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Friday, October 23, 2009

A Conspiracy Theory - October 2009

The captains of industry have the power to bring Obama down. I just realized that recently. It's due to a confluence of events. Although business is improving for most of the major corporations, and most are making profits, they are not hiring. The media pundits keep saying it's because they are cautiously waiting for the recovery to be definite. But the economists have been saying for a couple of months that the recovery has started. What if they are holding back hiring because they want to bring Obama (and the democratic party) down? They have never done this in the past; why now?

Well, some things are different. For starters, there are fewer major players due to 40 years of mergers and acquisitions. Fewer players make it easier to form a conspiracy. Secondly, there is greater polarization between the right and left than ever before. I'm assuming that most of the captains of industry are republicans. My thinking is that, in the past, profitability would come first in their thinking, and maybe civic duty would play some role. Today's CEO's are not big on civic duty, or maybe they just define it differently. Trying to bring down the other party by not hiring workers would not occur to them, in the past. The third thing is that employment is the key to the present recession. If it goes up, the recession is over, and the democrats probably win the next election. If it stays low the republicans are likely to unseat the dems.

So I'm thinking, suppose the CEO of Proctor & Gamble is chatting with the CEO of Heinz during a cruise on one of their yachts. One of them says that business is not bad, but I hate to hire more people; it will help Obama look good. The other agrees, and one of them realizes that they don't have to hire anyone! They are in charge, and the media have given them a rationale. Sure, the company could earn more money by boosting production with additional workers, since sales are good and inventories are low. But who cares? That would only benefit the stockholders. You and I have plenty of money, they agree, more than we can spend. We run our companies, not the stockholders! Let's not hire anyone and help stick it to Obama. Well, of course they casually mention this to their CEO buddies, and, little by little, the word spreads.

Could this be happening? Yes, it's paranoia, but is it justifiable paranoia? Yes, this is a conspiracy theory. I have never been involved with conspiracy theories in the past, but I suppose I'm partial to my own creation. :)


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

When media pundits or politicians talk about world hunger, climate
change, or pollution, there is something that they almost never mention. And yet, this forbidden topic is the root cause of these global problems! If this elephant cannot be effectively dealt with, there is no chance of reducing pollution, nor alleviating hunger, nor keeping global warming under control.

By now you may have guessed that I'm talking about the size of the human population: 6 1/2 BILLION and growing! Presently, not all of them are even getting enough to eat, let alone having the kind of life to which they aspire. At least half of the planet hopes to have a car at some point during their life. Is this possible? Could our planet sustain SEVERAL BILLION automobiles? I think not. Much more likely is that, as the human population grows, the material standard of living will decrease for all but the very wealthy.

There are many who deny the population problem. They say that
technological innovation will allow us to feed more & more people,
without limit. They point to the "green revolution" of the mid-20th
century, when the widespread use of chemical fertilizers greatly
increased the yield per acre for those farmers adapting the new methods. This in turn allowed a great increase in the human population, which has doubled since that time.

There are at least two rebuttals to the deniers. The first is that
there are physical limits to how much food can be produced worldwide. Plants create food by the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy. The earth receives a certain amount of solar energy each day, and that is not going to change. We can increase the fraction of the earth's surface devoted to farming, and we can increase the efficiency of the solar-to-chemical conversion process, but there is an ultimate limit. By extreme measures we may be able to eventually support 20 billion people on this planet, a tripling of the present population.

But what kind of life will they be living? This question leads us to
the second rebuttal, which is that we all pay a price in reduced quality
of life. A world with twenty billion people will be quite different
from today's world. Most of the planet's surface will be taken up by
farms, habitations, factories, and energy production facilities. The
latter will be largely solar and wind, which require extensive land
area. There will be little room left for the natural world of plants
and animals; those will mostly be confined to parks. Where there are
now extensive forests, there will instead be the aforementioned farms, habitations, factories, and energy producers. So the natural world will be sacrificed in order to have 20 billion humans. However, most of these humans will be living in very small dwelling units, perhaps 40 sq m for families, and half of that for single people. Most people will live in large cities with very high population densities. Most will not own automobiles. The wealthy will have a different lifestyle, of course. They will be able to eat meat, which the ordinary people won't be able to afford. And they can live outside of the cities if they choose, and use automobiles. The world that I'm describing is roughly 100 years from now, so it's not just around the corner. If you have any grandchildren during your life, they will see it, as will their children (if they are able to have any).

If humans can learn to be content with one or two children per typical
family, this bleak vision of the future does not have to come to pass.
There is hope, because this has occurred in much of Europe, without
coercion. In China it has occurred due to coercion. But the majority
of the world's families are still producing several children.

This article was written as my participation in Blog Action Day.