[TAG] The Public Domain: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Benjamin A. Okopnik
ben at linuxgazette.net
Sat Sep 3 19:03:19 MSD 2005
On Fri, Sep 02, 2005 at 11:24:15PM -0700, Mike Orr wrote:
> Benjamin A. Okopnik wrote:
> >On Fri, Sep 02, 2005 at 11:36:13AM -0700, Mike Orr wrote:
> >>It's more than piracy. Our whole economic indicators are screwed up. Why
> >>is economic health measured in how much people spend rather than how much
> >>they save?
> >That's some of that complicated ecominominomical stuff, ain't it? How
> >do you expect reg'lar people to understand it? Besides, our politicians
> >haven't told us to think about it, so it obviously ain't worth thinking
> >about. You collitch-eddicated eggheads, I *swear*.
> This from somebody who *teaches* college-level courses? Whose Perl and
> sysadmin sandals I am not worthy to untie?
And tie the shoelaces together to trip me, no doubt. :) I'm just saying
that - unfortunately - a large segment of the US population has
swallowed the "don't worry your pretty little head" myth, and this
*sucks*. The ultimate responsibility of the individual citizen, in my
mind, is to support their country by *thinking* and *considering* about
the things that affect it - their own minds first of all. To me, the
farmer from "Not Yours to Give" (short story from "The Life of Colonel
David Crockett", Edward Sylvester Ellis) is the archetype of a good
citizen and voter.
Ignorance of the average voter results in - well, the political system
> >>Another thing, pointed out in my favorite book _Natural
> >>Capitalism_ (http://www.natcap.org/, entire text online), is that
> >>environmental impact is ignored because doesn't appear on corporate
> >>balance sheets or tax forms, so the cost is treated as zero even though
> >>it's enormous. Trees are cut down because they're in the way, but is the
> >>$2 million benefit of a shopping center really more than the long-term
> >>benefit of oxygen, ecosystem nutrition, wood production, and carbon
> >>sequestering, none of which we can produce by artificial means?
> >Err, well - to the company receiving the $2M benefit, it certainly is.
> >They're stealing the immeasurable benefit of the trees from the public at
> >large, and putting the $2M into their own pockets; both the cost and the
> >loss to them personally is minimal - and the public doesn't get to say
> >anything about it. So, why wouldn't they steal it? There's no law
> >against it - at least nothing enforcible.
> >>Another thing is measuring everything in terms of "sales". Many things
> >>are sold which might be better leased. (Again from _Natural Capitalism_.)
> >It *might* be - the idea sounded good to me - but it doesn't seem to be
> >working yet, at least not on a large scale. Essentially, you're talking
> >about a method that's supposed to be more effective, in business terms,
> >than the current sales-based system - *but*, and this is a big one, it
> >presumes accounting that includes the cost of the natural resources.
> >Which is not what's done now, and which is why the leasing arrangements
> >of that type haven't sprung up all over the place and supplanted the
> >current system. I'm a big fan of Lovins and Hawken (thanks to you), but
> >the penetration of their ideas has been very, very slow. Dammit.
> These are both the same problem, of which you speak. "Externalizing" the
> environmental cost, as Hawken puts it. Externalizing it onto everybody,
> in fact, while the polluter laughs all the way to the bank. It's
> difficult to change the paradigm, but if we remember the goal we might
> have a chance. If we forget it or give up, we definitely won't.
Agreed. Remembering it, talking about it, spreading the word so that
others know and remember... sometimes, that's all you can do, and it
seems like so frustratingly little... but it works, it really does.
Enough voices raised in protest is what changes history.
> things have been accomplished in this world that seemed impossible. It
> only takes one person at the right place and right time: MLK, Gandhi,
> Rosa Parks, St Francis. None of them thought they were anyone special.
Oh, I don't know. I think Gandhi knew it pretty well. :) But then, I
don't see arrogance as a necessarily bad thing; /arrogatio/ ("assumption
of power/responsibility") can be the necessary factor in a situation.
> The more you speak up about this, the more people will realize
> "something ought to be done", and they'll pressure the politicians. I
> don't know how to put a dollar amount on pollution or habitat
> destruction, but the cost to restore it is a start.
Or, perhaps, making people aware that they *own* these resources -
forests, lakes, the air... "good stewardship" is a concept that goes deep
in this culture, if it can only be coupled to these things via that
sense of common ownership and kept at the forefront.
> If the mining
> companies in Montana had to pay the full cost of restoration up front,
> or Hanford's nuclear waste in my own backyard, maybe they'd think twice
> about doing their project at all. Especially if they could find no
> insurance company willing to write a bond for the amount. No more
> companies declaring bankrupcy and getting of scot-free. The cost would
> be passed on to the public, of course, and they would make their
> purchasing decisions accordingly. Maybe a PC would cost $100,000 for all
> the metal in it. Maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing. Organic
> farmers were laughed at for thirty years, but now there are organic
> supermarkets doing a very good business.
I think - um, actually, I *know* - that there are
environmentally-responsible ways to mine iron. A bit less profitable,
certainly, but not a lot - and perhaps more profitable once the
companies have financial incentive to apply brainpower to it (that's
what NatCap says, and thought experiments that I can run in my head
totally agree; the synergy of having the energy of nature available to
you as you work can't help *but* improve your end results.) Reserving
the top soil as you strip-mine, then creating a lake in the pit and a
forest on the hill of the material you've dug up is not some huge
project for people who are doing all that earth-moving in the first
place - and they could harvest the resulting timber in the future (or
sell the rights to another company who'd do it.) Tax breaks for creating
a new oxygen source and providing a recreation area for the local
community, water rights on the new lake (perhaps selling licensing for
the marinas, buying up the surrounding property because the real estate
in the area is going to go up due to the lake/forest)... there's
millions of ways to make a profit out of the situation *and* serve the
world. I don't buy the current insanity of "you have to rape the world
to make a profit."
* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://linuxgazette.net *
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