However there is not the slightest evidence that John Key understands the root cause of inflation. He does not seem capable of comprehending that mineral oil was trading at about $US10 a barrel in 2000. It is now trading at $US100. Similarly steel prices have risen ten fold this century. Interest rates would be equally high under his administration. His party’s policy is summed up in this shrill and uncomprehending Chamber of Commerce release today:

Inflationary Pressures put the Heat on Business

“The government must assist the Reserve Bank in addressing inflationary pressures by curtailing the growth in its expenditure. This is also necessary to make room for the proposed tax cuts.

“We are also concerned about the proposed climate change related emissions trading scheme and the impact that this will have on energy prices further out,” Mr Finny concluded."

With all his experience as an investment banker Hon John Key should know that when the price of gold rockets and traders in India no longer accept the US dollar as exchange then something is wrong with his current analysis. But then perhaps his experience as a merchant banker is a lethal liability for our nation.

Last week Merrill Lynch  headlined:

 "Merrill Lynch & Co Inc reported about $US16 billion in mortgage-related write-downs and adjustments on Thursday in the worst quarter of the company's history."

Also the Saudis and the Chinese are more or less having to take over the American Federal Reserve Bank system to prevent it completely collapsing.

Only the Green Party in our Parliament seems to have a clue what is going on.

Oil dependence driving mortgage costs

" Green Media Release 17th January 2008

"New Zealand's current oil-dependent economy is extremely vulnerable to world oil prices, and until the Government acts to insulate us from the ever-increasing price of oil, kiwi families will pay for this short-sightedness not only at the petrol pump, but also through their mortgages and rents," says Dr Norman, the Green Party's spokesperson on economics.

The Green Party also seems our only party capable of making the link between our addictive uses of mineral resources like oil and rocketing costs of food for most New Zealanders. The latest figures show food price increases are outstripping the wage increases of lower paid New Zealanders many fold.

For the year to December 2007, food prices rose 5.4 percent. All subgroups recorded upward contributions, with the most significant upward contribution coming from higher prices for the grocery food subgroup (up 7.8 percent).

At the same time the Green Party profoundly confuses the issues. For the last fifteen years or so it has been at the forefront in promoting the concept that humans can conserve energy. This isan impossible notion that completely denies the Conservation Principle of Energy and plays into the hands of the "energy sector" spin merchants. 

Also as I detailed in my Green Party Alert article, the Party has historically endorsed a very flawed “environmental education” programme called Enviroschools that actively works to destroy science in our children and make our communities unsustainable. The party negotiated major funding for it in the 2006 Budget and is now promoting the programme widely using $NZ millions of taxpayers funds.

Which brings me to the more sustainable educational curriculum I am proposing. Its funny how life goes. For seven years I have campaigned to wake up people to the fundamental flaws in Enviroschools. I was resigned to the fact that my critical analysis of it was rejected as the inarticulate mutterings of some negative, carping, bitter, old codger with a chip on his shoulder. By 2007 Enviroschools looked like it would be an unstoppable juggernaut in our schools system. It was now funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars through a wide range of Government and local council agencies – an unprecedented amount for such an education resource. It was already becoming the default “science curriculum” in many areas. The last thing I expected to get was an email in August 2007 saying Enviroschools was under review and asking if I would help with the review.

So for the next several weeks I slept, dreamed, reflected, explored and wrote about all the key issues I sensed are involved. This, of course, was during the hours I was not working at my job as a school janitor. Every day I posted off my diary so the reviewers could follow a clear trail of my thinking. I came to some startling conclusions, some as a result of serendipity. For instance it so happened in July someone had posted me a draft of the revised New Zealand national education Curriculum. This was completely out of the blue and they asked if the draft could be improved.

For the last forty years I have accepted the fact that I am pretty much an academic failure, However this seeming fact concerned me less and less over the years as I built up a large and unique range of experience. This  includes labouring for decades as a Bulk-gen electricity meter reader, as a postie, on construction and transport sites, in factories, in schools etc. I now live with a rugged confidence in my knowledge of how life works. 

I looked at the draft curriculum and immediately was struck by the probability that any failure is less in me and more in the education curriculum. I could suddenly see clearly how its design destroys science, disempowers most people and denies our roles as stewards of this Earth.

I realised that if the revision of Enviroschools made it a sustainable force in our schools and communities then it would have to teach that the general education system is seriously screwed up. This would put all good caring teachers in one hell of a position. So I decided to write a sustainable central curriculum and you guessed it: if implemented it makes the whole concept of Environmental Education redundant.

Of course this will most unwelcome news to all the career merchants in our burgeoning Environmental Education industry. It could even prove a little inconvenient to those Environmental Educators who are passionate about science, as they may have to review their employment situation in some cases. One thing is clear – any attempts to adapt Enviroschools to the revised New Zealand Curriculum framework will render the resource unsustainable and put our kids at further unnecessary risk.

There is another group who will resist the idea that Environmental Education is redundant and a liability. That is the media and PR consultancies acting for the large corporations in the Bulk-gen electricity, fossil fuel, construction and fast-food sectors. They make very effective use of their sponsorship of “environmental education” and “well-being” programmes to effect powerful control over syllabuses in schools and communities. Too often Environmental Educators are their most potent conduit and able teachers are left frustrated and helpless as they watch wonderful ideas born of science destroyed by “environmental education programmes” supported by the wider media. For instance its is now common in New Zealand and other Anglo-American schools for children to learn that energy is mineral oil, power is Bulk-gen electricity and the atmosphere is a greenhouse.


I have simply entitled my proposal A New Zealand Curriculum. To call it the Sustainable Curriculum or the Alternative Curriculum seems unhelpful. I don’t know if it can be considered a Universal Curriculum or Compassionate Curriculum.  

I outline its general framework using the same format as the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) for ease of comparison. On first glimpse it might no look radical but dig deeper and you will find that unlike our official curriculum this one makes it clear that without compassion there is no science and without science there is no art or language or civics or any of the skills that enable civilisation to exist.

It is hopeful because it suggests that we are all born scientists to some degree and that science is a state of being. 
By comparison our current education system has relegated 97% of us to being “non-scientists” and not part of the “scientific community” by the time we are in our late teens. It thus fails its own objectives and the great catch-cry of modern educationalists –“Education is about inclusiveness.”

The NZC also teaches that science is just a way of thinking, an intellectual technique, an academic practice. By comparison a curriculum based on compassion reminds our children that they are beings with and in science. Science is an active state of being to be lived in every moment of our lives. A corollary of this vision is that anyone that describes his or her profession as “scientist” is seen to be lacking science/democracy. It is helpful to treat their utterances with the special caution you give a snake oil merchant at a fairground.

And the curriculum I propose reminds our children that concepts such as copyright actively destroy science and put civilisation at great risk. This of course questions the very basis of our Anglo-American culture – some people cannot imagine a world in which ideas are freely exchanged. In their lack of imagination are the seeds of destruction of civilisation and the reasons why the Industrial Revolution of the last three hundred years has resulted in massive world wars. The one they promote now could well result in maybe 6 billion people perishing in miserable ways because of a lack of science.

The curriculum based in compassion also questions other common beliefs such as concepts that we can trade away our responsibilities for our actions.  It suggests concepts such as carbon neutrality and offsetting are non-science and are a recipe for disaster too.

The NZC promotes the idea that Maths is not a language and that language is exclusive to human beings. It is little wonder that educators wring their hands in despair and wonder why children find Mathematics gobbledygook and have little connection to the sentience pervading life on our planet.

Similarly the NZC sees drama, music, dance etc as separate learning activities to health and physical education.  In the proposed curriculum the maintenance of personal and community well-being is viewed as an art. This vision maintains hope for it provides assurance that everyone is capable of art in his or her lives. They can experience this in simple acts such as breathing mindfully, washing their hands with care and throwing a ball with accuracy and ease. Such acts can express beauty in drama, music and dance.

Put another way, a person cannot enjoy their fullest potential without the maintenance of general wellbeing. Examples abound of people with great skills in music or dance or visual graphics who prematurely ceased to be able to use them because of personal or community ill health.

As you can see, the Conservation Principle of Energy is given pride of place in the framework, as is the Uncertainty Principle of Energy. It seems appropriate to include my proposed Sustainability Principle of Energy  here too for education is all about the wise use of symbols. It is great to see the Conservation Principle is given mention in the new NZC. However it is not framed as essential to our lives in that it is buried in a substrand (the Physical World) of a learning area (Science). And Science is imagined as just one of eight learning areas rather than the state of being that enables all learning. This works to reduce the hope our children know.

The maintenance of hope features in other ways too in my proposed curriculum. Conserving the potential of symbols ensure our childen know and enjoy options. Conserving symbols provides them with a powerful source of hope and I provide examples of uses of key symbols such as science, love, energy and power that work to sustain us better. If these uses are adopted then many texts and resources will be removed from serving the central curriculum of our schools and universities. They will instead become objects of History and Media Studies interest.

All this is very much first draft. New Zealand schools close from Christmas till early February for long summer vacation and so I have used my spare time to pull together this alternative framework. However my work as school janitor-caretaker does not cease just because the schools are closed. Now is the time to strip and polish all the lino, clear and wash classrooms, have the carpets dry-cleaned and catch up on odd jobs.

One of those odd jobs involves the digging and moving of some tons of the hard clay/soft rock hillside using pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. I am having an excellent reminder of just what a person-hour of labour is. As I swing, hit, pull, lift, swing, push and wipe the sweat from my eyes I am very mindful of what generating about 74 watts or about 7.5 kilogram-meters per second feels like.

After three or four hours of this work my body is calling for a rest and more fuel.

And I sit there having a breather and enjoying our wonderful fresh coastal air I become very mindful of what an astonishing resource mineral oil is. Every 42-gallon barrel when combined with the atmosphere contains the potential to swing, hit, pull, lift and push at that rate for 25,000 hours. That is the equivalent of 8,000 people working for three hours like I just have.

And I watch the distant stream of cars going up our steep, winding valley road. Most of them are carrying just one person and they are probably just going for a joy ride around our beautiful coast or to see friends – or even just to fill up their car tank with more of our dwindling mineral oil resources.  Not one of them is mindful of the fact that they use the equivalent of maybe 1000 people’s labour to push them and their car over these hills for a half an hour or so.  

Why are they not mindful? Most of them have never been taught this elementary truth. Indeed most of them have learned in our schools that mineral oil = energy and is thus as bountiful as the universe. Also inherent in this equation is the notion that the atmosphere is limitless and is there for the burning.  These folk honestly believe that those 1000 “servants” I mentioned are theirs to use as of right. In fact most of them begrudge the fact that they have to pay $6 or so at the petrol pump for the equivalent of 1000 person-hours of labour – most of which they will waste in heat and friction as they get their heavy vehicle heaved around.

Which brings me to why I give the big bad “I” mark to New Zealand’s new curriculum and to its Anglo-American education sources. As mentioned, they all destroy science, reduce awareness of the great Principles of Energy and in general diminish our personal sense of stewards. One fatal result is the profound ignorance of the above car drivers. These folk are literate and numerate and can scan the headlines about “Subprime Mortgage causing credit squeezes”. They can read their supermarket bill printout with its rising prices and calculate how much their purchasing power has dropped. But they can make little or no links between the inflation they are experiencing and their proliferate use of mineral oil. Less still can they comprehend how their burning of it might be impacting on atmospheric balances.

Our current education system produces a people unable to comprehend that in 1999 they were paying under $US10 to have the equivalent of 25000 servants working hard for them for an hour. That is 0.04 cents per person hour of labour. As mentioned they are educated to believe those cheap “servants” are their birthright while they themselves were worth $US20 an hour or more. This is intoxicating stuff and clearly President Clinton and Co were giddy on it when they repealed the Glass Steagall Act in 1999 With servant labour so cheap, there seemed little reason to put limits on what banks could do when credit could be considered boundless?

You might say this was a fiscal decision. Indeed some eminent economists state that inflation is entirely fiscal. The truth is the underlying drivers of human induced inflation are ignorance and greed. We think we can circumvent the Conservation Principle of Energy and get something for nothing. We deny the reality of change and think we can transcend the balances of the universal forces and flows.

Now eight years on it is now costing $US100, not $US10, to get those 25,000 servants to dig, heat, move, shift, pull, push and do other countless tasks for us. That is a ten-fold increase in labour costs and we are experiencing this as profound inflation pressures. Mind you, with the mineral oil continuing to flow out of the ground, it is only costing us 0.4 cents per person-hour of labour. This is still ridiculously cheap and our schools and media teach in a thousand ways that this value is OK. In fact they call it a temporary spike in price and tell us something called The Market will correct it!

The truth is our current flawed education system contains a terrible logic. The reality is mineral oil is not energy and as the number of those “servants” diminishes and the cost of them rises we will face increasing inflation and stagflation. The terrible logic is that as those who find it acceptable to value man-hours of labour at a fraction of a cent tend to place less and less value on the labour of their fellow humans as the cost of extracting mineral oil rises. They soon get to a point where they deem human lives valueless and we have global war.

Economic collapse and war are not inevitable. Certainly every other society that has confused an energy form with energy has collapsed in the past and it is 99% certain that we face catastrophe if our current curriculum prevails. This is because it actively destroys science and teaches us in a multitude of ways how to deny change and our roles as stewards.

However in a society that enjoys science and in which knowledge is freely available there exists a million options for people to avoid an international conflagration of our civilisation. That is why I propose this curriculum based on compassion as an alternative to our current Anglo-American curriculum. I have confidence in it for I know it contains wisdom that has sustained humanity for millennia.

Footnote for those unfamiliar with this blog. The cartoon strip that accompanies it was created five years ago now. I created a cartoon being called Bonus Joules and set it forth on a search for the nature of Energy. In this panel I explored the energy efficiency concept of “negawatts” and found it failing. Ultimately an entirely different concept emerged in which bonusjoules (an energy use involving long- term, low-risk considerations) and junkjoules (an energy use involving short-term high-risk considerations) are understood as the co-evolving and complementary elements of energy efficiency measurement.

I had intimately experienced the evolution and collapse of OnEnergy in New Zealand in 2001. I was also very aware of how and why Enron collapsed in the USA and how the corporation was able to abuse the negawatt concept by manipulating demand on the Californian and other Bulk-gen electricity systems. The “smartest guys in the room” can teach us a lot about what energy efficiency is not.  

 Prototype Framework for  Education Curriclum
(Educating for sustainable human beings)

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