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How To Get There 09/02/20

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, February 9th, 2020 - 39 comments
Categories: Deep stuff - Tags:


This post is a place for positive discussion of the future.

An Open Mike for ideas, solutions and the discussion of the possible.

The Big Picture, rather than a snapshot of the day’s goings on. Topics rather than topical.

We’d like to think it’s success will be measured in the quality of comments rather than the quantity.

So have at it!

Let us know what you think …

39 comments on “How To Get There 09/02/20 ”

  1. Ad 1

    Hilarious on RNZ hearing about New Zealand as an island of purity in a world of pandemic chaos.

    Reminds me of the early 1980s.

    If I get the energy I'll do a post on post-apocalyptic thought in New Zealand.

    • Dennis Frank 1.1

      Excellent anticipatory futurism. Sensible people would wait till it was post-apocalypse. Not us, we're non-conformists. 🙃

  2. gsays 2

    Having (hopefully) left hospitality for good, I am enjoying the development of a gardner's eye.

    60% of my new job is weeding and mowing lawns. Noticing the proliferation of paspalum grass as the lawns dry off, seeing the brown creeping oxalis spreading through barked areas, slaters, ants, worms, snails, mantis milling about when weeding.

    At home, I have never watered a lawn (it creates work!), nowadays we have patches of brilliant green where the water has run after an overnight misting of the crab apple, the struggling Jasmine and the port wine magnolia that was forced into a transplant due to renovations.

    I am now employed at a 'Senior lifestyle village', a village that has at least three retired gardners. As I am finding out, gardners can be as opinionated as chefs.

    Gardening is a political act. Round-up all your problems away through to organic, permaculture and bio-dynamics.

    • Dennis Frank 2.1

      Gardening is a political act

      In a community garden perhaps! I haven't noticed that dimension in my gardening. My primary grass problem is kikuyu. I have devised several ways of disposing of the runners that I pull out or cut off. Perhaps a pc person would accuse me of discriminating against Kenyan invaders?

      Here in Taranaki, on the coast, we're mostly future-proofed against climate change but I do store water somewhat for summer. Council water restrictions currently apply: I can hose the veges every second day. In between I can bucket from storage.

      • Robert Guyton 2.1.1

        Shade is the bane of kikuyu, yes?

        • WeTheBleeple

          It'll just run underground till it finds light. Makes a decent mulch got to dry it right out so it doesn't resprout, and chooks are fond of the growing tips.

          • Robert Guyton

            If you "forest-garden" your whole property, it'll go to the neighbourssmiley

            • WeTheBleeple

              If I forest garden my whole property it will be a fire hazard. Especially as it backs onto a forested piece of public property now in long term drought, and that runs uphill directly into my trees. Replete with footpaths lined in dead and dried grass. Sometimes your enthusiasm for forestry overrides common sense.

                • WeTheBleeple

                  Can't have a conversation if it's all one way pushing forestry and ignoring any points made that deny it as the be all and end all. And I'm a serious advocate of trees – well ahead of the bell curve. But it's like the non-forested biomes of the world are to be forested rather than understood by you. I get similar inability to see past a specific viewpoint from climate deniers. Really, try to see what others are saying too.

              • RedLogix

                On a bit of a tangent to this, I'm reading Yuval Harari's Sapiens at the moment which is a decent read. I'm not 100% with all of it, but I do enjoy a read that challenges at least some of my assumptions.

                Back on point, he writes that pre-industrial humans were busy modifying landscapes far more than we suppose. Perhaps the most dramatic was the arrival of humans to the Australian continent about 50,000 years ago. For tens of millions of years prior, the fossil record tells us that eucalypts were relatively rare, but within 2,000 years of humans arriving, they completely dominated the entire continent.

                Biologist Jeremy Griffiths recently wrote that 'eucalypts are incinerators from hell dressed up as trees', a strongly fire adapted species that actively promotes mass burn offs in order to out compete all other species. Until humans came along they existed only in some limited niches, but when people started burning the landscape the balance tipped and the eucalypts literally burned off all of their competitors.

                In this sense what we see in Australia is a 50,000 year old human induced eco-catastrophe, resulting in an almost mono-culture treescape condemned to burn. (Climate change of course pouring extra petrol onto the fire.)

                Incidentally the good news is the past three days have seen substantial and sustained rainfall on the east coast, over 300mm in places. The big fires are now out.

              • weka

                The kikuyu is less of a fire risk than trees? (species dependent). Do you mow it?

                • WeTheBleeple

                  I cut the tall stuff as straw for the chooks. I whicker snicker the rest, in this dry it drops and becomes straw lending a bit of protection for the stuff under it till some moisture arrives. I am in central city where everyone else has all manner of machines running over dead patches of dirt. Mines the only green lawn on the street despite having very little left.

                  • weka

                    I don't get the obsession with ultra short lawns.

                    Do you cut the tall grass by hand?

                    • WeTheBleeple

                      'Very little left' as in area, not length. Yes I cut the tall stuff by hand. It's only a small square but yields a surprisingly large amount of straw – more than enough to bed a few chooks. Two cuts a year. Today the chooks are on it (free range, I've used a chicken tractor as lawn control in the past). They eat from the green tip down like it's spaghetti nipping it off to about six inches down from the tip.

                      Neighbor today standing on an almost completely dead lawn waiting for the lawnmowing contractor. "You're not going to mow that are you, you've already beaten it to death". I've paid for it he has to mow it… Stupid – meet stupid.

                    • weka

                      Lol. All those lawnmowers could me making a living from permaculture instead 😉

  3. Robert Guyton 3

    Mollison and Holmgren say that observing nature is the key to good design. "Seeing" however, is limited by experience and culture and we can only see what we recognise. Gagliano and Meyers say that the observer must establish a loving relationship with the observed and that requires deep attention to detail, such as M&H described, but made deeper still through "mirroring" that which you are observing; through movement particularly; dance, gesture; a kinaesthetic response that goes beyond anything the permaculture doyens ever spoke about. The artistic sentiment is a vital part of understanding what's around us and what we can do you improve the situation. The site, "Dark Mountain" sometimes strikes the right chord and is worth reading, if you are able to. The challenge is not so much accepting that a more feminine approach needs to be taken if we are to extricate ourselves from the mire we have dug, more that practice and application are needed to develop the sensitivity required to bridge the gap between us and other-than-humans in order that we can share notes and work together on this challenge. Anyone who has learned to play a musical instrument and knows the value of practice will be well placed to explore this direction. Personally, I have a way to go smiley

    • Dennis Frank 3.1

      Yin & yang framing perhaps, Robert. Correlates with female/male as a generalisation. And steward/promethean similarly.

      I'd go so far as to observe that the relation of design to resilience has both yin & yang implication. Yang is direct intervention to modify systems. Yin is acting in accord with the natural flow of systems.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    Last month I introduced two avatars of the Green movement [quotes from The Wizard and the Prophet, C. Mann, 2018]: William Vogt, the prophet, and Norman Borlaug, the wizard. They “were largely responsible for the creation of the basic intellectual blueprints that institutions around the world use today for understanding our environmental dilemmas. Unfortunately, their blueprints are mutually contradictory”.

    The contradiction is apparent, not real. It operates as a conceptual problem in the minds of those locked into binary thinking – usually interpreted as zero-sum logic. The two are actually complementary. The best path to the future requires adoption of an integral frame, by means of which users transcend outmoded conceptions and false assumptions.

    Think of them like two sides of a coin. A holist knows both sides are part of the whole. A dualist believes one side is right and the other is wrong. The Green movement has been split for most of the past century because those who believe one is right and the other wrong are each wrong: both are right simultaneously. Greenies hate to admit to being simple-minded, of course, so each sub-tribe prefers to remain in denial!

    “Wizards view the Prophet’s emphasis on cutting back as intellectually dishonest, indifferent to the poor, even racist (because most of the world’s hungry are non-caucasian). Following Vogt, they say, is a path toward regression, narrowness, and global poverty. Prophets sneer that the Wizards’ faith in human resourcefulness is unthinking, scientifically ignorant, even driven by greed (because remaining within limits will cut into corporate profits). Following Borlaug, they say, at best postpones an inevitable day of reckoning – it is a recipe for what activists have come to describe as `ecocide’.” So this polarisation via rhetoric to claim moral ascendancy for one ideology and tribe at the expense of the other reflects traditional political left/right tribalism – doing so within the Green movement.

    Vogt published The Road To Survival in 1948, “the first modern `we’re all going to hell’ book. It was a “vision of how we ought to live: a moral testament.” “People needed to live in smaller, more stable communities, closer to the earth, controlling the exploitative frenzy of the global market.” He was first to delineate “the principal tenets of environmentalism, the 20th century’s only successful, long-lasting ideology.” Vogt exemplified the steward archetype. “In 2007, when Borlaug was 93, The Wall Street Journal editorialized that he had “arguably saved more lives than anyone in history. Maybe one billion.” He exemplified the promethean archetype.

    Mann’s book provides no plan or blueprint – it just reports the cultural/scientific trends each originated. He uses the twin frames to analyse “four great oncoming challenges: food, water, energy, and climate change.” “I think of them as Plato’s four elements: earth, water, fire, and air.” He tells us how he became Vogtian in college due to reading The Population Bomb (1968) by the ecologist Paul Ehrlich, and The Limits to Growth (1972) by a team of computer modellers. They scared him, he writes, yet much later he realised the dire prophecies hadn’t come true.

    “In the mid-1980s I began work as a science journalist. I met many Wizard technologists and grew to admire them. I became a Borlaugian, scoffing at the catastrophic scenarios I had previously embraced. Cleverness will get us through, I thought, as it had in the past.”

    “Nowadays, though, worrying about my children, I am waffling… I oscillate between the two stances.” This just goes to show how even extremely intelligent folk can be hamstrung by dichotomies. Reframing, to transcend, often remains the road less travelled. You can’t step out onto the better way forward until you realise that it is actually there, in front of you!! One must first imagine the better path, realise it is available. This conceptual hinge, the imaginal/real interface is a structural part of the psyche. Problem is, the brainwashing effect of culture is powerful, and people are easily captivated by it, and lose their capacity to reframe when necessary.

    • Robert Guyton 4.1

      "You can’t step out onto the better way forward until you realise that it is actually there, in front of you!! "

      “Realize” in the sense, “make real” – from imagination comes material.

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    After a century of over-specialisation, humanity needs to breed plenty of generalists to empower collective survival via multi-displinary expertise. I've found an author who has been investigating the psychological roots relevant to this.

    New York Times best-selling author David Epstein writes that, as a result of his first book, The Sports Gene, he got an invitation to talk about research he cited to military veterans. “In preparation, I perused scientific journals for work on specialisation” outside the sports world” and “was struck by what I found”.

    There’s “a raft of studies” showing that “technological inventors increased their creative impact by accumulating experience in different domains, compared to peers who drilled more deeply into one; they actually benefited by proactively sacrificing a modicum of depth for breadth as their careers progressed. There was a nearly identical finding in a study of artistic creators.”

    He profiles two different types of excellence, using Tiger Woods as model of someone who excels early due to linear progress from specialisation, and Roger Federer as model of someone who excels late after lateral exploration of a range of different types of endeavour. He mentions that Duke Ellington “shunned music lessons” as a kid, preferring drawing and baseball.

    “The talk was greeted with so much enthusiasm that the foundation invited me to give a keynote speech at the annual conference in 2016, then to small group gatherings in different cities.” The vets were afflicted by anxiety by their need to try late career changes, then reassured by his examples of those who had done it with spectacular success. He found research “showing that highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident – a dangerous combination.”

    “And I was stunned when cognitive psychologists I spoke with led me to an enormous and too often ignored body of work demonstrating that learning itself is best done slowly to accumulate lasting knowledge, even when that means performing poorly on tests of immediate progress.” This is counter-intuitive: “the most effective learning looks inefficient; it looks like falling behind.”

    “Researchers at Northwestern, MIT, and the U.S. Census Bureau studied new tech companies and showed that, among the fastest-growing start-ups, the average age of a founder was 45 when the company was launched.”

    We know over-specialisation produces silo-thinking, and that the academic world and science are riddled with it, but did you know that the destruction of the American middle class was produced by it? Epstein explains how. “A federal program launched in 2009 incentivized banks to lower monthly mortgage payments for home-owners who were struggling but still able to make partial payments” so bank mortgage lenders switched them to lower payments. Then the foreclosure department of the same banks “declared them in default and seized their homes”.

    “The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyper-specialisation.” While “as complexity increases – as technology spins the world into vaster webs of interconnected systems in which each individual only sees a part” we need “people who start broad and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives while they progress. People with range.”

    Those with range have become adept at applying general principles in various fields. They are the type of humans who provide the antidote to silo-thinking. Generalists. [quotes from Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, D. Epstein, 2019]

    • Dennis Frank 6.1

      Brilliant story, thanks! 👍

      Hey, have you been ill, or busy elsewhere?

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Dennis you make most of the points that I would make, and I bless you for keeping the discussion going on a high thought philosophical base. You, Robert and others' ideas explained and open to robust query have widened my understanding. Also the recommending of books and articles are better than gold; they disturb and lift my thinking. For me I can't stand being hen-pecked by those whose vision is at ground level. Back-stabbing is what I feel, tantamount to dictatorship, which is not what I hope for in a better NZ. So years of reading, thinking and writing here, but seeing a constant default to 20th century thinking, tells me to go where the mosh pit is enlivened, and there is less priggish censorship.

        • greywarshark

          I have been reading/writing on the Daily Blog which I get to from the TDB Sections and Daily Gallery. They don't go up immediately but he puts up most of mine and interesting stuff comes up.

          A suggestion is Bryan Gould's thoughtful blog and he would enjoy reading your input. Here is the latest on the ability of sovereign countries to fund their own treasuries and purposes. https://www.bryangould.com/where-did-the-billions-come-from/

          • RedLogix

            Bryan Gould hits on an important point that has baffled me for years; why is it that the CCP was allowed to get away with several decades of hypersubsidisation (essentially unconstrained money printing) while most other smaller nations like NZ were explicitly held to balanced budgets?

            I realise the USA has also had to do much the same, but at least they had the justification that because the dollar is also the default currency of most global trade, the sheer quantity of dollars needed to support this was always going to expand beyond America's domestic demand.

            By contrast China has printed it's way into controlling 40% of all manufacturing globally, and destroyed tens of millions of good jobs in many other nations in the process. They've done a great job pulling themselves out of poverty, but the consequence has been instability and disillusionment with the global trade system elsewhere, and I believe has been an underlying factor in the rise of populists like Trump and Johnson.

            If any NZ govt was to start printing money at a rate far greater than the capacity of our economy to absorb it, the value of the kiwi would quickly plummet. So why was China exempt from the laws of gravity?

            PS. Good to see you back. Cheers

          • Dennis Frank

            Ah, thanks, and I sympathise. It can be tedious when commenters fail to grasp nuances and just react inappropriately.

            Re TDB I tried that awhile some years back but found a noticeable lack of intelligent response. When Martyn failed to publish an acerbic critique of leftist thought I realised he can't handle the truth. Pearls before swine. So I stopped wasting my time on him!

            Re Gould, thanks for the tip, I'll consider that. He's such a chronic mainstreamer compared to me though. I've got his book The Democracy Sham in my library but couldn't get very far into it. That whole liberal perspective is just too much like kindergarten – I agreed with his analysis but he showed no sign of going deep enough.

            • gsays

              "Ah, thanks, and I sympathise. It can be tedious when commenters fail to grasp nuances and just react inappropriately."

              From what I read, there was a over-reaction, followed by a wee pile-on.

              Business as usual for 'lefties'.

              • Dennis Frank

                Oh, you mean bullying? 🤩 Stalin would have had them taken out back & shot. But he was a real leftie, not like some of these pretenders.

                I'm halfway thro Young Stalin at the moment. It's great. Third biography of the dude that I've read, and plenty of fascinating stuff that wasn't included in the first two.

            • greywarshark

              Re Gould. He was deeply saddened about Brexit that the voice of the people was not heard – it was sacrosanct. But I thought that misses the point – how can you make a good decision, give an answer if the background and the question are tainted by misleading figures and examples or outright lies. And always one should ask the question – who is going to benefit from pushing this and where is the benefit to show up? Because it takes a very holistic, self-effacing attitude to push time-consuming controversial changes forward. The person who does it out of good nature and honest desire to help all others usually gets attacked even villified.

              • Dennis Frank

                Well, that's politics, eh? I did always rate him a straightshooter, a man of good intentions. A worthy liberal. If only that sufficed!

  6. Dennis Frank 7

    This is all well & good, but: https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/09-02-2020/there-is-an-alternative-saving-the-environment-without-saving-capitalism/

    It is worth considering the economy separately from the system. Unfortunately it is actually too hard for almost everyone – since they both interpenetrate each other. The writer correctly grasps that assuming capitalism is inevitable is wrong, but fails to go any further after delineating all the non-capitalist parts of the economy.

    It's a bit like trying to evaluate a human being separately from the zillions of micro-organisms that operate internally as small parts of us.

    Given that capitalism emerged as the superstructure of the economy, and the latter is a self-organising system itself, the question is to what extent can the elite controllers be detached from the base system – as if that were even possible!

    Another fundamental question is: what is the relationship between the two systems. Is it parasite/host, or a symbiosis, or both? My lifetime bias has been to see capitalists as parasites on the body politic. However, one must consider the role of investment in maintaining the economy. Not even socialists advocate that investment funds ought to come from the taxpayer. So one must acknowledge some validity to the symbiosis thesis. I suspect both is therefore the correct answer.

    Best path to the future could be alteration of the rules to morph capitalists into a more benign functional role. I'm talking about a fundamental transformation when I mean rules. Incentive-structures work much better than regulation!

  7. greywarshark 8

    How would you deal with the broadcasting merger DF? And the line in today's southern paper (in my case Press) that there has to be a dividend to govt from the tv? Isn't it time that we cut this tall poppy of the right down to size – let the people pick the flowers and keep the plant growing in a healthy way. (I think it would be better if I just asked questions and helped discussion rather than put my ideas up. Ultimately it is the thinking, considering and discussing, and the referring to other commenters and wisdom merchants often from outside NZ that we need, to try to build a framework for the next few years.)

    • Dennis Frank 8.1

      I'm waiting to see what the coalition consensus process produces. Re dividend, in principle that's totally wrong! I have no problem with a business case that uses advertising to cover operating costs, but I would be suspicious that a CEO might use that to expand the ad revenue to do frivolous stuff, so I'd need to see charter clauses that ensured the board supervises the CEO!

      I'd allow a third of the board, say, to have a business background. Then allocate a third to public service reps (incl. ngos, psa) and a third to operational staff. That's just off the top of my head. The main thing is to do something completely different (Monty Python). Preferably sensible, but definitely innovative.

      The selection criteria for recruitment would be where the rubber meets the road, of course. I would require any consultancy to prove competence in selecting the right people. I would do that by not telling them the right people – but telling them the skills and character traits to identify and select, and judge them on the results.

      Competing consultancies of course, to ensure optimal results. I'd ask them to rate their choices with the best applicants at the top of the list. Then I'd compose a selection panel to interview the top few recommended by each consultancy. A few nominees from political parties in parliament, a few broadcasting retirees, any relevant public service managers etc. Just a method to cut the crap you always get from establishment mainstream decision-makers. 🤬 😇

      • greywarshark 8.1.1

        Hope you don't mind DF but I put that last comment on the one about RNZ on Bowalley Road. I thought your points were good and a bit different than what others were explaining.

        • Dennis Frank

          No problem whatsoever. You resonated, and a quick scan showed the thoughts were really your own. Reframing is always best, for authenticity… 😊

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