Earth Tipping Point Study In Nature Journal Predicts Disturbing And Unpredictable Changes

Blueearth

This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012.

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Earth is rapidly headed toward a catastrophic breakdown if humans don’t get their act together, according to an international group of scientists.

Writing Wednesday (June 6) in the journal Nature, the researchers warn that the world is headed toward a tipping pointmarked by extinctions and unpredictable changes on a scale not seen since the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago.

“There is a very high possibility that by the end of the century, the Earth is going to be a very different place,” study researcher Anthony Barnosky told LiveScience. Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley, joined a group of 17 other scientists to warn that this new planet might not be a pleasant place to live.

“You can envision these state changes as a fast period of adjustment where we get pushed through the eye of the needle,” Barnosky said. “As we’re going through the eye of the needle, that’s when we see political strife, economic strife, war and famine.” [Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth]

 

The danger of tipping

Barnosky and his colleagues reviewed research on climate change, ecology andEarth’s tipping points that break the camel’s back, so to speak. At certain thresholds, putting more pressure on the environment leads to a point of no return, Barnosky said. Suddenly, the planet responds in unpredictable ways, triggering major global transitions.

 The most recent example of one of these transitions is the end of the last glacial period. Within not much more than 3,000 years, the Earth went from being 30 percent covered in ice to itspresent, nearly ice-free condition. Most extinctions and ecological changes (goodbye, woolly mammoths) occurred in just 1,600 years. Earth’s biodiversity still has not recovered to what it was.

Today, Barnosky said, humans are causing changes even faster than the natural ones that pushed back the glaciers — and the changes are bigger. Driven by a 35 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the Industrial Revolution, global temperatures are rising faster than they did back then, Barnosky said. Likewise, humans have completely transformed 43 percent of Earth’s land surface for cities and agriculture, compared with the 30 percent land surface transition that occurred at the end of the last glacial period. Meanwhile, the human population has exploded, putting ever more pressure on existing resources. [7 Billion Population Milestones]

“Every change we look at that we have accomplished in the past couple of centuries is actually more than what preceded one of these major state changes in the past,” Barnosky said.

 

Backing away from the ledge

The results are difficult to predict, because tipping points, by their definition, take the planet into uncharted territory. Based on past transitions, Barnosky and his colleagues predict a major loss of species (during the end of the last glacial period, half of the large-bodied mammal species in the world disappeared), as well as changes in the makeup of species in various communities on the local level. Meanwhile, humans may well be knotting our own noose as we burn through Earth’s resources.

“These ecological systems actually give us our life support, our crops, our fisheries, clean water,” Barnosky said. As resources shift from one nation to another, political instability can easily follow.

Pulling back from the ledge will require international cooperation, Barnosky said. Under business-as-usual conditions, humankind will be using 50 percent of the land surface on the planet by 2025. It seems unavoidable that the human population will reach 9 billion by 2050, so we’ll have to become more efficient to sustain ourselves, he said. That means more efficient energy use and energy production, a greater focus on renewable resources, and a need to save species and habitat today for future generations.

“My bottom line is that I want the world in 50 to 100 years to be at least as good as it is now for my children and their children, and I think most people would say the same,” Barnosky said. “We’re at a crossroads where if we choose to do nothing we really do face these tipping points and a less-good future for our immediate descendents.”

 

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas or LiveScience @livescience. We’re also on Facebook Google+

go to the original http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/07/earth-tipping-point-study_n_1577835.html

Hurricane Katrina and the Hyperreality of the Image

Post-Katrina School Bus

Image by laffy4k via Flickr

Katrina y la hiperrealidad de la imagen (Spanish)

Hurricane Katrina and the Hyperreality of the Image

by Jorge Majfud

Translated by Bruce Campbell

September 2, 2005

In the 16th century, the Dominican brother Bartolomé de las Casas wrote an empassioned chronicle about the brutal conquest by the Spanish Empire of the new world. The denunciation by this Christian convert (which is to say, “of impure blood”) in behalf of a universal humanism, resulted in the Juntas de Valladolid (1550) in which he faced off, before the public and the king, with Ginés de Sepúlveda. Using a biblical quotation taken from Proverbs, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and his partisans defended the right of the Empire to enslave indigenous peoples, not only because they did it in the name of the “true faith” but, above all, because the Bible said that the intelligent man must subjugate the idiot. We will not go into who were the intelligent men. What matters now is knowing that over the centuries, a debate resulted among the “chroniclers” (the only literary genre permitted by the Spanish Inquisition in the Americas). As always, only a minority promoted a new ethics based on ethical “principles.” In this case the humanists and defenders of the “natural right” of the indigenous peoples. One had to wait until the 19th century for these “principles” to become reality by the force of “necessity.” In other words, the Industrial Revolution needed wage laborers, not free labor that competed with standardized production and that, besides, had no consumption power. From that point on, as always, “necessity” quickly universalized the “principles,” so that today we all consider ourselves “anti-slavery,” based on ethical “principles” and not by “necessity.”* I have explained this elsewhere, but what is important to me now is to briefly analyze the power of the written text and, beyond this, the power of dialectical (and sometimes sophistic) analysis.

Using the denunciations of father Bartolomé de las Casas, a nascent empire (the British) quickly found writers to create the “black legend” of Spain’s colonial enterprise. Then, like any new empire, it presumed an advanced morality: it presented itself as the champion of the anti-slavery struggle (which – what a coincidence – only became a reality when its industries developed in the 19th century) and pretended to give moral lessons without the necessary authority, which was denied by its own history of brutal oppression, equally as brutal as that of the old Spanish empire.

Shortly after the De las Casas-Supúlveda controversy and following the approval of the New Laws governing treatment of the indians as a consequence (although the laws weren’t worth the paper they were printed on), Guamán Poma Ayala denounced a similar history of rapes, torture and mass murder. But he did it, in contrast, with a collection of drawings, which at the time was a form of chronicle as valid as the written word. These drawing can be studied in detail today, but we would have to say that there impact and interest was minimal in their own time, despite the starkness of the images. In those days, just as during the Middle Ages, images had a special usefulness because the majority of the population did not know how to read. Nevertheless, and for that very reason, it is easy to explain why Guamán Poma’s chronicle was of no great consequence: because the “masses,” the population, didn’t matter as an agent of change. Or it simply didn’t matter. Rebellion might be headed by a cacique, like Tupac Amaru, but the population was not a protagonist of its own story.

Now here’s where I’m going with this: this process has been reversed today. The “masses” are no longer “masses” and have begun to matter: citing Ortega y Gasset, we might say that we had a “rebellion of the masses” but now can longer speak of “masses” but of a population composed of individuals that have started to question, to make demands, and to rebel. Nonetheless, the struggle is rooted on this front: as the masses (now subjects in rebellion) matter in the generation of the story, those who still belong to the old order seek to dominate them with their own language: the image. And often they succeed to perfection. Let’s take a look.

Our Western popular culture is based (at times trapped) in visual codes and a visual sensibility. We know that the culture of the ruling (or dominant) classes continues to be based on the complexities of the written text. Even the experts on images base their studies and theories on the written word. If in Latin America public opinion and sensibility are strongly conditioned by an ideological tradition (formed from the time of the Conquest, in the 16th century, and exploited by opposing political groups in the 20th century), here, in the United States, the relationship with the past is less conflict-oriented, and hence the lack of historical memory can, in some cases, facilitate the work of the proselytizers. We will not get into that issue here. Suffice it to say that the United States is a complex and contradictory country, and therefore any judgement about “Americanness” is as arbitrary and unfair as speaking of “Latinamericanness” without recognizing the great diversity that exists within that mythological construct. We must not forget that all ideology (of the left or of the right, liberal or conservative) sustains itself via a strategic simplification of the reality it analyzes or creates.

I understand that these factors should be taken into account when we want to understand why the image is a basic “text” for capitalist societies: its “consumption” is quick, disposable, and therefore “comfortable.” The problem arises when this image (the sign, the text) ceases to be comfortable and pleasant. When this happens the public reacts, becomes aware. That is to say, the understanding, the awareness, enters through the eyes: a photograph of a girl fleeing the napalm bombs in Viet Nam, for example. For the same reason it was “recommended” to not show the public images of the war in Iraq that included children torn apart by bombs (see the daily papers of the rest of the world in 2003), the coffins of American soldiers returning home, etc. By contrast, the Terri Schiavo case occupied the time and concern of the American public for many weeks, day after day, hour after hour; the president and governor Bush of Florida signed “exceptions” that were rejected by the judiciary, until the poor woman died to rest in peace from so many obscene images of which she was the unknowing and unwilling victim. Despite it all, during thos same weeks hundreds of Iraqis, as well as American soldiers, continued to die and they didn’t even make the news, beyond the publication of the daily statistic. Why? Because they aren’t persons, they are numbers for a sensibility that is only moved by images. And this was proved by the photographs of Abu Graib and with a video that showed an American soldier shooting a wounded man. Those were the only two moments in which the American public reacted with indignation. But we should ask ourselves, does anyone really believe that these things don’t happen in war? Does anyone still believe in that postmodern story about hygienic wars, where there are “special effects” but no blood, death and pain? Yes. Many people do. Lamentably, a majority. And it’s not due to lack of intelligence but to lack of interest.

We can analyze the same process at work with the recent problem of New Orleans. The catastrophe was not grasped when the meteorologists warned of the scale of the tragedy, several days before. Nor was there broad awareness of the problem when reports spoke of tens of dead. Four days after, we knew that the number of dead could rise into the hundreds. Possibly thousands, if we consider those wuo will die for lack of dialysis, lack of insulin and other emergency medicines. But television did not show a single dead person. Anyone can search the pages of the principal daily newspapers of the United States and they will not find an “offensive” image, one of those photographs that we can view in daily papers from other parts of the world: bodies floating, children dying “like in Africa,” violence, rapes, etc. Because if there is one thing in abundance it is digital cameras; but there is even more “modesty.” I am no advocate of morbid gratuitousness, nor of showing blood over and over again unnecessarily: I am an advocate of showing everything. As a U.S. citizen said with reference to the war, “if we were capable of doing it we should be capable of seeing it.”

A natural tragedy like this one (or like the tsunami in Asia) is a disgrace for which we cannot hold anyone responsible. (Let’s set aside, for a moment, the share of responsibility that societies have in the global warming of the oceans.) Nonetheless, the tragedy of New Orleans demonstrates that a superpower like the United States can mobilize tens of thousands of soldiers, the most advanced technology in the world, the most effective machinery of assault in human history in order to remove a foreign president (or dictator), but prove incapable of reaching thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina, in a city within its own country. In New Orleans, there were acts of vandalism and violence, rapes and general chaos while victims complained that there were no policemen or soldiers to help them, in an area that found itself under martial law. This complaint was made in front of the cameras, and so we can believe that at least the journalists were able to gain access to those places. Some loot because they are opportunists, others out of desperation, as they begin to experience a situation of struggle for survival previously not seen in the most powerful country in the world. On September 1 president G.W. Bush appealed for private aid and on September 2 he said it was not sufficient. There is no lack of resources, of course (the war in Iraq cost more than three hundred billion dollars, ten times more than all the damages produced by the hurricane in this tragedy); the Congress voted for economic aid of ten billion dollars for the victims. But the latter continued to die, trapped in stadiums, on bridges, without shelter, offering up a jarring image for a country whose poor suffer from problems of overeating, where beggars are fined a thousand dollars for asking for things they don’t need (since the State supposedly provides them everything necessary to survive without desperation in case they can’t do so by their own means). Undocumented Hispanics suffer a double tragedy: they will not receive compensation like their neighbors, but rest assured that they will be the first to take up the task of reconstruction. Who else? What other social group in this country has the physical, moral and spiritual toughness to work under conditions of survival and hopelessness? Or do we still believe in fairy tales?

The people of the United States will become aware of the objectives and priorities of this government when they compare its efficiency or inefficiency in different places and moments. But for that to happen they must “see it” on their television sets, in the English-language news media on the Internet, to which they turn out of habit. Because it is of little or no use for them to read it in written texts, since the critical analyses of the New York Times are seemingly useless – a paper that, with a large number of brilliant analysts noting one by one the contradictions of this government, took sides publicly against the the reelection of G. W. Bush. Now, when there is a “fatigue” in public opinion, the majority of the country’s population understands that the intervention in Iraq was a mistake. Of course, as my grandfather used to say, you chirped too late.

U.S. public opinion will become aware of what is happening in New Orleans (and of what is happening beyond the natural phenomenon) when people can see images; a part of what the victims see and tell orally to a public that listens but is unmoved by a dialectical analysis that doesn’t appeal to images or biblical metaphors. The U.S. public will realize what is happening when its sees “raw” images, as long as they don’t confuse those images with the chaos of some underdeveloped country.

The brilliant Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, exiled by the dictatorship of his country “out of ignorance,” published in 1971 The Pedagogy of the Oppressed with a publishing house in Montevideo, Uruguay. He mentioned there the pedagogical experience of a colleague. The teacher had shown to a student an alley of New York City filled with garbage and asked him what he saw. The boy said that he saw a street in Africa or Latin America. “And why not a street in New York City?” observed the teacher. A short timearlier, in the 1950s, Roland Barthes had done an interesting analysis of a photograph in which a black soldier saluted “patriotically” the flag of the empire that oppressed Africa (the French empire), and concluded, among other things, that the image was conditioned by the (written) text that accompanies it and that it is the latter that confers on the image (ideological) meaning. We might think that the semantic (or semiotic) problem is a bit more complex than this, and arises from other unwritten “texts,” other images, other (hegemonic) discourses, etc. But the “raw” image also has a revelatory, or at least critical, function. What do I mean by “raw”? “Raw” images are precisely those images censored (or repressed, to use a psychoanalytic term) by the dominant discourse. For this reason those of us who use dialectics and analysis related historically to thought and language must recognize, at the same time, the power of those others who control visual language. To dominate or to liberate, to hide or to reveal.

Once, in an African village, a Macua man told me how a sorceress had transformed a sack of sand into a sack of sugar, and how another sorcerer had come flying down from the sky. I asked him if he remembered any strange, recent dream. The Macua man told me he had dreamed that he saw his village from an airplane. “Have you ever flown in a plane?” I asked. Obviously not. He hadn’t even been close to one of those machines. “But you say that you saw it,” I observed. “Yes, but it was a dream,” he told me. Spirits in the bodies of lions, flying men, sand turned into sugar aren’t dreams. Stories like these can be read in the chronicles of the Spaniards who conquered Latin America in the 16th century. We can also see them today in many regions of Central America. My response to my Macua friend was the same as I would give to the more “evolved” U.S. public: we must always be aware that not everything we see is true, nor is can everything true be seen.

*This same principal that I call “necessity” was identified in the 19th century by Bautista Alberdi, when he recognized that laicism in the Rio de la Plata was (and had to be) a consequence of the great diversity of religions, a product of immigration. It was not possible to expel or engage in “ethnic cleansing,” as Spain did in the 15th century, since in Alberdi’s time we were in a different arena of history, and of the concept of “necessary resources.”

Translated by Bruce Campbell

One Bolivia, White and Wealthy

Vista de uno de los mercados de la Ciudad de L...

Image via Wikipedia

Una sola Bolivia, blanca y próspera (Spanish)

 

One Bolivia, White and Wealthy

 

The rapid Conquest of Amerindia would have been impossible without the Mesoamerican and Andean cosmology. Otherwise two mature empires, with millions of inhabitants and brave armies would never have succumbed to the madness of a handful of Spaniards. But it was also possible due to the new adventurer and warrior spirit of the medieval culture of a Spanish Crown victorious in the Reconquest of Spain, and the new capitalist spirit of the Rennaissance. From a strictly military point of view, neither Cortés nor Pizarro would be remembered today if it had not been for the bad faith of two empires such as the Aztec of Moctezuma and the Incan of Atahualpa. Both knew they were illegitimate and this weighed upon them in a manner that it weighs upon no modern governor.

The Spaniards first conquered these imperial heads or crushed them and cut them off in order to replace them with puppet chiefs, privileging the old native aristocracy, a story that may seem very familiar to any peripheral nation of the 21st century.

The principal strategic legacy of this history was progressive social and geographic division. While at first the cultural revolution of the United States, based on utopian theories, was admired and then later simply its muscular power, which resulted from unions and annexations, the America of the south proceeded with the inverse method of divisions. Thus were destroyed the dreams of those today called liberators, like Simón Bolívar, José Artigas or San Martín. Thus Central America and South America exploded into the fragments of tiny nations. This fragmentation was convenient for the nascent empires of the Industrial Revolution and of the celebrated Creole caudillismo, whereby a chief representative of the feudal agrarian culture would impose himself above the law and humanist progress in order to rescue the prosperity of his class, which he confused with the prosperity of the new country. Paradoxically, as in the imperial democracy of the Athens of Pericles, both the British and American empires were administered differently, as representative democracies. Paradoxically, while the discourse of the wealthy classes in Latin America was imposing the ideolexicon “patriotism,” their practice consisted in serving foreign interests, their own as minority interests, and submitting to exploitation, expropriation and contempt a social majority that were strategically considered minorities.

In Bolivia the indigenous people were always a minority. Minority in the daily newspapers, in the universities, in the majority of Catholic schools, in the public image, in politics, in television. The problem stemmed from the fact that that minority was easily more than half of the invisible population. Somewhat like how today black men and women are called a minority in the southern United States, where they total more than fifty percent. To disguise that the fact that the Bolivian ruling class was the ethnic minority of a democratic population, one pretended that an indigenous person, in order to be one, had to wear feathers on their head and speak the Aymara of the 16th century, before the contamination of the colonial period. Since this phenomenon is impossible in any nation and in any moment of history, they were then denied Amerindian citizenship for the sin of impurity. For that, the best resource now consists of systematic mockery in well-publicized books: they mock those who would claim their Amerindian lineage for speaking Spanish and for doing so over the Internet or on a cellular telephone. By contrast, it is never demanded of a good Frenchman or of a traditional Japanese that they urinate behind an orange tree like in Versailles or that their woman walk behind them with her head lowered. Which is to say, the Amerindian peoples are out of place except in the museum and in dances for tourists. They have no right to progress, that thing which is not an invention of any developed nation but of Humanity throughout its history.

Bolivia’s recent separatist referenda – let’s dispense with the euphemism – are part of a long tradition, which demonstrates that the ability to retain the past is not the exclusive property of those who refuse to progress but those who consider themselves the vanguard of civilizing progress.

If medieval (which is to say, pre-humanist) cultures and ideologies defended until recently with blood in the eyes and in their political and religious sermons differences of class, of race, and of gender as part of nature or of divine right and now they have change their discourse, it is not because they have progressed thanks to their own tradition but despite that tradition. They have had no other recourse than to recognize and even try to appropriate ideolexicons like “freedom,” “equality,” “diversity,” “minority rights,” etc. in order to legitimate and extend a contrary practice. If democracy was an “invention of the devil” until the mid-20th century, according to this feudal mentality, today not even the most fascist would be capable of declaring it in a public square. On the contrary, their method consists of repeating this word in association with contrary muscular practices until it is emptied of meaning.

It is easy to point out why one patriotism or nationalism can be fascist and the other humanist: one imposes the difference of its muscular power and the other claims the right to equality. But since we only have one word and within it are mixed all of the historical circumstances, we usually condemn or praise indiscriminately.

Now, the muscular power of the oppressor is not sufficient; the moral defect of the oppressed is also necessary. Not long ago a Miss Bolivia – with some traces of indigenous features for an outer glance – complained that her country was recognized for its cholas (indigenous women) when in reality there were other parts of the country where the women were prettier. This is the same mentality as an impure man named Domingo Sarmiento in the 19th century and the majority of the educators of the period.

Military colonialism has given way to political colonialism and the latter has passed the baton to cultural colonialism. This is why a government composed of ethnic groups historically repudiated at home and abroad not only must contend with the practical difficulties of a world dominated by and made to order for the capitalist system, whose only flag is the interest and benefit of financial classes, but also must struggle with centuries of prejudice, racism, sexism and classism that are encrusted beneath every pore of the skin of every inhabitant of this sleeply America.

As a reaction to this reality, those who oppose it take recourse to the same method of raising up the caudillos, individual men or women who must be defended vigorously. From the point of view of humanist analysis, this is a mistake. However, if we consider that the progress of history – when it is possible – is also moved by political changes, then one would have to recognize that the theory of the intellectual must make concessions to the practice of the politician. Nevertheless, again, even though we might suspend this warning, we must not forget that there is no humanist progress through struggling eternally with the instruments of an old, oppressive and anti-humanist tradition.

But first things first: Bolivia cannot be divided in two based on one rich and white Bolivia and another indian and poor Bolivia. What moral foundation can a country or an autonomous region have based on acute mental and historical retardation? Why were these separatist – or “decentalized union” – boundaries not arrived at when the government and society were dominated by the traditional Creole classes? Why was it then more patriotic to have a united Bolivia without autonomous indigenous regions?

 

Jorge Majfud, Phd. The University of Georgia.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

 

Intellectual Capital

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Intellectual Capital

In 1970 the General Motors workers’ strike cut the U.S. GDP by 4 percent and is estimated to have been the reason for the poor 2 percent growth that the country experienced in the following years.

Today the decline of all U.S. automotive industries affects just one percentage point. Almost all of the GDP is in services, in the tertiary sector. In this sector, intellectual production resulting from education is growing, not to mention that today almost nothing is produced without the direct intervention of the latest computer inventions from academia, from agricultural production in exporting countries to heavy industry, mostly set in countries known as emerging or developing.

For much of the twentieth century, cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, flourished as industrial centers. They were rich and dirty cities; such was the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. Today Pittsburgh is a clean city that lives and is known for its universities.

In the past year, the ‘research corridor’ of Michigan (a consortium made up by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University) contributed 14 billion dollars to the state from benefits generated by their inventions, patents and research. These benefits have grown over the last year and still more in proportion in a state that was the home of the big automotive industries of the twentieth century, which are in decline today.

That means that a part of the direct benefits from one year’s production of ‘intellectual capital’ of a university in 27th place and another one in 71st place in the national ranking, equals the total monetary capital of a country like Honduras. This intellectual production factor explains, in large part, why the economy of New York City and its metropolitan area alone is equivalent to the entire economy of India (in nominal international terms, not in domestic purchase power), a country of over a billion inhabitants and a high economic growth due to its industrial production.
Today 90 percent of U.S. GDP is derived from non-manufacturing production. The monetary value of its intellectual capital is 5 trillion dollars, nearly 40 per cent of total GDP, which amounts in itself to all the items together in the dynamic Chinese economy.

If the American empire, like all empires, has incurred and, directly or indirectly has pirated the raw materials from other countries, the fact remains that especially today the emerging countries pirate a large part of the copyrights of American inventions. Not to mention that U.S. trademark counterfeiting alone subtracts from the original products $ 200 billion annually, which exceeds by far the total GDP of countries like Chile.
Looking at this reality, we may predict that the increased risk of emerging countries is to rest the current development in the export of raw materials; the second risk is to trust too much on industrial prosperity. If the emerging countries do not deal with investing heavily in intellectual production, they will confirm, perhaps in a decade or two, the international division of labor that sustained most of the big economic disparities in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Now it is fashionable to proclaim in the media around the world that America is finished, broken, three steps far from disintegration into four countries, two steps from final ruin. I get the impression that the methodology of analysis is not entirely accurate because, as revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara criticized those who praised the effectiveness of socialist industrial production over capitalist production, it confused desire with reality. Guevara himself complained that this passion disturbed any objective criticism or prevented us from seeing that the central human goal was not simply to increase the production of things.

When making predictions about the year 2025 or 2050, people used to project the present conditions onto the future scenario. This underestimates the radical innovations that even a prolonged status quo can produce along with the inevitable change on any present condition. In the early ’70s, analysts and presidents like Richard Nixon himself were convinced that the emergence and ultimate success of the Soviet Union over the United States was inevitable. The ’70s were years of recession and political and military defeats for the American empire.
I think that since the end of last century we all agree that the 21st century will be a century of major international balances. Not necessarily more stable, perhaps the opposite. It will be good for the American people and particularly for humanity that this country stops being the arrogant power that has been for much of its history. U.S. has many other merits to which to dedicate itself, as history also shows: a people of professional and amateur inventors, a people of Nobel prizes, an excellent university system and a class of intellectuals that has opened pathways in diverse disciplines, from humanities to the sciences.

The dramatic rise in unemployment in U.S. is its best opportunity to accelerate this social conversion. In all international rankings, American universities occupy most of the first fifty positions. This monopoly cannot last forever, but right now that is where its principal advantage lies. Nevertheless, there is still a more crucial point.
Probably we will need to focus on “how” to develop a better understanding of “intellectual property” and its real importance in our global economy, but it is not a bad idea first to think a little about “why.”
For instance, why produce too much useless stuff, why consume too much beautiful trash, such as a cheap blind that has to be replaced every semester, because it is cheap and because it does not resist normal use, both in behalf of “keeping the economy moving”. That is, in short, why are wasting, burning and throwing away the new source of wealth? And so on and so forth.

For both questions, universities have one of the most important roles. Traditionally, the “how” is in the hands of technicians. The “why” has traditionally occupied most of the humanists? Scientists used to be between both of them.

Unfortunately, there are too many people without enough time to do that, too many isolated and hyperconnected individuals, too worried and too busy, thinking all the time about how to do the same thing always faster, bigger or smaller, brighter and better… Even in the academia.

Dr. Jorge Majfud, Lincoln University. July 2009.

Pollitical Affais