An Inconvenient Truth - the first and second most important issues of our planet.

I finally watched an inconvenient truth, the documentary about the climate change crisis by Al Gore. It is appropriate that this is a story by a politician, given this is entirely a political issue. The science behind knowing the problems, and most the science and economics behind the solutions are already known : the problem that is stopping us from solving the greatest problem ever faced by humanity is entirely a matter of political will and knowledge sharing.

It is our lack of skills in social sciences, not natural sciences, that are the real threat to the planet's survival.

On Monday I plan to see another documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car at an event being hosted by the University of Ottawa Greens. The viewing of the documentary will be followed with a talk by Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada.

Prior to 2001 I spent most of my time on these types of issues. This is when I bumped up against the second most critical issue of our time, the centralization of the control over the means of production, distribution and funding of knowledge. The solutions to the environmental problems are dependant on the ability of citizens to be able to collaborate on a global scale, sharing scientific knowledge, and taking back the media which has been the source of almost all the scepticism we hear about these crisis.

Part of the solution will involve changes to our economic systems, with this requiring that we move as much of the knowledge economy from marginal-cost based economics (charging per unit) to moving to fixed-costs (charging one time for development, allowing knowledge to be shared) so that we can use the power of peer production and peer distribution to more quickly advance both our natural and social sciences. While the economics of entertainment may not work well with fixed-cost business models, this should not stop us from moving forward in areas like software (software undergirds our new economy), science (including health) and education (non-fiction texts, etc) where these modern methods have proven themselves already.

I remain uncomfortable with Al Gore's involvement in the National Information Infrastructure Task Force, with the NII Copyright Protection Act which was policy laundered to become the 1996 WIPO treaties. When brought back to the USA it became the DMCA, possibly the most hated legislation for the online community. Was Al Gore oblivious of the disasterous implications of the copyright proposals? There were many people sounding the alarm at the time, including law professor Pamela Samuelson who wrote a Wired Magazine article in January 1996 about the harm it would cause -- and this was before the WIPO (later in 1996) treaties, or the DMCA (1998, came into force in 2000).

Unless we fully reject the backward thinking that came out of the NII, I have a hard time believing we will be able to adequately learn, advance and inform in order to solve the climate crisis -- or any other crisis. While I may consider this "environmentalism for the net" to be the second most important issue, it is very interdependent with the first.

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More discussion on "Nik on the Numbers"

I have been participating in a conversation on the "Nik on the Numbers" weblog. Typical partisan rhetoric lead someone to ask me the following question:

However, I am sure you would agree that sending billions of taxpayer dollars to Russia, China and India and then pretend we are in compliance of our Kyoto obligations is deceitful and does not help improve Canada's environment. It is a socialist money sucking scheme which will see hard earned taxpayer dollars going to less develop countries. Keep the money here and improve the technologies so we can help business achieve their environmental objectives.

I offered the following as a reply.

Your guess that "I'm sure you will agree" turns out to not be the case.

I believe that environmental deficits and debts should be treated with the same or greater importance than fiscal deficits and debts. One of the features of the emissions trading system is to offer a form of "currency conversion", so that a country can't just hide its debt and pretend that it doesn't matter. It also encourages historically richer countries to help finance environmental programs in historically poorer countries, given the environment doesn't care if we are reducing emissions in Canada or in India.

The rhetoric against the emission trading system is not based on sound economic analysis, nor is it based on sound environmental analysis. It is not "pretending" to be conforming to our obligations, it is an indication that we recognize both the economics and science of the situation.

I'm tired of left-wing style solutions to the problem (including from the "Conservatives") which focus on big-government regulation, rather than using Green Tax shifts and other methods to force environmental issues onto everyone's spreadsheets. The fact that the entire of our income tax hasn't been shifted to green taxes such as a carbon tax and increased gas tax by this point is frustrating.

The fact that the conservatives reduced the GST (an activity that is known to simply increase consumption, and most often environmental harm) rather than reducing Income tax (something that is more visible and encourages people to save or invest) shows that the Conservatives don't really "get it" on the importance of factoring environmental issues into economics. I'm not saying the Liberals would do any better as I think they are just as (and sometimes more) incompetent, but that is not a "get out of jail free" card for the Conservatives. Nor does it push me to the NDP, whose current ties to the industrial-era labour movement are too strong for them to really do more than "talk" about environmental issues.

For far too long environmental issues have been treated by business folks and the general public as if it was an "externality". The fact is that it is not, and the economy is a fully owned subsidiary of the environment. The interest rate and structural adjustments that "Mother Nature" demands far exceeds even the most drastic of policy proposals from the IMF and World Bank.

To be honest, I'm tired of the partisan politics from all parties in the house of commons. I don't consider what the Conservatives to be doing now to be "enough", and I'm tired of both of the most popular parties spending more time finding stupid historical quotes from each other than actually doing anything.

I would say "A Pox On All Their Houses", except that these issues are affecting everyone and not just the childish nuts in parliament.

P.S. More thoughts from watching "the inconvenient truth" last night.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.