February 20th, 2020


Self-Awareness Question: Change

Folks have mentioned an interest in questions and conversations that make them think. So I've decided to offer more of those. This is the current list on self-awareness.

18. How do you feel when faced with change?

It depends on the change.  I have a sense of adventure; I like exploring new opportunities.  I'm always on the lookout for small, sustainable changes I can make to improve things.  But I don't like having load-bearing parts of my life taken away, and I don't like the general trend of the environment and society collapsing.

Withholding Data

 People are "shocked" that a study about stents vs. open-heart surgery, which was funded by a stent company, withheld information that stents lead to more deaths.  That's bad science, but there's nothing shocking about it.  People like money.  When you add money to science, you get business, not science.  This is the norm.  If you want science, you have to make sure that the people running a study have no stakes in the outcome either way.  This is all but impossible in an industry largely controlled by health corporations, not doctors.

"What the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves."

Hunting Elephants

 ... now legal in Botswana, will basically kill the species.  It's on its last gasp already, and is probably too diminished to last in the long term.  That isn't obvious because elephants live a long time, but from a biological perspective it's pretty obvious.  Large, slow-breeding species are much more vulnerable to extinction even if their numbers seem high.  That means we can't afford to lose any more elephants if we want the species to survive.  They already lose more than they can sustain due to poaching, habitat loss, and other human threats -- before climate change even comes in.

So if we want to save elephants, that means giving them back some of the space we took from them.  It means moving elephants to a different protected area if they outgrow one area.  Do people want to save elephants that  much?  Evidently not.

Terramagne has a couple of solutions.  The coolest one is pure Africa: "Cattle grow trees, elephants grow grass."  Several connected nations in the heart of elephant territory restored a historic principle in which nomadic herders of cows would follow some distance behind elephant herds.  The elephants would tear down trees, allowing grass  to rejuvenate and feed domestic herds.  Those herds would then graze the grass down to the ground, permitting the tree seedlings to rejuvenate.  By the time the elephants made it back around, fresh young trees would be waiting for them.  Each species, in diminishing its own resources in the habitat, enhances resources needed by the other species and thus creates a stable loop sustainable over the long term.  A bonus is that a nomadic lifestyle is very healthy and active for the people living it, so long as settled bystanders do not molest them.  T-Africa resolved this issue by granting the nomads special status as elephant conservationists with citizenship spanning all the countries on the circuit.

Another is an idea that has been tried here, but rarely with enough vigor to work: paying people to conserve wildlife.  A prevailing risk is conflict with subsistence, as cited in the Botswana issue.  If people are paid more for being good neighbors to wildlife than they could get by killing the wildlife, they will protect it.

Tracks on the Ceiling

The "mystery" has been solved.

This was a mystery?  0_o  Did nobody else make plaster casts of footprints beside a creek?  It's kind of obvious that if you have convex prints, they are casts.  (Another possibility is flipping rock layers, which has occurred elsewhere, but that's less likely in a geologically stable area.  This one is best identified by measuring the magnetic orientation of the rocks to see if they have moved.)

The Fall of Empires

This article does a great job of examining how empires fall due to imperialism itself.  That is, imperialism is inherently unstable and unsustainable.

It completely overlooks a number of other proven causes that can destroy a civilization or weaken it so much as to trigger the above problems, including but not limited to:
* volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or other geological disasters
* climate change, devastating storms, or other meteorological issues
** (both of which can strike in sequence if a major eruption alters weather)
* plague, parasites, or other infectious agents
* inbreeding, insanity, or other genetic issues (typically striking through the leadership)
* loss or corruption of food/water supply (e.g. staple crop failure, soil salinification)
* loss of critical nonfood resources (e.g. seashells for fishhooks, trees for canoes)

Of these ... um, gosh, all are currently occurring to various degrees.  Climate change and imperialism are probably the worst, but the Earth is grumbling around, we couldn't have created a better environment for a plague if we tried, much of the world's leadership is absolutely batshit, food/water quality is questionable in many areas, and we're running low on some things society currently depends on like fossil fuels.

Poem: "Who We Know Ourselves to Be"

This poem is spillover from the February 4, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ng_moonmoth and [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "Candlelight" square in my 2-1-20 card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

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Greenland Decline

The Vikings settled Greenland but later abandoned it.  New research suggests that overhunting of walrus ivory may have contributed.

So here's an example of a pretty powerful culture that was felled, not by invasion or political collapse, but by climate change (the island got a lot colder) and resource exhaustion.  These factors are especially powerful in marginal environments where there isn't a lot of fault tolerance when things start to go wrong.

Ballet Strike

Paris ballet dancers have a very sensible retirement age of 42, after which they draw a pension based on their prior earnings.  A proposed national pension plan would raise everyone's retirement age to 64, regardless of their job or whether it could be done by any 63-year-old people.  Protests have shut down the plan for now.

America already has a cookie-cutter retirement plan, and it's not very good.  It doesn't pay out enough to support people.  Hell, full-time work doesn't support many people anymore.  As the retirement age creeps up, what it really does it impoverish more people. They get shut out of the workforce in ... when else? ... their 40s, when most employers stop wanting them.  Only a few professions benefit so much from experience that age is a compelling reason to hire people.  But the government places no requirements on employers to hire  any of those old people.  It just expects living-wage jobs to appear out of unicorn farts and fairy dust.

Dear France: don't stick your head up Washington's ass.

Adapting to Climate Change

Dutch whalers successfully adapted to the Little Ice Age, and even improved their business.  Sometimes people adapt quite well to it.  After all, everything we have now is built on the collapse of everything from the last actual Ice Age.  But a collapse is still the most likely result to overwhelming disaster.

Also, nothing we do now can halt global warming, melting ice caps, or the flooding out of most coastal cities -- unless we invent technology indistinguishable from magic.  That's happened in the past, with things like fire and steel, but it doesn't happen often.

Deepfake Pr0n

Remember me saying that there are now sound reasons to avoid sharing pictures oneself online?  And how the damage that could be done with photos was going to get a lot worse?  Well, now it's worse.  Just wait until the child pornography makers get ahold of this tech.  >_<

Of course, once victims  get their hands on it, the tables are turned.  Want to burn your rapist in effigy?  You just need a picture of him.  Want to make him a gay pr0nstar begging for cock?  Go for it!  I imagine men will throw a collective tantrum about that, but they can't ban women from manipulating men's images unless they also ban men from manipulating women's images, because that's too obvious sex discrimination to get through even American courts.