While the individual is indeed supreme, we have been effectively cut off from the decision making process in our society by inefficient and easily corrupted 'rules of democracy'. Direct involvement of all in the process of political decision making is now possible through the net. We need to cobble together new rules that will govern direct democracy...

January 1, 2011

Individual Freedom - The Shock of the American Revolution

AmericanRevolutionJohnHancock.jpgIndividual Freedom And The American Revolution

At times we think of America as the perpetrator of many ills, as the initiator of endless wars and the somewhat uncomfortable super power to have around. We point to policies of world wide domination and to invasive curbs on freedom ... put in practice to "secure the homeland". Many do not believe that those trends are healthy for our future as a species, and I admit I am among them.

But in the midst of all of these doubts let us not forget the unique heritage America has given to the world, if not in deed at least in thought and concept. And let us not forget that a government is rarely a faithful mirror of the will of the people living under it or that, in the end, it will be the people to decide which way to go.

America gives us the idea of individual freedom enshrined in law.

Contrary to what we may be led to believe, the world does not run on money, nor does it run on the raw power of weapons or on deceit based in secrecy ... in the final analysis the world runs on ideas.

Jon Rappoport explains this more eloquently than I can in a moving article, just as we pass from 2010 to 2011. He seems to say do not despair. The American Revolution gave us something. We just need to use it ... every one of us, whether we live in America or somewhere else on this planet.


DECEMBER 31, 2010. It was one thing to separate from England; it was another thing entirely to produce the idea of individual freedom as a natural fact and a political goal.

The first act did not necessarily lead to the second.

Indeed, the exile of the King from American affairs and the cancellation of the taxes laid on by the monarchy could have been the prelude to a new state of tyranny on these shores.

In several respects, this turned out to be the case, but not before the idea of freedom was enunciated for all time...

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January 29, 2010

Davos and the Importance of Social Media

The World Economic Forum is being held in Davos, Switzerland. Until Sunday, 31 January, the economic powers-that-be are meeting in the secluded ski resort town.


The Growing Influence of Social Networks is one of the themes to be discussed in Davos this year. Public input was invited, but the request was somewhat hidden in a brand new Ning group with little more than a hundred members, and it reads as follows:

Given the topic of the workshop it was natural to open it to input from the different social networks. We want to hear from you:

1. "How are social networks changing society?"

2. "What are the most important implications and risks for society?"

3. "What should individuals and institutions do to leverage the power of social networks and improve society?"

Are social media going to change the world?

A big question to be hidden away in a group with very few members. Still, some great comments and suggestions were made. To get the whole conversation, see the posting

The Growing Influence of Social Networks

And indeed, how do social media influence and change society? I tried to answer those questions, and was surprised at my answers. Social media are more important than we might believe. We are having conversations, mostly for fun, and sometimes with the intention of changing things we perceive to be going in the wrong direction. Yet, the implications of what we are doing are profound, indeed world changing....

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January 18, 2010

Spending too much time on Facebook

According to facebook, the site has more than 350 million active users, half of which log on in any given day. On a recent facebook press release, these and a number of other statistical details show how traffic on the site is increasing. This means many users spend more and more of their online time on facebook.

I am not sure whether this is a positive development or something negative that should be balanced out, in some way.


Privacy has become a major issue on facebook, but it seems that the important privacy issue that facebook use brings with it, is glossed over in those discussions. By interacting with our peers, we permit the servers of facebook to construct online social profiles for each of us users that go WAY beyond anything we would normally dream to put in public view. Who then has access to that kind of data? It's anybody's guess.

Again, is that a bad thing, or is it part of a new openness that we consciously choose to engage in?

On the other hand, facebook is the first online service that, along with a few others, allows us to open up and explore a new dimension of networking. I almost feel as if we're constructing a global mind, each one of us being similar to a neuron and learning to interact with other neurons. Where that could lead, is not quite clear as yet.

Some friends of mine have a rather strongly negative reaction when I invite them to join me on facebook and recently, I received an email from a friend and fellow blogger who says he started to use the service but was banned.


He brings up some interesting perspectives from which to see the expanding phenomenon of on-line social interaction. Here is what he said:

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December 13, 2009

Great Oceanic garbage patches - what to do?

Meg White of BuzzFlash published an article titled Giant 'Islands' of Garbage Floating in the Ocean, With No Fix in Sight. Yet...

You may have heard of a great accumulation of plastic garbage in certain areas of the oceans. It's all stuff we throw away and it keeps accumulating because plastic does not easily degrade. Birds and fish eat it, mistaking the pieces of plastic for food.

ocean conservancy.jpg

Image credit: Ocean Conservancy

"The dangers of these garbage patches are great in both quantity and quality. Marine animals of all sizes, from zooplankton to whales, mistake the plastic for food. Some organisms become entangled in the mass and die", says Meg White.

We can of course combat the continued accumulation of that garbage by controlling what we throw away, but that is a slow process, and it does nothing about what's already there and which will continue to float where it is for decades if not centuries to come.

As for the trash that's already there, many throw their hands in the air nihilistically. "There's just too much, and the ocean is just too big," said one expert about the possibility of cleaning up the garbage patches.

No one seems to have a solution for what's already there, other than waiting for it to magically disappear or kind of nebulously suggesting that the stuff should really be collected and brought to land, a truly Herculean task to say the least.

But there is a solution, and it isn't too difficult either:

Continue reading "Great Oceanic garbage patches - what to do?" »

October 10, 2008

Is Oxygen depletion more worrying than global warming?

There is serious doubt whether carbon dioxide emissions are a major driver for global warming or, as it has recently come to be called, 'climate change'. Water vapor is a more potent greenhouse gas and the sun's influence on our climate is orders of magnitude stronger than any amount of carbon dioxide we could ever produce. But carbon dioxide may have a secondary effect that has been hardly mentioned in the past. Every time a carbon dioxide molecule is produced by burning carbon-based fuels including oil and gas, two oxygen atoms get locked up together with one of carbon. The oxygen that drives the burning process comes from the atmosphere.

Until recently, I had been under the impression that oxygen levels in the atmosphere are quite stable around 21 per cent, and have been so for a long time. However in a recent discussion about burning coal as fuel, some interesting information emerged that tends to disprove the concept of a stable oxygen level.

Historical trends, as explained in Atmospheric Oxygen, Giant Paleozoic Insects and the Evolution of Aerial Locomotor Performance by R. Dudley, JExB, show a high of about 35% just before the beginning of the Permian, with a rapid decline to a low of about 13-14% near the beginning of the Triassic, then a small spike at about 17% in mid Triassic, another drop to about 14-15% early in the Jurassic, a sudden climb to about 21% by mid-Jurassic, then a gentle climb to about 26% early in the Tertiary, and a rather constant, steady decline to the present "20.9%."

But even now, we are not necessarily assured of a more-than-20-per cent oxygen level in the air at all times.


Coal fired power plant - Image credit:

In that discussion, Adrian said: "There is really no such thing as "clean" coal. Even if you take all of the non-carbon contents out, the resultant burning still produces enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. We may be getting to the stage where we will have to be concerned about the amount of oxygen we have left in the atmosphere to breathe... I read that a research paper comparing the health of people living at low compared to high altitudes showed that it was the lack of oxygen that was harmful for certain ailments.

Oxygen used to be about 20% of the atmosphere but today in some places, it is as low as 16%. Carbon dioxide is actually a fairly heavy gas (molecular weight 44 as compared to oxygen 32 and nitrogen 28) so that during times of little wind, it would have a tendency to settle in pockets. That is one reason cave exploration can be so hazardous.

People living in large cities in India have such a high incidence of lung disease that older diesel motors have been banned. I have not read any carbon dioxide studies but reducing the amount of oxygen available, certainly places a strain on the heart, especially for old people with weak hearts and those with any type of lung problems.

Carbon dioxide sequestering seems to be a stupid idea because the process also sequesters oxygen in the process. Someone needs to present calculations showing how the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is affecting our oxygen supply. The question really boils down to "how much oxygen would be left in the atmosphere if all fossil fuels were consumed?" Yes, people will say that trees and algae will take care of the oxygen production but the real concern is what level of oxygen is required to maintain a good healthy atmosphere for humans as well as for other living organisms."

So it appears the oxygen content of air is not uniform all over the planet, some places seem to be much worse than others. The cause: use of carbon-based fuels, together with our disregard for the contribution of forests to keeping the air breathable.

Continue reading "Is Oxygen depletion more worrying than global warming?" »

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