On a scale from Noble to Bitter

There are some forms of optimism that make pessimism redundant.

Oil companies engaging in a charm offensive ahead of announcements of record profits would be one of these; another would be the way we calculate, and revere, GDP even though we count some negatives and costs as positives for growth. Go figure.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s multi-billion dollar Superfund Clean-up Program of waste and toxic sites will take over 3 decades to complete, during which time the economic activity generated and expenditure for the clean-up will be added to the GDP. The initial economic activity used to generate the waste was added to the GDP, the ensuing clean-up will again add to the GDP. Thus, polluting the environment is seen as an economic benefit through the prism of GDP.

Information pollution is not a little connected to this problem. And yet power laws and fractal geometry tell us that non-local, indirect effects are the most common, most powerful, and most problematic for us. Understanding the dynamics of our economic networks, or any networks, is crucial to acting rationally within them. We consult and consort with bogus information (Consumer Price Index, anyone?) at our peril, but it’s not the case that it helps no one. Historical knowledge is a prerequisite to present understanding. Developing a true relationship to complexity, its costs and benefits, is fundamental to problem-solving in sutainable societies. To the extent that we want to become one, leveling with ourselves becomes more or less important.

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